Today morning I came across this news item on The Wire that completely shook me. What is this pressure to have a child that is so deeply entrenched in Indian minds, that it makes monsters of us?
Trigger alert: Has graphic descriptions of violence and cannabilism that might be triggering.
According to this report, a 6 year old girl went missing in Badhras, a village near Kanpur, on Diwali night. After the parents searched without success, they lodged a police complaint. A neighbouring couple Parsuram and Sunayana, along with two young men from the community have confessed to have killed the girl because of a superstitious belief.
The husband among the couple, Parsuram said that “he had bought a book near the Kanpur railway station which stated that a childless couple would be blessed with a child if the wife consumed organs of a girl-child on Diwali night.”
I just cannot imagine how deep and all pervading superstitious beliefs have to be for a human being to do such things. But I can imagine how they must have thought —
The husband gets a book from a roadside seller, probably fiction, or even some kind of book of tantrik ‘remedies’. It tells him what can help a childless couple. Husband and wife talk about it, argue over it. Maybe days, weeks, even months, waiting for Diwali. Will it work? Should they? No they can’t! But… a child is at stake. Yes, a child they want, but also a child they will be preying on…Which child? How to lure her?
I have seen how superstition works, even when it is fairly benign, as I have experienced in my life. “Never serve only white rice in a plate”, “Don’t cut nails on a Saturday night”, “Don’t sleep at twilight”. I have seen how much non-compliance with even such simple things can agitate someone who believes in them.
This was a couple who wanted a child. A woman who is longing for her own child consumes organs of another’s child? How could she even do it? Could she not think of the pain this 6 year old must have felt? Could she not empathise with the pain the girl’s mother must have felt?
Tradition dictates that the only reason for marriage is having children, preferably male children, who will be your heirs, who will ease your journey to the afterlife. This is the unshakable basis of our patriarchal, hierarchal social structure, and horrors have been committed through history to keep it intact.
This can take many forms, the. most common one being violence against women, especially through superstition. A child is born of woman, ergo, only the woman is responsible for the lack of a child, the lack of a male child, or anything that goes wrong in childbearing, childrearing, the lack of this pillar of patriarchy.
Hit the woman, beat her up, kill her, even burn her alive if it comes to that. Put the blame squarely on her if anything goes wrong with the husband or if she can’t have a child. Make her life hell. Get another wife. Make her abort female foetuses, kill girl children in infancy. Deprive the girl of proper nutrition and medical care, keep them inside the house, throttle their dreams and wishes. make sure they grow up ‘good Indian girls’ who will then be given away in the parents’ bid of ‘punya’ to their master, their husband.
And if it comes to that, kill another’s child and cannibalise.
Just yesterday, we debated over this news of childless women lying in a row in the courtyard of a temple in Chhattisgarh, with priests and witchdoctors trampling over their backs to enter the temple – this ritual supposedly granting their wish for a child.
I wonder how many of these women did this willingly. I wonder how many were so brainwashed into this nonsense that they truly believed it. I also wonder how many of these women were forced into this by months and years of taunts, beatings, violence of unimaginable kinds at the hands of their family and society.
Sigh. I wonder when things will change.
Image source: a still from the film Bulbbul
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In her role as the Senior Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya
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