Women bearing girl babies continue to be treated with disdain in the eastern Indian state of Bihar despite billions having been spent on launching campaigns to generate awareness about the fair sex.
Sounds strange but torture of women producing girl child goes on unabated in the sate even in this jet age, mocking the much-flaunted “Save Girl Child Campaign” or the “Selfie With Daughter” campaigns.
The issue triggered public debate again when a woman was burnt alive along with her two little daughters by her in-laws earlier this week just because she had failed to bear male child, highlighting the acute gender discrimination.
Victim Pushpa Devi, 40, was married to Manoj Soni, a resident of Siswar village in Kaimur district, some 20 years back. During this period, she was able to produce only two daughters but no male child, ultimately leading to tension in the family.
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With her in-laws hell-bent on having a son at all cost, her husband took her to various doctors and also sought helps from exorcists to ward of any “evil spirits” if any gripping the woman but to no avail. Eventually, her husband decided to get rid of the lady who was unable to fulfill his wishes.
On Wednesday night when the entire world was sleeping, her in-laws soaked the woman and her two daughters aged eight and five with kerosene oil and set them afire after apparently gagging them, police said. The victims prayed for mercy by the accused continued watching them going up in flames until they had fallen lifeless.
The incident came to light when local villagers saw the balls of smokes billowing from the house and a stench of burning human flesh filling the air. Subsequently they informed the police. However, by the time the police arrived on the scene, all the accused persons had fled the scene.
“They (in-laws) had been torturing my sister for long for not producing a son but we had never imagined this fancy would turn out to be so deadlier one day,” victim’s brother Santosh Soni told the police after registering a case with the police. Woman’s husband, his mother and sister were made named accused in the case.
The killing of girl babies or their mother for the very reason is nothing new to Bihar. Only this weekend, a newborn baby girl was buried alive in Banka district by her parents but thanks to local villagers the baby could be saved after seven hours.
The villagers rescued her after hearing her shrill cries coming out from the grave and when they dug out the grave they were amazed to see a barely month-old baby battling for survival inside. They soon rushed her to the local health center where she was given immediate medical treatment. The baby is safe now but her parents are still to be searched.
Another such horrible tale was reported in March this year from Vaishali district where the parents killed their seven-month-old daughter by throwing out from the roof of the house. Even more horrible story was reported from Samastipur district where a family killed their six-day-old baby girl by dumping her into toilet tank. The incident took place in January this year.
Last year, a man from Bhagalpur district had injected poison into his infant girl as she didn’t want girl child while a man from Nawada district even handed out divorce to his wife for giving birth to a girl.
One of the women got so much frustrated at her routine tortures at the hands of her in-laws that she ultimately poisoned her three daughters aged three and eight to death before ending her own life by consuming poison. The incident took place in Gaya district in May this year.
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Social scientists find the trend serious and say this highlights the deep-rooted social bias. “In Hindu society, sons are still considered the natural inheritors of fathers’ properties and also they hold the right to light the funeral pyres of their parents. These are the reasons why Hindu family opts for a son,” explained prominent social scientist Sachindra Narayan.
Narayan who earlier worked with the Patna-based AN Sinha Institute of Social studies feels education can pay a significant role in changing the existing situation but laments the pathetic condition of schools in the rural pockets of Bihar.
“Education indeed can bring social, cultural change in the society but the schools are in very pathetic state in the rural areas, imparting no quality education due to absence of qualified teachers. The government looks more attentive towards providing food to the students, rather than improving the quality of education,” says Narayan.