Choosing Her Own Man? A Crime Her Parents Beat Her For

Is choosing your own partner such a big crime? I was shocked to hear this story of daughters being beaten up by parents.

A few days ago a video conference was held by the Government of India to review the “One Stop Centre” scheme run by the Women & Child Welfare Ministry.

Our Department is expected to enforce the “Domestic Violence against Women Act, 2006”. I was reading the Act to see what is covered under “Domestic Violence”. It is very exhaustive.

One of the acts of violence is “not being allowed to marry who one chooses to”.

Cut to the evening of the meeting. Outside the cabinet room where officers wait for their turn to present their agenda, a minister of Cabinet rank was sitting in the same room. He likes regaling officers with stories from his constituency.

He said, ‘Let me tell you a story.’ He then went on to narrate it.

A common problem

Years ago when he became an MLA for the first time, he won by about 5 lakh votes. One of the frequent issues that people of his constituency came to him with was about their “daughter running away” with a boy, sometimes from another caste or community.

As a first-time MLA, he said, he expressed his unwillingness to interfere in cases where the girl was an adult. This angered the people and they asked him, ‘Is that why we have elected you MLA?! You are expected to get the girl back to her family.’ He rapidly started losing clout and respect within his electorate.

Soon he realised he’d have to do something to get such girls back. So he arranged for a group of “karyakartas” to forcibly get the girl back.

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However, more often than not, the girl refused to come back. Also, if they tried to use force, she and the boy’s family registered complaints at the police station, accusing the “karyakartas” of violence, abuse, and in many cases, rape.

‘I was at my wit’s end. On the one hand, I had to appease the girls’ parents; on the other, I had to protect myself and my karyakartas from false accusations. I saw my “saakh” within my community rapidly diminishing.’

Male saviour to the rescue

‘Then I came up with an ingenious plan. I trained a group of women who took the place of the male karyakartas. Their modus operandi was the same. They descended on the boy’s household in groups of 10-12. They badgered the boy and his family, especially the lady members. The latter were often beaten up badly. If the male members intervened, the women karyakartas tore up their own clothes and lodged FIRs in the police stations accusing the males in the boy’s family of “rape”!

Needless to say, this strategy worked perfectly. The women’s gang was able to get the errant girl back to her home.’

The minister continued nonchalantly, ‘In some cases, the girl consumed poison on her return to her parents’ house. In order to prevent that, I started sending food for such girls from my house.’ This, he said, gained him further popularity. He became known as the “bhaiyya who looks after his sisters and their parents.” Soon he didn’t even have to send his women gang. All he had to do was threaten the boy’s family with them!

What about the girls?

‘What became of the girls?’ I ventured to ask.

‘Oh, them! Well, I have found that in most of the cases, her parents just wanted to beat her, torture her, and force her to leave the boy for good. They also wanted to tell her it was wrong for her to marry outside her caste and community. In case the girl refuses to relent, they may just kill her, though I strongly discourage that-you can beat her up, but you can’t murder her, I say!

Or they may agree to let the girl go and sever all ties with her for good. The matter is decided one way or the other, mostly by the next day.’

My head was spinning already with all this storytelling. I blurted out, ‘Don’t you think if you had just stuck to your stand of not interfering in cases where the girl is an adult, society would have accepted this by now?’

He looked surprised. ‘But I wouldn’t have been an MLA or Mantri then, would I?’ he said, leaving for the cabinet room.

Image Source: Still from the movie Ishaqzaade

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About the Author

Dipali Rastogi

I am a member of the Indian Administrative Service working in the Madhya Pradesh Cadre. read more...

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