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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 29, New Delhi, July 3, 2021

Women’s own Hell | Sukumaran C.V.

Friday 2 July 2021, by Sukumaran C.V.


Violence against women in Kerala is developing into bleaker and bizarre dimensions. In June 2021 alone, within forty eight hours, four young women killed themselves or were murdered by domestic violence related to dowry.

Last year, a young woman, Uthra, was killed by her husband who did the murder by procuring a snake with the help of a snake catcher and making it bite her [1]. His first attempt failed because the snake was not as venomous as to kill the victim, but nobody suspected that the snake had not accidentally reached the bedroom. Then he collected a cobra and after giving his wife sleeping pills-melted milk, opened the bottle in which the snake was kept, dropped it on her bed and made sure it bit her. It was a superbly plotted murder and it was many days later the mystery was resolved. Dowry was the silent villain.

One of the four girls who lost their lives in June this year was Vismaya, a BAMS student [2]. The girl’s parents have given 100 sovereigns of gold, a car which cost 10 lakh rupees and an acre of land to the bridegroom as dowry. He started harassing the girl saying that the car was not the brand he liked. The girl WhatsApped her cousin saying that she was being beaten up, that the man kicked on her face etc with images of injuries. She called her mother and told that her mouth was injured as she was slapped on her face and she could not even talk. Even if she has an elder brother, neither the parents nor the relatives have done anything to save the girl from such a man and his family. At last the girl was found hanging in the bathroom of the man’s home.

Now the family is weeping in front of all the TV channels telling them the details of the tortures the girl has suffered! And the TV channels are entertaining the viewers sensationalising the murder/suicide. (Nobody tells the parents that they are equally responsible for the death of the girl as they hadn’t tried to bring her back to her home even when they are aware of the torture the girl has been subjected to.)

Think about the social condition of the so-called most educated state where even the girls who study to be doctors are subjected to terrible domestic violence and are not helped by their family members even when they are fully aware of the pathetic plight of the victim.

It was exactly 60 years ago, on May 1, 1961, the Dowry Prohibition Act came into force in our country. The punishment for violating this law is imprisonment for upto 5 years. Under this law, both giving and accepting dowry are punishable offences. If this law is enacted strictly, almost all parents of the girls who are married and almost all the bridegrooms and their parents, in Kerala, would/will have to spend five years in jail. But as is always the case with the Indians, we create laws not to observe but to break or violate.

Yet another one of the heinous and bizzare crimes against women committed recently in Kerala is framing an innocent lady entrepreneur in a narcotics case to avenge her denial of a marriage proposal from the son of a Padmasree award-winning doctor in the capital city. [3]

Sobha Viswanath, the young entrepreneur who started the prestigious clothing company called Weavers Village is a lady who has been traumatised in an abusive marriage and she says that she still has health problems of suffering marital rape and violence.

It is harrowing to listen to her travails. She says that she has even slept sitting inside the bathroom to escape the perversion of her husband. She even thought of suicide and was on the brim of committing it, but she survived and walked out of the marriage, started the enterprise and thrived while the divorce case is still pending in the court.

And the CEO of the Lords Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram which is owned by Padmasree Dr. Haridas expressed his wish to marry her and she told him that she was not interested. The man has started to stalk and harass her ever since.

In January 2021, Sobha was busy with the opening of the second show room of her company and the Narcotics Control Bureau of Kerala Police arrested her for ’hiding’ gunja in Weavers Village. Weavers Village is not a mere business enterprise; it is a social service enterprise too. She gives jobs for the differently abled people, helps the tribal people to find market for their artworks, and she is active in the works to stop child trafficking and she helps the destitute. The narcotics trap was planned to ruin not only the young lady but also the exemplary enterprise; to shatter her spirit and to tarnish her goodwill. She was mentally shattered again, but she didn’t give up. She fought back. After availing bail, she lodged complaints with the Chief Minister and the DGP. The case was handed over to the Crime Branch.

Mr Amminikkuttan, the Crime Branch Dy. S P who headed the enquiry team unraveled the criminal plot behind the incident. Mr. Hareesh Haridas, the CEO of the Lords Hospital, with the help of a former employee of the Weavers Village who was fired by Sobha for financial malpractices, placed the gunja inside Weavers Village. He was helped by a sweeper lady who switched off the CCTV cameras for half an hour to enable the former employee to put the gunja inside the spacious showroom. And the CEO called the Narcotics Cell and informed there was gunja in Weavers Village! The former employee and the sweeper lady were arrested, but the kingpin of the crime moved the High Court for anticipatory bail.

On June 26th, the International Day against Drug Abuse and illicit Trafficking, Shobha’s name was removed from the FIR and it is a great reprieve for the young woman who has virtually had to walk through hell. She says this is not her second birth; it is her third birth. (If such things happen to ordinary hapless women they will end up in jails for their entire life.)

But the fight is not over. As the CEO has British citizenship, if he is granted anticipatory bail, he may fly to the UK and the Kerala Police can never nab him. And while I am finishing this article, news of his getting anticipatory bail comes in! The man who conspired to arrest an innocent lady falsely accusing her of narcotics dealings simply walks out of arrest! He has committed multiple criminal offences, but the law shuts its eyes.

The lady committed no criminal offence; but she has been arrested and defamed! She is a woman who doesn’t allow smoking in and around Weavers Village which is a no-smoke zone, and she was arrested by Narcotics Control Bureau!

How cruel our laws and how insensitive our law enforcement agencies are if and when women (even if they belong to the privileged social strata) are at the receiving end! Kerala is called God’s own Country, but as far as the female is concerned, the proper name may be Women’s own Hell, it seems.

PostScript: Immediately after the news of the anticipatory bail reached her, Sobha Viswanath says in her FB post:

"To all my friends and well-wishers,

If something happens to me...

You know who are behind it.

Don’t let them go scot-free."

[1a). Kerala snakebite murder case: After husband, now Uthra’s father-in-law arrested, The NEWS Minute, June 2, 2020
b). Uthara murder case: Mother, sister of victim’s husband arrested, The Hindu, August 23, 2020.

[2Vismaya death case: husband arrested on dowry death charges, The Indian Express, June 23, 2021

[3a). Kerala entrepreneur framed in ganja case by stalker for saying no, The NEWS Minute, June 26, 2021.
b). Stalker plants ganja at entrepreneur’s shop to frame her for rejecting his marriage proposal, The New Indian Express, June 27, 2021

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