| Still from Kahiin Kisi Roz
It is natural to nurture a grouse against someone who has paid you peanuts. But who would think that the price to be paid for an alleged theft of peanuts could be lynching, brutal torture and even death' It's been over a week since two women were killed and two more seriously injured when a mob attacked them, together with five other middle-aged women at Nischindapur village in Howrah. The women from neighbouring Kundalia village were spotted, as they were passing through, by villagers who assumed that they were there to steal peanuts, which, ironically, was hardly the case.
News spread that some 'thieves' had been caught 'redhanded' and villagers, including women, took it upon themselves to punish the culprits. Bamboo sticks, iron rods and shovels were used indiscriminately, witnesses reported. The mob hit the women on their abdomen, chest and other parts of the body. The beating persisted despite the victims pleading innocence.
What makes the incident all the more appalling is that of the 15 villagers arrested so far, nine are women. 'They are in the age group of 30-40,' says Mihir Bhattacharya, the Howrah SP. The State Women's Commission has been equally shocked by the incident, more so because there were so many women who were party to the attack.
The commission has asked for a report, on the basis of which it plans to take action. 'Appealing to the state government and demanding compensation for the victims is what we have in mind,' says Bharati Mutsuddi, member of the State Women's Commission.
It is only natural to condemn any such violent act. This one in particular is, however, a telling commentary on the degeneration of society at large. According to a report by the National Commission for Women (based on data provided by the ministry of women and child development), every 26 minutes, a woman is molested in India. Every 54 minutes, a rape takes place. Every 48 minutes, an eve-teasing incident occurs. Every four minutes, a woman is kidnapped. And every 10 minutes, another is burnt to death over dowry. One act of cruelty against women every 33 minutes and one criminal offence against them every seven minutes take place in our country.
As if these facts were not bad enough, gender violence now seems to encompass a broader sphere. It isn't merely confined to sexual assault or inhuman torture by the male over the female. It now includes atrocities committed by women against women in the most ghoulish manner possible.
Violence in the domestic sphere ' as in the torture inflicted by a mother-in-law on the daughter-in-law or the sister ganging up with the mother against the brother's wife ' is common knowledge. These are violent acts in which women join hands with men to assault women. Whatever be the cause, repeated instances point to the fact that the stereotypical images of women ' the angel and the devil ' are on the verge of collapse.
Serials on the small screen, which may well serve as a barometer to the present social scenario, also reflect this change. That a woman is more rounded in character in comparison to the flat, one-dimensional man, is obvious from the diverse range of roles she is made to enact ' from hapless mother to manipulative seductress, to scheming wife, to dutiful daughter, to obnoxious vixen. The problem is, all this angst on screen is triggered off by the grudge a woman may hold against members of her own sex.
Women, they say, can be best of friends, but nothing can be worse if they become enemies of their own kind.