Video Producer: Aparna Singh
Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam
This is one India — the India of Shruti Sharma, Ankita Agarwal, and Gamini Singla, who came first, second and third in the 2021 UPSC exams. All smiling, their photos in the papers, their videos on YouTube, looking forward to bright long careers as India’s top civil servants.
And this is another India — the India of Kalu Devi, Mamta and Kamlesh Meena, three sisters found dead in a well on the outskirts of Jaipur. Mamta and Kamlesh were both 8-9 months pregnant respectively, while Kalu’s four-year-old and 22-day-old sons were dead along with her. Their tragedy made headlines too, grim reminders of the other India.
Shruti, Ankita and Gamini live in an India where they had opportunity, were able to study history, economics, computer science at quality colleges and universities, an India where they were encouraged to pursue their ambitions, and chart their careers.
Kalu Devi, Mamta and Kamlesh Meena lived in an India where girls struggle to get an education, where some families can’t afford it, where social customs compel parents to push daughters into marriage and parenthood before financial independence, where abuse and violence at the hands of in-laws and husbands goes unchecked until, at times, it leads to murder or death by suicide.
The relatives of the three sisters told The Quint that all three sisters were smart, they wanted to keep up their studies. Instead, Kalu Devi, the eldest, who married into the family in 2015, was made to drop out of school.
Mamta, with 84% in Class 12, was doing MA in Hindi, and preparing for entrance exams for a government job, but she too was forced to quit by her husband and in-laws.
Kamlesh too was made to give up her studies. And there was physical abuse too. In April, Kalu Devi was admitted to hospital after her husband and in-laws allegedly beat her up. And yet, no police complaint was filed. Their repeated calls for help, their social media posts about domestic abuse were ignored.
Yeh Jo India Hai Na, it needs to decide which India it wants to be for its women.
Even as Nikhat Zareen punches her way to glory, as Captain Abhilasha Barak becomes the Army’s first combat pilot, as young Indian women soar in every possible profession, getting all the support to succeed, there are still so many women whose choices are ignored, dismissed, trampled upon.
Why do we have a Karnataka High Court anti-Hijab order that is denying so many young Muslim girls their right to education? Why do we have families objecting to inter-faith and inter-caste marriages, rejecting their daughter’s choices for life partners, often resulting in horrible ‘honour killings’?
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