I am sure that you all will agree that on a good winter morning it is so heavenly to curl up under a quilt and savour the warmth. I was doing so on a Sunday morning way back in 1975 January in Pathankot. Those days it used to be 6 working days week, so Sunday was something we all looked forward to have this bliss. I was brought down to Mother Earth by a commotion in the attached servant quarter to our bunglow in defence area. I looked for my wife but found her feeding our little daughter, so I had no option but to reluctantly come out of warm refuge to see what was the matter. Our maid was the one staying in the said premises with her family. On venturing out I found that her eldest daughter was angrily shouting at her father. She was about 17 or 18 with two younger brothers and a sister of 8 years. She used to assist her mother in our household work, particularly taking our daughter to park. On enquiry following cause for her outburst emerged.
Her father who was a gangman with some contractor had returned from his native place the previous night and he informed having fixed up marriage of his younger daughter with some man of 30 years or so there. The elder one was married off at same age of 8 or so but before she could join her husband, who was much older than her, died. So she was treated as widow and no one would marry her. She forced his father to let her study but was taken out after she completed 8th standard with view that what was the use of making her study as she had to work in households as maid only. She was telling her father not to repeat his mistake and let the younger one study just like her brothers. She was of the opinion that girls should also be educated to take care of themselves and not be treated as cattle. She even threatened him that she would immolate herself if he went ahead with his plan. All this time her mother was crying silently. I was very impressed with her strong views. I admired her courage to stand up against her father as those days there was nothing like women liberation movement in India though we did read some news of such happenings in western countries. I told them all to take it easy and we would have a talk later in the day.
I called her father over after breakfast to find out why was he was in such a hurry to marry off his minor or rather still a child daughter. He stated that in his native place it was the custom to marry off girls before they attained puberty. On my saying that those were old customs which had no relevance in present time, he agreed saying that having stayed away for such a long time from his native place he had seen the better living ways. I advised him to let both his daughters continue studies and it will surely lead to better prospectus for them not only for being self sustained but for marriage too. Fortunately he saw the reasoning and agreed. I sent for his elder daughter and told her that she should continue with her studies to appear for 10th examinations as private candidate. But I made her promise that she would always stand for the right issues. She gladly agreed. Subsequently I spoke to the Base Commander to see if we could do something as encouragement for this upright girl fighting for a cause, to stand against child marriage. He promised and in a couple of weeks time she was taken as a helper at decent remuneration in one of the unit run schools. We moved out of that place in the following month as I was posted out to another location. There was no contact with them thereafter.
I had an opportunity to visit that Base again in 1987 for a few days on official visit. One of the evenings when I was in the Bar, head barman came over and asked me if I remembered him. On close scrutiny I realized that he used to be a young barboy during my earlier stay at that place. He gave me updates on all those who were there in those days. I learnt from him about that family too. That girl completed inter and thereafter had done primary teachers training. She got employed as teacher in a municipal school while her brothers too did well. One of them joined army after 10th while younger one was employed in a semi government organization after graduation. Their father had unfortunately died in an accident while at native place but they suspected that he was killed. Mother was running a tea stall in local college campus. Younger daughter was also a teacher in the same school with her sister. Both the girls were married to local boys and were happily settled as their in laws had sought them as brides for their sons. I felt a sense of happiness.
This is based on what a friend of mine told me few years ago.
Now what prompted me to write this, is the news of our government mulling over bringing out tougher laws to deal with HONOUR KILLINGS after a spate of these in the recent days. What we fail to see is that no law can prevent this totally. Only way is to educate masses that if we treat our girls as second rate citizens and deny them basic rights of living as per present days, they are bound to rebel against such oppression and try to find better life, be it by marriage to someone whom parents do not approve of. And also no one can do anything for them but they themselves as in the case of young girl I narrated. She stood for her rights. So the girls or rather even elder women have to take a stand against such heinous acts of murders in the name of false family honour. Let them say that no male of their family has ever committed anything which may bring bad name to the family. Why are the males forgiven for such acts then?