Three murders in the recent past have become a talking point in India. In two instances the victims’ bodies were chopped and the body parts were hidden in a fridge while in the third gruesome killing the body was stuffed in a mattress.
In 25- year-old Nikki Yadav’s case who was strangled by a cable, her partner — some reports say the two were married — went ahead with his wedding ceremony to another woman on the same day.
All three crimes have one thing in common, the victims were killed by their live-in partners. But the frenzy of debates around these deaths have been lopsided, focusing on ‘toxicity of live-in’ because it gets our antennae up against ‘western influences’ while also scoring high on the TRP scale.
These incidents of partner violence were an opportunity to focus on a sitting duck, abuse in India’s households. We chose to bypass it because there isn’t sensationalism in stories of domestic violence or dowry deaths.
Missing the woods for the trees
The crime against Shraddha Walker, whose death kicked off at least the exposure if not the trend for these macabre killings was conveniently labelled love jihad by some leaders as the partners were from different faiths but, only till the next killing which was not as opportune.
Missing the woods for the trees, the narrative has now shifted to push women to the back foot, a reputed journalist says women should remain in touch with their parents while living out, in Shraddha Walker’s case, her parents had disowned her. And what of the man, who is tracking him or is it only the agency of a woman that must be questioned for the rot in society?
Another minister says live-in relationships are giving rise to crime, blaming ‘educated women’ for leaving their parents and encouraging such incidents.
His solution is for couples to get a court marriage and then live together. The golden goose that made marriage a woman’s biggest achievement is a gift that keeps on giving. Will the minister also justify that 3% pregnant married women have been attacked domestically?
Nearly 7000 women lost their lives in dowry related deaths in the country in 2021, in other words, 18 women die daily due to this age old social evil.
In crimes against women, 32% cases are of domestic abuse emphasising how personal spaces are not safe, to judge victims on the basis of being married or not is nothing but an ingrained misogyny that will never look at correcting the obvious.
Nor do these stories sound dramatic enough, woman being beaten in a remote village or taking her life due to harassment in a tier-two town is just not as attention grabbing as women who have abandoned so-called morals and embraced the wild west.
So, these three episodes of live-in relationships have been used to put the onus back on the woman when it comes to their safety, it is like telling a girl not to wear short clothes because the man will stare.
The resurgence of patriarchy through victim shaming is exhausting but predictable as is the absence of any conversation around consent.
Instead of zeroing into live- in relationships because they don’t meet our thinking while ironically sanctioning as a society a lot more under the garb of marriage we need to also look at how aggression has been casually normalised.
What allows men and women, ordinary every day people to kill and move on. In Assam, a woman — a gym trainer by profession — killed her husband and her mother-in-law separately, chopped their bodies and scattered the parts in a neighbouring state.
Were we always these people and crimes are only just being highlighted or has some inherent violent streak finally spilled over? In a country where marital rape is still not criminalised, where 83% of married women under the age of 50 say they have been abused by their husband it is a deadly cocktail of both.
A culture that looks the other way when a husband abuses a wife because it is their private business has met a public ecosystem where leaders openly call for bulldozers do the rest. Foreigners may come looking for spiritual peace in our exotic land but we don’t have much to offer.
There is aggression on the roads, dehumanising trolling online and filth in public discourse. Patience to be a good man is running out.
One of the most ridiculous arguments recently has been to not publicise fridges as a modus operandi since it may give other prospective killers an idea. There is no mention of why their chilling use has been normalised or why safe spaces are compromised, so easily.
Unless we have the right conversation, any debate will remain mere clickbait.