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Shraddha Walkar Murder Case Shows Utter Social Apathy For Women Who Don’t Conform To Patriarchy

What does it tell us about the apathy and irresponsible behaviour of society when a murder committed in May does not become known until November?

Trigger Warning: This deals with graphic description of violence against women, and a lack of any concern for another human being, and may be triggering for survivors.

A couple of days ago, the story of the gruesome murder of a young woman in Delhi by her live-in boyfriend broke on the news. The woman, who worked in a Call Centre, was strangulated by her partner in end May 2022, her body hacked into 35 pieces and strewn all over the Mehrauli forest over 18 days.

That this is a heinous crime deserving of the highest punishment the judiciary decides, is understood.

However, what does it tell us when a murder committed in May does not become known until November? When a young, healthy woman drops off the face of the earth and isn’t missed enough to raise hell and alarm? Why wasn’t her phone being switched off not a cause for worry? At a time when literally the only thing that connects everyone is the phone, why wasn’t this, reason enough to alert the authorities within 48 or 72 hours?

Her father admits that he ‘stopped talking to her as she did not listen to him’!

There are reports that say the family had broken contact with her after she went against their wishes and moved to Delhi to live in with her partner. And then there are reports like this one in The News Minute that say she complained of the violence in her relationship, to her father. Regardless of which one is true, they both point to the fact that the young woman was abandoned when she desperately needed help. She was abandoned because she didn’t conform to what is expected of every young woman in India. To obey patriarchal rules, to play the good daughter and to bear violence silently no matter if it breaks your body and spirit.

Family disownment of daughters not toeing the line is an accepted fact in the Indian milieu. As this report in On Manorama says, ‘The FIR quoting the victim’s father read, “When I asked her to leave Poonawala and return home, he apologised to her and she went back with him. She did not listen to me and therefore I stopped talking to her for several months.”‘

Marriage or relationships for that matter are hard enough to navigate without intentionally withdrawing the much-needed support towards a woman. Some time ago, I wrote a piece on safe houses and how every woman must always have one, a sanctuary she can escape to when she is threatened or even just tired and needing a break. Did the woman who was murdered have a safe house? Clearly not. News is now trickling in that the relationship was always turbulent, violent even.

Apparently, friends did try to rescue her a few times from the violent situation she found herself in, as this report in the Deccan Herald says. Could an intervention of sorts have been staged to get her to see how deeply distressing and in fact dangerous a situation she was caught in?

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Why was her “going missing” not a cause for sufficient concern at work?

How accountable are organizations in raising the alarm on a suspected crime? The victim was an employee with a Call Centre. What is the responsibility of the corporate to report a person missing when their employee does not show up to work?

Is it sufficient to try reaching her a few times, then file an AWOL or absconding report, and settle her dues into her bank account?

Doesn’t social sustainability mean we look out for one another, or at the least MISS a person who has vanished from the world?! Is this a critical aspect in the Human Resources policy of an organization?

Why do organizations store emergency contact numbers if not to reach out to them when an employee goes missing? Were home visits made? Was family informed that the employee is being terminated and an absconding report filed because she missed work on many consecutive days and was not traceable?

As more and more women enter the workforce, laws and norms are needed not just to sustain the family structure and extend support to the working woman, but also to ensure her safety and not just at the workplace. There needs to be more accountability from everyone who knew the woman, at work and within family. Why didn’t hell break loose when no one could reach her for days on end?

Can we do better on looking out for each other?

What can we do as an intelligent species to ensure that those around us are safe and well, alive?

At an age when technology drives our lives, it is not very hard to establish some measures and checks to know that our loved ones, who live away, separated either geographically or emotionally are out of harm’s way. Staying connected via a one-line text, or a two-minute call or even a social media update (even as reports say that the perpetrator kept her Insta handle alive to prevent suspicion – but surely there are ways to check?) should help reassure us of people’s wellbeing. If, there is even a small hint of danger or mental ill health, there is so much one can do in providing a safe house or medical help or simply, a listening ear.

It is time to shrug off the apathy, the reticence, the self-absorption and look out for those around us. It is better to raise an alarm for an innocuous disappearance than to read about that person’s death in the newspapers later.

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story and more evidence is slowly coming out – this piece is based on what is already known about this case at the time of publication, through mainstream news media houses.

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About the Author

Poornima Kulathu

I am a banker, author, poet and an intersectional feminist. Speaking up on social issues, mentoring and coaching and cooking up a storm for friends and a certain strapping 21 year old boy are what read more...

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