VICTIMS, WOMEN & THE LANDED VOICELESSby Vinta Nanda May 18 2015, 7:00 pm Estimated Reading Time: 10 mins, 49 secs
So here?? the thing!
As I entered home this evening, my housekeeper Leela Lhama opened the door, as usual.
She normally takes my laptop bag from my hand and walks ahead of me through a longish corridor and I follow her to my room.
Today she was on hyper mode as she opened the door and started to tell me something as she led the way, assuming I already knew what she was talking about, which as a matter of fact, I did.
Leela: Gareeb hota toh phaansi peh chadha diya hota, ameer aadmi hai na, isiliye bail par nikal diya (if he was poor, he would??e been hanged! He?? a rich star, which is why he is out on bail).
I: Tum khush nahin hai(are you not happy)?
Leela: Nahin, India gareeb aadmi ka desh nahin hai (No, I?? not because India is not a country for poor people).
Leela: Gareeb aadmiya toh footpath par soya marta hai, ya jail ke salakhon ke peeche. Ameer aadmi khula ghoomta hai gaadi mein (a poor man is either found sleeping on pavements, or else held behind bars. It?? the rich who roam free).
I: Lekin uska driver toh ameer aadmi nahin hai, usne kyun jaake bola ki accident ke wakat, main driving kar raha tha (but his driver wasn?? rich, why did he go an admit in court that it was he who was at the wheel)?
Leela: Toh barah lakh milana usko(he got 12 lakhs for it)!
I:?Toh agar main Salman Khan ki jagah hoti, aur tum mera driver hoti, aur main tum ko barah lakh rupaya deti thi, tum ja ke mere liye aisa karti thi kya?(would you have done the same for me if I were Salman Khan and if I were to give you 12 lakhs to take the blame for me)?
Leela: Haan, kyun nahin? Barah lakh ke liye insaan 5 saal jail ja sakta hai, mere zindagi ko koi farak nahin padta tha (yes, why not? For 12 lakhs anybody would go to and spend 5 years in jail. It would make a big difference to my life)!
?By now she had put out my laptop and plugged in the charger.
She was staring at me with her hands on her hips.
I asked her to leave the room so I could sit back and make meaning of what she had just said.
Gosh, it?? true!
Leela was not joking. She as well as most of her kind would gladly go and cool their heels in prison cells for their masters at a price like that.
She did pop her head back in to tell me that 12 lakh rupees would settle her family for good and she can actually build her house back at home.
So this is the story of Abdullah Shaikh and Mohammad Kalim, and not the story of ?Salman Khan.
This is the story of those people, whose lives don?? count; who are left to rot on pavements, roads, railway stations, or wherever else it is that the cops don?? boot them out from.
Why I choose to tell their story is because enough of the rest is spoken and written and more will be spoken and written in the coming days about justice and what it means to the rich and the burgeoning middle classes of our country but nobody is really going to bother about the fact that the word ??ustice??means nothing to the poor and marginalized.
?I must applaud both Barkha Dutt of NDTV and Rahul Kanwal of Headlines today to have brought the two available victims of the Salman Khan drunken driving case in which he was convicted today to five years imprisonment and later released on an interim bail for three days; to their studios to tell their side of the story.
Both the victims, Mohammad Kalim on NDTV and Abdullah Shaikh on Headlines Today channels, sort of stumped the anchors and all other accomplished panelists; mostly lawyers, some politicians, some opinion makers and others who were Khan?? friends, when they were asked how it was that they felt, now that Salman Khan had been convicted?
The question (as asked by both anchors) ??Is it satisfying you today that justice has been done?
Both victims had no reaction to the word ??ustice?? Both only wanted to know when they would get compensation. Both victims who appeared on different television channels and who were asked the same questions by two different anchors said, ??ow does it matter to me if Salman Khan gets convicted or goes to jail???/p>
They both said, ??ll that matters to me is that I have not been compensated for the injuries received by me during the accident, injuries that have left me incapable of fending for myself and my family. Therefore what I want is that I should be given my compensation.??/p>
Abdullah Shaikh went on to narrate the entire incident on that fateful night thirteen years ago in great detail, but even after that when he was asked for the second time if he was happy that Salman Khan was convicted and that justice had been done even if rather late, he replied saying that he did not quite understand what was being said and that all that he wanted was that his compensation should be given to him as soon as possible.
Here, I switched channels and went to Arnab Goswami?? News hour on the channel Times Now, where I found a battery of eminent lawyers, Satish Maneshinde, Mahesh Jethmalani, Abha Singh, Mrinalini Deshmukh and Aryaman Sunderam have a hearty laugh with Goswami, over the fact that while he was chasing the Salman Khan drunken driving case and the stars conviction with such zeal, why was it that he was avoiding being questioned about a particular drunken driving case at Peddar Road, Mumbai, in which it also happened that the driver owned up by saying that he was at the wheel when the accident took place?
