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Recently, Alagesan, a young man in Chennai murdered a woman Aswini, because she was ‘too proud’ to accept his love. It makes me wonder once again: do women in India have the right to make any choices at all?
A young woman has been murdered, but a lot of the commentary on social media is not about sympathy for a young life ended in a violent manner; instead, it has disgusting, entitled men commenting on how Aswini “cheated” Alagesan because she (allegedly) had a relationship with him at one point of time. And I say, so what? What effing right did it give him over her for life?
I came across this piece in the popular Tamil newspaper Dinamalar, which explains Alagesan’s motivations at great length, and since I assume the majority of my readers here can’t read in Tamil, I am sharing in translation a few snippets from the piece.
“I wanted to educate Aswini well and then marry her. But since she loved and then cheated me, I murdered her – I was determined that no one else should have a woman whom I could not have.”
“I bought Aswini a mobile phone. Though she did well in her class 12 exams, she could not continue her education due to financial problems. I mortgaged my house and gave her 2 lakhs for her college fees.”
It goes on to talk about how he tried to ‘convince’ her to love him, but “she continued to act very proudly” and therefore he murdered her.
It is not clear as to whether this is truly the man’s verbatim statement made to the police, or whether this is an imaginative rendition for the benefit of readers, but it is clear that irresponsible media reporting of this nature has a significant role in fuelling already existing notions about women as ‘cheats’ and as the ‘property’ of men. Another newspaper, the Dina Thanthi reported right on the day of the murder, without any evidence, that the two had already been married, while it emerged later that the man tried to forcibly tie a ‘thaali’ (mangalsutra) around the young woman’s neck.
Should any publication be reproducing a stalker’s statement in a manner that seems to ‘make a case’ for him, without setting it in context that this man was a stalker, and is quite possibly, now lying to save his skin?
How is a murderer’s statement about his (alleged) relationship with his victim being given this kind of space, without a clear underlining of the fact that no girl deserves to die, even if she changed her mind about a relationship? That in fact, she had every right to change her mind, and that women do not owe men their lives because they loved them at some time, were friendly to them, or even received money from them? That none of this matters?
But of course, media doesn’t exist in a vacuum and what we are seeing here is the echo of a social code that considers women to be incapable of making choices, or if they do make a choice – they must stick to it for ever. (While most English language newspapers and digital media have either stuck to the basic facts of the case, or used the incident to discuss the ugly reality of stalking in India, we too reflect some of the bias – for e.g. headlines like this one that put in ‘husband’, even if in quotes).
I have no idea if Aswini was ever interested in Alagesan and I couldn’t care less. Even if he paid for her education. Even if she promised to love him forever. Even if she decided to drop him because he was less educated. Even if he bought her a mobile phone. It doesn’t matter. She still had the right to change her mind, and we need to shout that out loud.
If you give a woman money, you have the right to ask for your money back, but not for her life in return.
If you take a woman out for dinner, even if you pay for it – you don’t get to dictate what she does with her body or her life.
If a woman tells you that she loves you, and then one day that she doesn’t, yes it hurts – but you don’t get to keep her a prisoner.
If a woman sleeps with you once, she doesn’t owe you sex forever.
And if you can’t understand this, maybe your hand is a better friend – a lifelong lover that you can control and use to keep yourself happy.
I am also looking at you, all you Kollywood macho men who glorify stalking, who treat it as an act of desperate love, who keep telling us that a woman will say yes if only she is pestered enough. Is the loss of Aswini’s life and that of many other young women like her, going to be enough to convince you that your actions have consequences? Or will you keep turning a blind eye?
Image via Pixabay