Tuesday, August 11, 2015

From Sutia, West Bengal, different shades of patriarchy and the role of the State

Rinita Mazumdar
August 11 at 5:36pm
From Sutia, West Bengal, different shades of patriarchy and the role of the State: 

2000: A grass-root level work like this has indeed opened my eyes to the different and convoluted levels in which patriarchy works in semi-modern areas. First, a narration from "Anuradha" (name changed), now, twenty seven years old with a three year old daughter. "I do not remember all the details of that night of torture, it was some 15 years ago; but I remember that almost all women in Sutia, women who came back to the village from their workplace in distant cities (migrants) faced sexual torture in some way or other; every family was affected by it. In our case, my father, a migrant from Bangladesh came and settled here and was slowly trying to get a foothold in the place. He wanted to add one more room to the house, this news spread and a group of 6/7 men came to our house one night and asked for a sum of Rs 50,000 saying that now that my father has money to add rooms, he can give that money to them. My father refused to pay the sum, outright. Next, one evening, when my mother was away with my brother to a relatives house, a gang of 15 men invaded our house in bikes. They dragged my sister and me beat up my father, then they shoved my sisters head under running water. My sister was then about 16 and I was 12. Then four men took turns to rape me. Later one politician came to our house and said that it was all a lie…" 
2015: I was gathering women for to perform the play Lysastrata, by Aristophanes, because much of the play depicts what was going on in the lives of women from 2000 to about 2010; I needed four women to perform, two of whom, I became friends with and stayed in their house. They later refused to take part, on the ground that the other women were offended that they never participated in the protest forum that was formed earlier and now are trying to come to limelight. Two or three women told me that one of my two friends is a "woman of loose character", "gets goodies from her several lovers", "does not mix with the other girls in the village". The woman has a slightly higher standard of living from a migrant husband, and is pretty. She came as a migrant from Bangladesh some 17 years ago. 
As I traveled from one house to another, spoke to women, the entire place is carrying the burden of the trauma that casts a heavy shadow, and yet there is no scope to get trauma counseling, therapy, or anything close to it; the State, it seems intervened once, caught a couple of perpetrators, and left promptly. The families are left on their own to manage their water soaked roads, un-navigability, their isolation from each other, their destroyed paddies and jutes, and the deep trauma and distrust that they carry, and of course, their own patriarchy and misogyny, where women cannot trust women, people have no where to turn to when the fields and roads cut them off, and there is a deep feeling of sadness coming from a sense of abandonment from society, humanity, and the State. 
The play will not happen, but I learnt a lot, and will take this to bring back it back to approach this in a different way, perhaps something will come out of this… (love you Sutia)…
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