Nari Adalat, Padra. The first case of the day involves Salma, her husband Imraan, and her mother-in-law. As the women of the Nari Adalat sit in a circle around the family, Salma starts to present her case, but her mother-in-law quickly interrupts. Jasi, the court moderator, and the fifteen other Nari Adalat women quickly silence the mother-in-law.
“You will have your turn!”
“Let Salma speak!”
Among her many complaints, Salma objects to her mother-in-law having an affair and bringing the man into their home. During her turn, the mother-in-law complains about Salma, injecting animated hand movements in her narrative. Imraan is quiet for the most part. This back and forth between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law continues for a while.
“Don’t worry,” Jasi assures Imraan, “we will help you.”
Imraan seems uncomfortable between the two women, constantly clenching his jaw as the women rush to tell their stories. A few minutes after Jasi’s comment, he gets up.
“They are insulting my honor,” he says as he leaves the circle.
The NA women, as well as the group of men sitting on the sidelines, convince him to come back. Imraan sits down again, and admits he is tired of the women arguing.
“I am innocent,” he pleads.
“We are not against you,” Jasi reassures him.
Jasi asks Imraan what he wants. He explains his wife and mother do not get along and he is constantly sandwiched between the two. The discussion lasts another ten minutes until the downpour forces the court under a nearby building. The women ask the couple and the mother-in-law if they are ready to live apart. After another thirty minutes of discussion, tearful storytelling, and a chat with Imran’s brother, the court gets the family to reach a consensus. Salma and Imraan will live on one floor of their house while the mother-in-law will occupy the other floor and receive help from Imraan.
Jasi tells Salma that after this agreement, she cannot complain about whom the mother-in-law brings over.
“No pointing to your mother-in-law, not matter what she does. Your husband stays with you, and you must take care of him so your mother-in-law does not feel you’re uncaring towards him.”
Jasi then turns to the mother-in-law.
“He earns 5,000 rupees. He will help you, but you must not interfere. Your daughter-in-law can walk naked through her part of the house if she wants.”
Laughter reverberates through the crowd. The NA women tell the family to notify the court if they have further problems. They also plan a visit to the family’s house, after which the court will decide the feasibility of the house arrangement. As the family walks away from the court, Imraan seems visibly relieved. The rest of the onlookers are discussing the case between themselves as the women prepare for their next case.
My future blogs will examine some of the main issues the court takes into consideration—sexuality, gender roles, caste system, human rights, and livelihoods.
Posted By Andra Bosneag
Posted Jun 19th, 2013