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Bharat had often observed a silent culture when it came to women and women’s rights. This silent culture had conveniently laid out a path for the social evils like sati, female foeticide, dowry, devadasi system etc: to traverse. Fortunately, the country has now woken up from its deep slumber spanning across centuries. Our country – or atleast a part of it – has attained a consciousness and a conscience against the gross injustice littering around against its betis. And this change can be perceived in the budding feminist movements and discourses in the country.

Yet in some way, this awakening doesn’t satisfy my dream of an independent India and it is because that woman from the slum in my city, with whom I had a brief chat yesterday, was still unaware of what this feminism is. She was unaware about the feminist discussions happening in this country’s newsrooms. She knew about a Nirbhaya because she saw a lot of middle class people shouting slogans and conducting rallies near her slum. Otherwise, she would have been ignorant of that too. Worse is the condition of her counterparts in her village. They know of nothing. Somewhere I heard that Ignorance is Bliss but I’m unsure of whether that will apply to her.

Her first priority in life is to earn a living and to feed her starving kids at home. Whether her in-laws and husband beats her or not came only as the second or third priorities. Afterall, for a human deprived of food and water, none of that will matter.

She knows that she has some rights guaranteed in the constitution. At the same time, she also knows that if she tries to enforce those by putting faith in the mighty legal system offered by India, even Mother India will not be able to save her from the corrupt officials who are craving to protect the guilty than the victim. Besides, if she protests about the harassments, physical, mental or sexual, she and her children will be ostracized by this patriarchal society. So, she thinks it will be better to give a capital punishment to her when life becomes unbearable.

But I protested against her train of thoughts. Woman’s life is not the life of animals, I told. I apprised her about the recent transformations our country has been undergoing. I proudly explained her about the social services done by various feminist organizations.

But she stopped me by saying that she was from the slum. Status, power or money was dreams for her. And world stands up for the man for whom status, power or money is a reality. Otherwise, why did the society stood and watched while she was beaten by the husband in the middle of the road. Why did even the so-called educated women of your India look at me as if like I had invited all these troubles on me? 

And she ended the conversation saying, “Madam, you see, all these reforms you are talking about are meant for the rich and powerful of India. Not for worthless creatures like me. And don’t pity me. At least now I have a husband, whether he is a criminal or not. But if I lose that then I might become the wife of all, right?”

I watched her, shocked, as she walked away. For her questions silently brought me back from the tantalizing sceneries promised by India to the realities of Bharat.

©Bharat had often observed a silent culture when it came to women and women’s rights. This silent culture had conveniently laid out a path for the social evils like sati, female foeticide, dowry, devadasi system etc: to traverse. Fortunately, the country has now woken up from its deep slumber spanning across centuries. Our country – or atleast a part of it – has attained a consciousness and a conscience against the gross injustice littering around against its betis. And this change can be perceived in the budding feminist movements and discourses in the country.
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