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Na banengi hum mom ki battiyan, banenge hum jalti mashaalein… hum Mukhtara, sab Mukhtara…

A pledge not to remain silent spectators to incidents of violence on women was spelt out clearly in Hum Mukhtara, a play staged by Rangakarmee, in association with t2, at Rabindra Sadan on Wednesday evening.

A Pakistani woman was allegedly gang-raped (by six men) on the orders of a village council (the local Mastoi tribe had convened the council), in the impoverished village of Meerwala (Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan), for indiscretions allegedly committed by her brother, in 2002.

Instead of committing suicide, which was the “custom”, Mukhtar Mai chose to fight back and in the process, single-handedly changed the course of the feminist movement in Pakistan.

She spoke up and filed a complaint and pursued the case, which was reported by both domestic and international media. On September 1, 2002, an anti-terrorism court sentenced the six men to death. The Lahore High Court, however, cited “insufficient evidence” and acquitted five of the six convicted, and reduced the punishment for the sixth man to a life sentence in 2005.

Mukhtar and the government then approached the Supreme Court, which suspended the acquittal and held appeal hearings. In 2011, the Supreme Court too acquitted the accused. The play, based on her life, captures the growing violence on women and society’s heartless attitude.

The journey for a better tomorrow begins at Mukhtara’s school for village women

“My teacher Maitrayee Sengupta presented me the book on the life of Mukhtar Mai (In the Name of Honour: A Memoir). I was awestruck by the extraordinary courage and strength of purpose shown by an ordinary girl from a remote village in Pakistan. Last year, when I came to know from newspapers that the accused had been acquitted, I was shocked. I decided to portray the life of this brave girl and travel across the country with this play. There maybe many more Mukhtar Mais who are suffering,” said Rangakarmee director Usha Ganguli.

After the play, Rangakarmee felicitated theatre personalities Madeeha Gauhar (from Pakistan), Bhagirathi Islam (from Assam) and writer Saswati Ghosh (from Calcutta). Hum Mukhtara will again be staged at Madhusudan Mancha on February 2 and the Academy of Fine Arts on February 5; 7pm on both days.

 

Usha Ganguli is a feminist playwright and I look forward to watching her play, which deals with a topical issue (especially after the Delhi rape case). She has talked about Mukhtar Mai, who is a rape victim across the border. She fights for women who are getting raped and she inspires women and girls. I have brought survivors from the Apne Aap group to see the play and get inspired by it.
— Ruchira Gupta, founder, Apne Aap Women Worldwide