Sunday, February 17, 2013

An eye for an eye


On the 11th February, 2013, as I stepped out of the train at 12.30 pm, I received a call from someone living in a village in West Bengal. She was in a state of panic. “Mita (name changed) has just got murdered by her nephew, at 12.15!”

At first, the words did not sink in. But once on the way to my Office, I called back again and listened to the events that lead up to the murder. The nephew, just married a year ago, was living in Mita’s house with his widowed mother, when recently, the family was asked to leave the house, because, Mita wanted to sell the house. Having risen from abject poverty, Mita, had made a living for herself, which fetched her enough money to own two small houses, one in her village and the other in Pune, Maharashtra.She also had a comfortable income and had become a celebrity in her village, because of the power of her pocket. People in her family vied with each other, to be named the nominee of her wealth. I suspect, no less, this nephew may too have nursed the same greed in his heart.

On the fateful day, Mita had returned from two days away from her house in the village and was countered by her nephew, as she entered her house. A spurt of violence ensued between the two and at 12.15, that afternoon, he picked up the vegetable cutter called ‘bothi daa’ and struck her neck with it, causing her to die instantaneously. Suddenly realizing what he had done, he hid inside the house, till the rest of the neighbours broke open the door and pulling him out, beat him to death, with their bare hands. In a span of one hour, two killings had taken place; the police were called in only later.

Mita was an exceptionally bright woman. In ’73, she came to stay with us, to look after me, when I came to Bombay, to stay with my maternal aunt. We were very close to each other, quite naturally. She learned her letters while staying with us and later went to Hong Kong, and earned herself a lot of money. In her early teens, she had been married to a transvestite, who tortured her and forced her to leave himher. She later took diksha from Asaram Bapu and lived in Pune, in her own flat. In all, she spoke 5 languages, English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and her native tongue, Bengali. She taught herself to read the Gita, the Hindu religious book; she read English minimally and wrote it for Banking purposes. She was an enthusiastic learner and it was a joy to teach her.

Ashis Nandy, in his chat with Moushumi Bhowmik and Sukanta Majumdar (The Hindu, Saturday, February 16, 2013, The archive of separation) says, referring to the Delhi gang-rape, “I don’t see anything as disjunctive but as part of a continuity. Murders, the gang rape, the protests, all are part of a continuity. To me those youth at the India Gate shouting for death sentence for the rapist, suggesting death by torture, there is continuity. There is violence in the air in India, even those who were protesting displayed the culture of violence.”

A few years ago, Prof Amartya Sen, called Kolkata the safest city in India, based on a study of Government generated crime report, which showed that Kolkata seemed to have the least crime. Needless to say, as we all know, most crimes against women go unreported and hence, the above statement does not hold water. Furthermore, in cases like the one cited about Mita and her nephew, which is not a case in isolation, what are we supposed to believe?

Does violence exist as an integral part of our society? Can we take the law into our hands? Does, an eye for an eye, serve a purpose, without the intervention of law enforcing agencies? After all, if the Government’s machinery is slow to act, or indecisive, then can we say that acts of violence may best be met with violence, tatastu, here now?

The dreadful news has still not sunk in. I regret that there is futility in the conversation, except for only reasoning purpose.

And for coming to terms with the fact that Mita is no more. Does it really matter how she died?



Read also:
Violence Against Women in India: Three Things to Know



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