By now I was done with my dinner so I switched off the television and stepped to my study to finally write a piece I have been struggling to write for the past couple of weeks now, with a myriad of thoughts waltzing in my head with no tail to them.
So I tried to put some sense to them.
The two things that have caught my attention and which took center stage in the Indian Media most of the second half of last month were about the criminalization of Marital Rape in India, and the institution of the new Land Acquisition Bill.
One of the most disturbing realities of our present media which has been taken complete advantage of by the politics of our times, is ironically hinged precariously on the basic ethics of journalism; which is that a good journalist must not take sides nor portray personal bias, and that he/she must approach a story taking a neutral position.
Well all said and done, that has become the bane of all discourse in India today and neutrality of position taken by the media has become the root cause of the blurring of lines between what is right, and what is wrong.
Although Barkha Dutt, did gather the courage and break the rules by admitting to her personal opinion on Marital Rape in the course of her weekly program ??e The People?? last Sunday, I was aghast to hear a documentary filmmaker like Deepika Bhardhwaj, who was a participant on the show, actually say something absolutely irrational; more so because she is also a woman.
She said, ??t?? all very well that women get abused and tortured for sex by their husbands but my point is that, what about those who will misuse the law if marital rape is established criminal???/p>
She went on further to say, ??nd what about the men? What recourse can they take when they are tortured by women who refuse to have sex with them for days, weeks, months???/p>
The answer was very clearly that men can go get divorced from women who do not satisfy them; and many in the audience including Barkha Dutt said it, but it was dumbed down in the program and I wonder why?
For the sake of information, statistics reveal that - 65% of girls in India are married by the age of 18 and become mothers soon after.
Now in this scenario, let us justify, how many of those 65% girls of the 50% from the 1.25 billion population of India, under the age of 18 even know what the meaning of marriage is; what sex is and whether they are compatible or not to the men whom they have been handed over to?
All that the poor girls have been told is that they should be silent and accept whatever comes their way after they get married and that if they have problems to deal with afterwards, then they should try to resolve them within the four walls of their husbands??home; that there is no looking back for them because there is no place left for them at the house where they were born and in which they grew up.
Hundreds of thousands of young girls, get raped, get beaten, andare forced to indulge in sexual intercourse in ways that are unimaginable and they are tortured if they do not submit.
But the abuse they endure is not a crime in India, because once married to a man, they are owned by him and therefore he can do to them as he pleases.
As far as the Land Acquisition Bill is concerned, I have this to say.
Why is it that among the most evolved of us and of our media, it is well known that industrialization is non-negotiable in a developing country like ours, and that all arguments against it are invalid?
How is it that they know that industrialization cannot take place without acquisition of the land required to build smart cities and roads, highways, airports, railways etc., for the purpose of development and providing jobs at the rate they are required, and that the government should be supported in passing the bill irrespective of whether the consent clause is there or not as a integral part of it; irrespective of whether a social impact assessmentis added to the process or not?
And therefore how is it then, that none of them, including media, demand that the plans which the government as well as the industrialists have, for rehabilitation of the affected communities after their land has been acquired, be shown to them?
Why is it that there no discussion abouthow industrialists who are going to develop infrastructures and take India to its glory, are going to set up interim infrastructures for the affected communities while they are made to wait for the benefits of industrialization to trickle down to them?
Where are the smart suits, the young MBAs and their power points?
Where are their strategies for supporting the landless until such time that the factories and complexes that will be built on their fertile fields yield employment?
Where are those discussions on television, radio, print, digital media, mobile media and all those streams coming out of the pores of our skins?
Shouldn?? there be discussions and debates on what the interim plans are during the process of industrialization, instead of a shameless war of words between the ruling parties and their oppositions about who did what in which decade and therefore who is to blame for the frightening situation that prevails?
Where are those economists, CEOs, CFOs and Managing Directors of all those wonderful corporations, which are going to be recipients of the huge contracts for building infrastructures awarded by the Government of India?
Why don?? they tell us what their plans are?
Why are the Public Private partnerships nowhere visible on the massive media landscape of India?
Why are they in hiding?
My point is that in a country where those who have the power and wealth are exercising impermissible rights, and those who are poor and excluded, are not even aware about those provided to them constitutionally!
The sad part is that victims don?? know what justice means.
Is it that accidently falling prey to a drunk driver who is a rich man is now being considered a good omen by the poorest of the poor?
Women get raped, abused and brutalized but when they are married is there no recourse for them?
Is it justified that the landed are hunting for their next meal so they are abandoning their ancestral properties for goons to squat on, while they go out and look for work as construction labor for abysmal wages?
In fact there is growing suspicion that the farmers who are taking their own lives are committing suicide in the hope that their families will be given compensation on which they will be able to survive.
It can?? get worse than that!