Saajanben, an Adivasi woman stripped and paraded in town for eloping with her lover.
Saajanben is about 23 years old. She is a mother to a year old infant. She hardly has any milk in her breasts, yet she tries to feed him because her family hardly has any money to buy milk from the pretty colourless village kiosk.
Saajan was married off to Dinesh Kaniyabhai when she turned 18. Like most women in her village, she is illiterate. And like most women in her village, she has to work, sometimes 14 hours a day to keep her chullah burning. Her baby would swing by in an old tattered long stole, a dupatta.
Sita lives in Khajuri village in Dhanpur taluka of Dahod district in Gujarat. Over 90 percent of the residents in her village are tribals. Native Adivasis. Her district, Dahod has a 72.3 percent population of tribals, one of the top three districts in Gujarat where the majority population belongs to the scheduled tribe category.
Saajan is her real name. And Vibes of India is consciously using her real name because she told our intermediary that she wants her story out. She says maybe she was not a good wife but she has been an excellent mother. Tribals in her district, especially men are allowed to indulge in casual polygamy, she claims. Saajan and Dinesh, like most of her fellow villagers migrate to Saurashtra in search of labour. They do not get benefits of government schemes, she claims. Instead, they go to Saurashtra and work in private farms, construction sites, or brick kilns.
They are paid less than Rs 100 a day but given a house to live in and food for the entire family. All the labourers working on the farms that usually belong to Patels or Kshatriyas, together with get a 50 percent share of whatever is harvested. Once the monsoon begins, they return back to their villages. Elsewhere, they make Rs 200 per day. That is less than USD 3. They get work about 140 days in a year.
During one such work trip recently Sita met Chandu at a brick kiln in Saurashtra. Chandu is not his real name because Saajan does not want it to be declared. “Patavi deshe”(he will be slaughtered), she begs for protection for his life. As per the tribal customs, once she returned, she asked her in-laws that she wanted to separate from Dinesh and marry Chandu. Chandu also came to her house to meet her in-laws, Saajan claims.
Saajan’s husband Dinesh did not want his wife to leave him. He refused to let her go. Saajan says, in their Macchher community, this is a common practise. And their societal norms allow it. She says her husband Dinesh beat her up also.
Khajuri is a small village. The population is not more than 2700 people. During typical work months, there are hardly 300 people, mostly seniors, disabled and pregnant women who stay back in the village. Rest go out of their district to find casual labour on farms. A lot of people in her village, Saajan says desert their wives. But she perhaps did not realise that she was a woman and a very poor woman.
After a tiff with her husband Dinesh, Saajan decided to run away. She actually did. Suresh lived in another village but in the same Dhanpur taluka.
This is when the trouble began. Saajan says her husband and a mob of his relatives came to her lover’s place and thrashed him. “They have hurt him very badly”.
But the real trouble began after that. Her husband and the mob dragged her back to their Khajuri village. Her in-laws and the mob instigated her husband who was already beating up Saajan in full public view on the public road. Dinesh was cheered up by a mob who asked him to go ahead. Dinesh removed his wife’s saree, flung it around in public. The mob cheered further. So he tore up her blouse. The mob would now not relent. They encouraged Saajan’s husband to expose this “Randi”, a lecherous woman. Dinesh removed her petticoat. Saajan says the family situation has been economically so miserable that she did not have money to buy underwear. Her mother in law who was a part of the mob gave her a dupatta to wrap around her semi-nude body. The crowd cheered and asked Dinesh to climb on her shoulders. Then asked him to dance while sitting on her shoulders as they forced Saajan to parade around in the village exposing the lascivious woman. Soon other men joined in. She was beaten up by batons. The men cheered and laughed as she was thrashed. Few women from her the family also joined in the baton fest.
The the entire act was shot on several phones and was made viral for entertainment and a lesson for all women who would dare to have an extra marital affair in the district.
This gory incident took place on July 5 in Gujarat. The video went viral on July 11.
Saajan is determined to get justice. She has filed a police complaint against 19 people including her husband Dinesh.
It was only when the video went viral, the police identified the location and helped Saajan to register a complaint. Sub-inspector BM Patel of Dhanpur police station told Vibes of India, “A video showing 15 to 20 men behaving in an inhuman manner with a woman went viral on social media a few days ago. Taking serious note of it, Range IG of Godhra, MS Barada ordered a probe. With help of technical details and human intelligence, we narrowed down on Khajuri village and identified the accused.”
Vibes of India has to appreciate Gujarat police and especially Dahod police. As soon as the video went viral and they could identify Saajan, they went all out to assist her. Saajan is illiterate. The police, she asserts have been very helpful. I feel very secure because of the police, she says.
Dahod superintendent of police Hitesh Joysar a 2011 cadre IPS officer pursued the case diligently. Today we have arrested 14 men involved in the case. We are looking out for the absconding ones”. He told VoI that Saajan was humiliated because she eloped with her lover. The village and her community wanted to teach her and other women a lesson. Hence, they decided to conduct a public humiliation of the woman.
When Vibes of India contacted Dahod DDO Tejas Parmar, he told us, that they would leave no stone unturned to help the woman recover from the trauma besides taking stringent action against the accused.
“We shall be sending an officer from the Women and Child commission to her village. This, is a clear case of public assault, and we are also planning to provide compensation to her,” he assured.
Names of the accused:
1. Dineshbhai Machhar, husband
2. Pappu Kaniabhai
3. Bharat Savlabhai
4. Rakesh Savlabhai
5. Navalsinh Kasnabhai
6. Rakesh aka Nannu Sanyabhai
7. Mahelu Saburbhai Machhar
8. Sabiya Daharyabhai
9. Sanjay Ditiyabhai
10. Ditiya Nanabhai
11. Madiya Ditiyabhai
12. Navariya Kasnabhai Machhar
13. Lakshman Sibiyabhai Machhar
14. Ranjit Amaliya
15. Sabur Nanabhai
16. Akhil Madiabhai
17. Manish Sabiyabhai
18. Vina Badiyabhai
19. Panghda Badiyabhai
All the above accused have been booked under sections 143, 144, 146, 147, 149, 323, 292, 509, 34, 66(I) and 67 (I) of Indian Penal Code. A total of 11 sections have been registered against them
with inputs by Sarfaraz Sheikh and Barkatullah Khatri