“We’re not interested in keeping her.”
“How can we keep her now?”
“The boy should keep her now.”
Is a young girl an object, that we talk about “keeping” her? And if, god forbid, she happens or chooses to flout societal rules, then the talk changes to not “keeping” her.
This is the victory of patriarchal thoughts and attitudes ingrained in the very fabric of our society, in which every time it is the girl or the woman who finds herself at a loss
And this is exactly what came to light in a small village in the Chitrakoot zila of rural Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh, when a three-year-old relationship between a boy and a girl was turned ugly by people around, who termed it a sensational love affair, or as the local lingo goes, ‘prem prasang’. An achingly familiar narrative takes on in which there is a guilty girl and a villainous boy, but the price of the “misdoings” are paid only by the girl, with her dignity, feelings, and sometimes, her life too.
When we went to report, we were told that the girl's family is considering pursuing criminal charges against the boy, but of course if Manoj and his family decide to "keep" their girl, then they will not be doing so.
The secret love story became common knowledge for the families and the village locals when the girl became pregnant. Mortified of how her family members would react – “I thought they might just murder me”, she tells us, her voice breaking – the girl first told her lover, and they even attempted an abortion with some pills, albeit unsuccessfully. Scared himself, barely 20, Manoj, the boy, broke off with the girl, claiming absolute ignorance. In the end, the girl told her sister-in-law and that’s when the entire episode went south – a furore took over the house, the village
When we went to report, we were told that the girl's family is considering pursuing criminal charges against the boy, but of course if Manoj and his family decide to "keep" their girl, then they will not be doing so. Manoj’s parents, on the other hand, insist that there was never anything between their son and the girl, who is has now been termed as the complainant. "He never used to go out of the house", says his mother Vitol, surely a strange thing to say. But no less or more than what awaited us at the girls’ house. Her aunt told us that since Manoj had "promised marriage", the girl had gone ahead and continued seeing him. Because we might be living in 2017, but pre-marital sex is forbidden in our society, and when it happens, it forces people to find strange reasons, and cook up stories or half-truths.
In U.P., caste politics find a home in almost every situation and here too, since the girl belongs to the Kol-Adivasi community and the boy is a Yadav, there is an angle of caste that has been thrown into this torrid love affair. Kavita, the girl’s aunt, who is very angry, says, "Often high caste boys do this with our girls and then leave them. Our girl should get justice, and we will go wherever we have to get this justice for her. "
In the midst of all this, enter the well-wishers in name, the all-important neighbors, self-professed bearers of societal rules. They’re all they’re the day we visit, spewing opinions, like one Anand, who says, "Either the girl should be kept by him, or the boy should be thrown into prison. Only one of these two things can happen."
And so it is that judgements have been made and declared – Society has blamed the girl responsible, and only one question plagues the girl and her family now: When will the stigma leave them?
But what of the girl? What of her unborn child? And indeed, what of that relationship she shared for three years? Well, none of it concerns anybody. The girl's father, the very picture of woe, simply expresses his disappointment when he says, "We have lost everything now. We do not want their money or anything, all we ask is that the boy take our girl and keep her. After that, it’s between the two of them, we don’t really give a damn.”