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A 7 year old girl was murdered in Kolkata, and the culprit in whose house her body was found has allegedly confessed it was a 'sacrifice' as he wanted a child!
Trigger Warning: This has graphic description of murder, violence against women, and domestic abuse, and may be triggering for survivors.
Monday afternoon, a part of Kolkata city erupted into episodes of violence. I came to know that a girl has died.
Last Sunday morning, in a five-storied block in Tiljala, Kolkata, a mother sent her seven-year-old daughter downstairs to dispose of the garbage. The child went missing. It seems that the girl got scared of the dogs and ran into a neighbour’s flat. The man dragged her in, raped her and cut her. The mutilated body was later found in a sack in his flat.
The culprit has allegedly admitted his crime and stated his reasons for the heinous act. It was on the advice of a Tantric. ‘Sacrifice an innocent child to conceive a healthy baby!’
A Kidnapping. A Rape. A Murder. A Tantrik. And a sacrifice. All for bearing a child!
I sat numb with fear and sadness. But I was not shocked. This has been the norm for years.
I was barely twenty-four when I got married. I had a promising career in hand while my husband was following his dreams. We did not want a baby. For that would tie us down. No sooner did we complete a year of marriage, and the pressure mounted. I was almost thirty when the subtle pressure and the kind advice changed its tone. Wherever we went, taunts and cruel remarks greeted us.
‘What will you do with a career? Have a child. He or she will look after you when you grow old.’
‘The more you delay the worse it will be.’
‘Hope you don’t have medical issues?’
‘Are you both sexually intimate?’
What had started as a seemingly harmless banter had changed into crude comments and then into a social boycott!
We were invited to a cousin’s baby shower. One of the rituals involved feeding the pregnant woman. Usually, a group of women are given this task. Both mothers and women who are waiting to be a mother take turns in feeding. I was shunned that day. The woman shot back, ‘you are a baanja (barren). An ill omen. Don’t come near her.’ And thus, began our blacklisting from every social and religious event.
A woman’s test lies in becoming a mother and bearing a healthy child. A woman unable to fulfil this is considered cursed and a bad omen to other healthy women around her. Keeping away such women from the societal fabric is a must!
I was pregnant with my firstborn. It was a joyous phase for we were finally ready to welcome a new member into our lives. As the delivery date drew nearer, the buzz around us deepened.
‘Hope it’s a boy. You see, the firstborn should be a male. It is auspicious. The family line has to continue.’
And then came the threats!
‘If it’s a girl, we will not even look at her face. There won’t be any celebrations.’
I prayed for a girl so that I can put an end to this hypocrisy. My firstborn is a boy. That sealed my fate. I am considered an auspicious woman, a blessed woman who has given birth to a son. Six years later, when my daughter was born, everyone declared that our family was finally complete. A boy to carry the name and a girl to bless the household!
I realized that a girl child as a firstborn is inauspicious. Girls being ‘paraya dhan’ are a burden. The weaker sex will always be an option, passed from one household to another. Her value lies in her reproductive capabilities.
As years passed, I saw friends around me going child-free. It’s a conscious, deliberate choice of not having children. But that hasn’t stopped society from judging or speaking ill about them.
As a society, we are yet to appreciate this choice and acknowledge the wisdom and maturity that propels them to exercise such choices. On a micro-level, it’s heartening to note such decisions.
Adoption has also gained prominence. But the process is still slow and frustrating. I know of many couples who have been in the queue forever and finally given up.
From ancient times, tremendous pressure has been put on a woman to have a child. If she fails, she is subjected to scrutiny. Earlier, in such cases, the men promptly remarried. Today, even the man is not spared as questions arise about his sexual orientation or ‘ability to perform’. The allegations, the abuse and the helplessness arising out of it make them desperate.
Repeated visits to doctors, second opinions, expensive procedures to make the women conceive, loans and debts to meet these expenditures – it’s a vicious cycle. When everything fails, they take refuge in alternative medicines.
Further failure often drives them to seek solace in religion. Most often, weak minds fall prey to conmen. This is where, black magic, magic potions and herbs and even tantric beliefs finds their way in.
Some families have the custom of bedding the woman with a known virile male member of the family. In that case, if the woman conceives, the baby is from within the family and the prestige of the family stands salvaged. There are also cases where the woman is forcefully sent to a Sadhu who claims to cure infertility. Such occurrences are not restricted to a particular stratum or to educational background. Infertility and the consequences arising out of it are applicable to all.
Keeping the background in mind, it’s quite easy to see how superstitions and blind beliefs can take over anyone’s rationality.
In the case of the seven-year-old Riya, not even once did the perpetrator think of the brutality he was subjecting the child to in order to gain a baby. Sacrifices have formed a part of the Hindu religion for ages. Human sacrifices were common to appease the gods and goddesses in tantric practices. But to find it still happening and desperate couples believing in it is a shame for society at large.
It’s a shame that while some of us are trying our best to generate awareness and make society a better place for women, such rampant killings are still common.
Women and girls are still the targets. Have you noticed that sacrificing a girl/woman doesn’t need much thought? Isn’t she the weaker sex, who can be easily laid down at the altar of sacrifice?
Coincidentally, the horrific sacrifice of Riya happens in the month of March. The month when we celebrate International Women’s Day.
That makes me ask a question. What have we achieved? How far have we progressed? When will, women exercise the right to choose? When will she be given the recognition of a human being at par with the men?
The answer to my why, when and how remains a blank for I see no hope!
Image source: Favor_of_god from Getty Images Free for Canva Pro
Sreemati Sen holds a Masters in Social Work from Visva Bharati, Shantiniketan. She is a Development Professional, specialised in Psychiatric care of Differently Abled Children. That hasn’t stopped her from exploring other fields. Years read more...
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