Woke up to this news on the front page yesterday! A 35 year old mom feeds her 4 year old and 1 year old daughters rusted nails in their glass of milk, causing them to choke and die. After they die, she sleeps in the same bed as the dead girls for two days, before disposing off the bodies in a nearby well.
Not the kind of story one wants to wake up to on any day. But also not the kind of story one can read and forget! What lead Sunita (the mother) to such a violent crime? Is she truly a ‘heartless’ mother or just severely ‘mentally disturbed’? The story of the ‘killer mother’ made headlines in almost all the papers. One of the local dailies also carried a picture of the father. He had told the newspaper how between him and his three brothers his two daughters were the only ‘girls’ and now the family had no daughters! He blamed Sunita for what had happened accusing her of mental instability saying that she had made an attempt to kill the girls earlier too.
Shocked and intrigued, I read all the following stories on the event. It emerged that
Sunita’s husband and in-laws used to harass her for giving birth to girls.
Her husband worked as a salesman and also got some rental income making approximately 7-8 thousand a month. He spent most of it on alcohol and did not give her any/ enough money for running the home. The police found nothing to eat in her one room home except 200 gm of stinking wheat flour. The milk she had fed the girls had been ‘borrowed’ from a neighbor. On being asked why she did what she did, Sunita told the police that the girls were always hungry! She could not take it anymore!
Can Sunita really be blamed for what happened? Isn’t Sunita’s husband responsible for the murders? Though he did not actually feed them the nails, he did not leave much else to feed them with!
Or her in-laws her family and neighbours? Everyone of these was aware of the cruelties that Sunita was undergoing. Could nobody stand up for her?
What about the role of the local administration or government? Why is there no place in our cities and town that a woman can go to, to get food and shelter for her starving children and herself?
Or the local police ? In desperate times, shouldn’t a woman like Sunita be able to turn to the police for help? The fact of the matter is that no woman feels safe stepping into a police station! Unless she has a politician or bureaucrat father/ brother/ husband! In all probability if Sunita had taken her complaint of harassment to the police she would have been sent right back. Policemen don’t want to waste their time handling ‘silly domestic matters’! I once met a lady whose second husband was threatening to sleep with her teenage daughter from her first marriage. He was beating her regularly and she was afraid she would not be able to hold him off much longer. When she went to the police, they told her “Has he slept with her till now? Come to us after he does it!” Huh???
Later, as I step out of my home to drop my son to school, we come across a large crowd of school going children. It is a ‘save girls rally’! The local MLA is addressing the children proclaiming loudly that “Girls have as much a right to be born as boys”
All I can think is
Yes! they do Mr MLA, but they also have a right to live after they are born!
If they have to live their lives hiding from filthy stares and groping hands. If they have to live their lives being tortured and hated for no fault of theirs. If they have to live their lives at the mercy of violent and abusive men who treat them like little more than animals. Maybe, just maybe, they are better dead than born!!
My heart goes out to Sunita and to thousands of women like her. Women who are tortured and beaten by their husbands and in-laws to a state that they can no longer think straight. When there seems no way out but to either kill oneself or the ‘unwanted’ children or both!!!
A smaller news in the same paper grabs my attention too. The state has a new Director General of Police. He says his priority is ‘Women’s Safety’. I wish I could believe him. But alas! I have seen too many of them say the same thing for too many years now. I will believe them when I see a change!
As of now I just pray. For Sunita, in the jail. And for her innocent daughters. Wherever they are. I hope they understand that even behind this violent-violent act was hidden an unfortunate mother’s endless love!