Monday, 14 August 2017

For Whom The Bell Tolls...

Today is the 14th of August. It is the eve of the most momentous day in the history of modern India: our Independence Day.

The mood of the nation is ebullient. We are justly proud of our spectacular achievements in the field of economics, science and culture. We are the fastest growing economy in the world, we have sent a probe to Mars, we are the first country to send more than a hundred satellites into orbit using just a single rocket, we have given the world the greatest gift of all – yoga. All this is amazing and there is much to feel proud of and be ebullient about…

But I am not in an ebullient mood today. On the contrary, I am depressed and angry. Very angry.

photo courtesy: iStock

What changed the happy mood into a towering rage in the morning is a headline that I read in one of our leading newspapers. It said: “KIN LYNCH DALIT WOMAN, KHAP IMPOSES FINE OF 2,500 RUPEES”.

Imposing a fine of 2,500 rupees on the life of this 40-year-old widow (her husband had died a year ealier) is shocking enough (life is cheap in India), but it is not only her lynching but the way it was carried out that is horrifying. The entire edifice of the spectacular achievements of our great Indian culture crumbles to dust when we read about the way this woman was lynched. It takes us back to the Dark Ages in Europe in the 10th and 11th centuries. Even then, it couldn’t have been as bad as this.

This woman was not just burnt as was the case with ‘witches’ in the Dark Ages. She was at first beaten up by a mob, then tortured, then made to eat human excreta and drink water from a nearby gutter. If that was not enough, burnt coals were then placed in her hands, she was stripped naked and then paraded in the village. She died in hospital the next day. Her 15-year-old son is still unconscious from shock. And she was lynched only because of a rumor. 

Her lynching was not just brutality. It was sheer savagery, depravity. This is the result of crass ignorance and superstition. Fighting against this kind of savagery and depravity for women in our society is as important as sending satellites into space, increasing our GDP and learning yogic postures and meditation.

Tomorrow paeans will be sung about the spectacular progress and achievements of our country and justifiably so. We are all proud of our country.

But let us spare a moment and think about the  woman and her painful death. Let us pledge ourselves to doing something about the law and order situation in our country and ensuring justice for the women of our land, whom we worship in the form of Goddesses (Laxmi, Saraswati, Bhavani and Durga Mata) and in life treat like chattels...

For those who will say, “It is just one stray incident; just one unfortunate woman”. 

I'd like to quote John Donne:

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friends were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee”.


  1. Political leaders come and go; promises are made and broken. But when does life change at the grassroots level? What difference does it make to women like this poor lynched woman and millions like her whether Modi addresses the nation today or Nehru did when he delivered his 'tryst with destiny' speech? Nehru had promised to bring "freedom and opportunity to the common man; . . . to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease . . "
    While we celebrate divinity in the female form, we don't translate this celebration to real life. Women remain, in many instances, slaves to the desires of men and are treated like possessions.
    So today, while we rejoice in our freedom, let us also vow to bring true freedom to our motherland in the form of our women.

  2. I say, Harshi... thanks for the comment... you are absolutely right... this is precisely what is bothering me...
    The callous and harsh treatment that is being meted out to women in India...

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