By Sakhi Nair
Edited by Liz Maria Kuriakose, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
Uttar Pradesh is home to the sacrosanct Ganges. Like the venerated goddess, UP has also given birth to some of the greatest women the history of India has ever witnessed. Right from freedom fighters like Rani Laxmibai and Begum Hazrat Mahal to politicians like Mayawati, the state has been the birthplace of quite a few women wielding the baton of authority.
“Khoob ladi mardani woh to Jhansi wali Rani Thi (Like a man she fought, she was the Queen of Jhansi)”.
Ever since I’ve read this poem by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, I have often wondered, why are women forced to adopt a masculine demeanour in order to establish their power? This patriarchal society will never consider them as powerful figures unless they shed their feminity. My Sociology project on Women Leaders had a case study on the notorious dacoit of Chambal, Phoolan Devi. With the title of Bandit Queen and reverence by the locals as an incarnation of Goddess Durga sought a heavy cost. Her story is equally devastating and motivational. Married off as a child to a man old enough to be her father, raped and abandoned by him, and later raped by a gang of dacoits, she decided to take up the gun and avenge the plight of all women victimized by this callousness of the society ruled by the tyrannical upper class. She spurred a sense of self-reliance in the women that society perceived to be powerless, the abla naari. And inspired by her courage came the likes of Seema Pariharand, Sampat Pal Devi, the leader of women’s vigilante group Gulabi Gang.
Uttar Pradesh remains estranged from the rest of India when it comes to respecting their women. While the rest of India is making efforts for uplifting its women, the women of UP still quiver, fearing their veils of modesty will be taken away by brutes who don’t even consider them equal, and an indifferent government. Dreading every day living among men who only view them as objects of desire and means to produce more and more boys to worsen an already skewed sex ratio, being victims of barbaric crimes, their nonchalant government makes no effort to make them feel secure. This estrangement was made apparent after the recent rapes in Badaun, Etawah and Azamgarh, the constituency of their former Chief Minister. While I see 7-year-old girls playing badminton at 11 in the night in Mumbai, girls in Badaun are raped and hung from trees while their perpetrators don’t even fear punishment because of their power and influence. To top it all off, their government does nothing to curb this hooliganism. The Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav passes outrageous comments and Mulayam Singh Yadav says “Boys make mistakes, why hang them for committing rape?” Does UP even deserve its women?
To see women facing atrocities in a state where their main river is revered as a goddess is ironic. The abysmal situation in UP has left a bitter taste in the nation’s mouth where women can’t even feel secure and have lost all hopes of any effort from the lawmakers. The estrangement and social backwardness of the state continues to be a daunting issue.
Sakhi is a 12th grade student planning to pursue Mass Communication. She is a keen observer of everything that her eyes can see and never leaves herself out of a stimulating conversation. She considers the freedom of expression to be the fourth necessity of life and believes the world could be a better place if we could just listen. Her interests include photography, music and satire. You can wade through her musings at http://www.neuroticpeanuts.blogspot.com.