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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 10 New Delhi February 23, 2019

Crimes against Women in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh

Sunday 24 February 2019

by Ranbir Singh and Sonia Aharwala

The present States of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh had been carved out on November 1, 1966 as a result of the linguistic reorganisation of the trilingual State of erstwhile Punjab on the recommendation of the Parlia-mentary Committee on the Punjabi Suba headed by Hukam Singh. The Punjabi-speaking areas were left in Punjab for accepting the Akali demand for Punjabi Suba, the Hindi-speaking areas were constituted into the State of Haryana and the hilly areas were merged with the Union Territory of Himachal Pradesh which was later on given the status of a State in 1971.

It would be interesting to compare the cases registered under various crimes against women such as rapes, attempts to commit rape, kidnapping, sexual harassment, dowry deaths, assaults with the intention of outraging their modesty, cruelty by husbands, sexual harassment, abetment to suicide, domestic violence, acid attacks and immoral traffic in these three States. As per the latest Report of the Crime Record Bureau of India (2016), as many as 9446 such cases had been registered in Haryana, 5291 in Punjab and 1289 in Himachal Pradesh. Thus crimes against women were the highest in Haryana, lower in Punjab than in Haryana and lowest in Himachal Pradesh. This was despite the fact that the populations of Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, as per the 2011 Census, were 25,33,081, 27,70,4236 and 68,64,602 respectively.

This leads us to the question: What are the possible explanations for these variations? It may be hypothesised that the highest proportion of crimes against women in Haryana may be due to its relative cultural backwardness.

According to a well-known Haryanvi intellectual, Prof. D.R. Chaudhary, there had been no powerful social reform movement in the region during the colonial period. Even the Arya Samaj made an impact here when it had almost lost its progressive character. Moreover the traditional faction of the Samaj (the Gurukul faction) was far more powerful in Haryana than the progressive College/DAV faction. Another possible explanation could be that Haryana had remained culturally backward during the colonial and post-colonial periods because it lacks a language and script of its own. Besides, it doesn’t have cities which could develop as centres of culture. Its enlarged towns, known as cities, are no more than enlarged villages having conservative culture.

Besides, the largest incidence of crimes against women in Haryana among these States could be ascribed to its lowest sex ratio of 831 women against 1000 men. The has created, what a well-known social historian, Prem Chaudhary, calls crisis of masculinity resulting from the presence of a large army of unmarried and unemployed youth, some of whom try to overcome their inferiority complex by indulging in crimes against women. Lastly the female literacy in Haryana is also 66.77 per cent against 71.34 per cent of Punjab and 76.60 per cent of Himachal Pradesh.

According to Prof Jagroop Kaur, Dean of Social Sciences, Punjabi University, Patiala, the situation was relatively better in Punjab because of the progressive impact of the Guru Singh Saba Movement, the College/DAV faction of Arya Samaj and the Adi Dharam movement on it. Moreover, the Sikh religion (the followers of which have a majority in the population of the State), founded by Guru Nanak Dev and institutionalised by Guru Gobind Singh, accords equal status to women and men.

Punjab also has the benefit of having a language (Punjabi) with a script (Gurumukhi) of its own which has helped in its cultural development through the creation of Punjabi literature. The large scale immigration of the Punjabis to the USA, Canada and other countries also, perhaps, enabled the people of the State to develop a relatively liberal ethos than that of the inmates of Haryana.

The principal author of this write-up, who had taught a course on “Society, Economy and Politics in Himachal Pradesh” in 2001-02, feels that a better situation in that State than those in Haryana and Punjab could be ascribed to the fact that right from its formation in 1948, the successive political dispensations in general and Dr Y.S. Parmar (who dominated Himachal politics for more than two decades) had given priority to the cultural development in general and educational development in particular. He had also accorded foremost importance to female education.

The better situation in Himachal Pradesh than in both Haryana and Punjab may also be ascribed to the relatively liberal culture of Himachal Pradesh in general and of its tribal areas in particular. Moreover, this State has also been impacted by the Christian missionaries who had opened schools for girls and by the Western culture of its hill stations where the English used to live in a sizable number before the independence in 1947.

Ranbir Singh is a Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi. Sonia Aharwala is an Independent Researcher based at Karnal.

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