Maya, one of the directors of VIKALP, is in the process of writing a second book on the women’s courts in Gujarat (she has already written one book on the subject). This second book is primarily a compilation of letters – letters written by women to the women’s courts, letters written by the courts to the local police departments, letters written by the courts to the offenders, and letters written by the offenders to the courts. These letters provide a lot of insight into the discrimination faced by women in this part of India, and into the types of cases that are heard by the women’s courts. The following are two such letters. The first is written to the Nari Adalat Women’s Court (the judges of which are all Dalit women) from a woman living in Padra District, Vadodara. The second is written to the Police Inspector of the Padra Police Station from Nari Adalat.
To: Nari Adalat, Padra
Date: 6 June 2006
This is a humble request from Makwana Rekhaben, daughter of Ghanshyambhai Mangalbhai, resident of Dabka Amlahal of Dabka village, Taluka Padra district Vadodara.
I was married on 02.05.1999 to Makwana Nimeshbhai Ravjibhai resident of Gayapura, Taluka Padra. The marriage was not a good match so we got a divorce on 29.06.2000, written on the stamp of Rs. 20/-. On 05.02.2003, my in-laws decided to restart my marriage without my consent. The agreement they made claimed that because of my immaturity, the marriage failed and so they refused to file a divorce application. They claimed that they would not torture me anymore, and that they would give me a house to live in and land for maintenance, so I went back to live with them. Once again, my mother-in-law began to torture and harass me. My family calls me but I am not allowed to speak to them. My in-laws repeatedly mistreat me and fight with me for no reason.
Firstly, they were the ones who initially decided to divorce me. Secondly, they made an agreement and decided to provide maintenance but then refused. So I have decided to claim maintenance since I have not received it, and want to proceed with the divorce. I beg you to file my case in your court. This is my kind request.
Rekhaben Ghanshyambhai Makwana
To: Shri Police Inspector, Padra Police Station
21 August 2008
Subject: Regarding the incident related to Sitaben Ganpatbhai Padiyar of Pathod village.
I am Nanadben Padiyar, working in Nari Adalat for Vikalp Women’s Group. Our organization works on issues of violence against women, exploitation of women and women’s rights. I work in Padra block as an activist. I go from village to village as an educator to raise awareness amongst the women.
During my field visit to Pathod Village on 11.08.2008, I learnt about an incident involving a woman named Sitaben. Consequently I went to meet with Sitaben. Present at her house was Sitaben’s mother Shardaben who informed me that her daughter had been burned. Sitaben’s elder brother-in-law poured kerosene all over her body and kicked her. After that I went to meet with Sitaben. She said, “Let me recover and then I will tell you the whole truth. Look how badly they have beaten me. They dragged me on the road and two of my brother-in-laws beat me from both sides. When I recover I will file a case against them.” Her husband Ganpatbhai was present. He said that Sita had sold her anklet and the fight was about where the money had been used. Sita immediately responded, “I sold the anklet and with that money I bought food to feed my son. All you do is drink and roam about, bringing nothing to the house and in the meantime suspect me of misbehaving. Wait until I recover, then we will file a case.” Her husband threateningly replied, “You file as many cases as you wish. I will sell the land and find a way out; but if you file the case and I go to jail, who will feed our son?”
I went to meet the Sarpanch (elected head of the village government) to inform him about the incident but in his absence I went to the Deputy Sarpanch, Arjunbhai Padiyar, and spoke with him about taking up the matter with the police and taking Sitaben to the hospital. He told me that the family does not agree to take these steps, so nothing can be done. I informed Nari Adalat and a plan was formulated to take her to the hospital and file a case at the police station.
On 21.08.2008 in accordance with the plan, two activists went to the Pathod village and two went to the police station. We reached Pathod at 11AM only to learn that Sitaben had passed away in the night. In the morning cremation too was completed. The whole incident was reported to the police by us.
The four names mentioned above together have tortured and killed the lone helpless woman. Therefore appropriate action must be taken against them. Sitaben’s mother is a widow; she has eight daughters but she does not have a son. Also, she is economically weak and is in no position to take any action. I am filing a complaint on behalf of Nari Adalat and Vikalp Women’s Group for appropriate investigation to take further action.
Posted By Alicia Evangelides
Posted Jul 17th, 2012