Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Salman Rushdie vs Sohagi Let: Wrong Reported vs Wrong Unreported

On January 23rd, as India was busy celebrating the birth anniversary of freedom fighter  Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, in Jaipur, the government was busy curtailing the freedom of speech of Salman Rushdie and four other writers who read out of his (banned) book the Satanic Verses. And lost between these two incidents was the voice of a frail woman called Sohagi Let - who was paraded, half naked,  around two villages in Rampurhat, West Bengal - the state that now has a woman as its Chief Minister.

Does the name Rampurhat ring a bell? It should. After all this is the same place where, in Aug 2010 (not so long ago, isn't it?) Sumita Murmu - a young tribal woman - was paraded naked around 6 villages. Later, Sumita was honored with a bravery award by the government in New Delhi. (Happy ending for Sumita, but obviously not the end of the sickening act of criminal treatment of women, which seems to have become a trend).

Both Sumita and Sohagi have committed the same "crime": fall in love with a man of their choice.

Sohagi, however, is far more unluckier than Sumita. Daughter of a poor cycle rickshaw driver, she was earlier married to a man who wasn't mentally stable. She had no option but to return to her parents' home soon. Later she met Tamal, a distant cousin who she loved and married. A day after the marriage, Tamal's family caught hold of her, cut her hair, stripped her of her sari, beat her up and paraded her. The reason? They didn't approve of the marriage.

2 days later, Sohagi is in the district hospital. She has had internal bleeding, among other injuries. Will she be able to live a normal life again? Nobody knows that. Her father, bed-ridden with a broken arm, is too helpless to support her.

Now, why did I take the name of Salman Rushdie here? Because, while the media dedicated pages and hours of  airtime to report Salman Rushdie being denied permission to visit or speak at Jaipur literary festival, a barbaric incident like Sahagi's case has barely got any attention. Save a couple of newspapers, the incident didn't appear anywhere else.

Also, millions of Indian netizens who joined the protest of Government repression on freedom of speech, remained totally unaware of gross violation of the rights and dignity of a woman in a woman-led state. Also went unquestioned the gross failure of a police station to protect women its jurisdiction even after the case of Sumita Murmu 1nd half year ago. 

It is said that Salman Rushdie episode took place because election in Uttar Pradesh is around the corner. It is a poll issue. Is then Sohagi unlucky not to be beaten up on the eve of an election?

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