Slaughter of Daughters.
Right from the very first month of the current year we've been fed with shocking headlines on the 'Baby Girl Syndrome' India is suffering from. Whether a girl child is aborted, battered, bartered, raped, kidnapped, ill-treated or mercilessly killed by various inhuman methods, it all bespeak of the systematic, widespread elimination of girl child in India. However, the diabolic act crosses all limits of inhumanity when perpetrated by the hands of those who father these hapless children and bring them into this inhospitable world only to be killed in cold blood!
The battered three-month old baby Afreen who succumbed to her injuries in Bangalore's Vanvilas Hospital; the two-year-old baby Falak, bruised and battered, dumped in Delhi's AIIMS who died after battling for life for weeks; the abandoned girl child in Jodhpur's Umaid Hospital et al are tragic cases that have recently caught public imagination.
Not all families in India are on an elimination spree of baby girls. However, it's estimated that one million girls "disappear" every year in India where 50,000 female fetuses are aborted every month. Baby girls are often killed at birth, either thrown into rivers, or left to die in garbage dumps by their heartless parents. Baby Falak battling septicemia, cardiac arrest, water-filled lungs, all with limb bones broken to pulp is just one unwanted child among millions who are meted out with such unjust torment for no fault of theirs. While few receive media attention or find a Good Samaritan, many go un-noticed left to die or being killed in abortion clinics that blissfully mushroom across India. Despite the legal banning of sex determination tests during pregnancy, rich families clandestinely taking to illegal gender determination tests and aborting female foetus is not uncommon. In villages, where gender determination tests are not available, female infanticide is very prevalent.
Even as India reportedly is all set to beat China as the world's biggest economy by 2050, the country isn't unencumbered by a set of dubious distinction notoriously held in female foeticide and infanticide, crimes against women, human trafficking, prostitution and poverty. While global property firms sing the glories of India's enviable growth story, a recent report of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) has shown that India has the highest rate of female child mortality among the 150 countries surveyed including the Less Developed Regions. It has also pointed out that the country has the largest gender based difference in child mortality which indeed is a national shame.
As per the report a girl child in India who is in the age of 1-5 years is 75 per cent more likely to die than a boy in the same age category! This data stands as a stark mockery of the recent data provided by the Union Home Ministry which indicates a drop in infant mortality rate to a national average of 47 to every 1,000 births.
Regions in India compete with each other in establishing diverse methods of female infanticide which is being systematically made part of societal practices. Drowning the baby in a bucket of boiling water, feeding her salt or burying her alive in an earthen pot, throwing her into garbage dumps, strangulating her neck or battering her to death as the monster father of Afreen did, are a few of the many diabolic means in slaughtering daughters in India. Inducing pneumonia to kill new born girl children is found to be one of the modern methods in India. This curious factor studied by the Registrar General of India and has been published a couple of years back in the medical journal Lancet says that, "Girls in India between the age of one month and five years were dying of pneumonia and diarrhea at a rate that is 4-5 times higher than their male-counterparts of the same age".
We live in many Indias. Gone are the days when war on girl child mostly was waged in the impoverished battlefields of hinterlands. Today it is the most prosperous pockets of the country that win the abominable distinction in female infanticide. In the progressive march of Independent India, her collective mindset on her daughters has regressed to the realm of the barbarians. The deep-rooted male-preference in India for reasons religious and economic drives a good chunk of the affluent metros to do away with girl child. Going by the alarming decline in the male-female sex ratio, the girl child seems to be a vanishing tribe.
On a casual visit to States like Haryana, chances are that one comes across no baby girls any more. The state is reduced to a barter system that ensures its sons find brides on the promise of exchanging his sister, cousin or female relative of whatever age. Girls here are bartered away. While Haryana's sex ratio is 861 females for 1000 males, it has villages where the ratio has dipped to an alarming low of 618: 1000 and 370: 400. It's a man's world where you find boys, men young and old with the exception of a few women. And such a scene certainly is disquieting and dangerous to the largest democracy. The alarmingly dipped sex ratio in the country surfaced by the latest census report is a sad commentary on India's human resource development.
The states of Chhattisgarh and Assam burst in human trafficking. Worst still, a shocking 20 per cent involved in the trade in the northeastern region falls under 11 to 17 years of age. According to the findings of a Guwahati based NGO, "Most of the children are victims of acute physical torture. They are initially raped and flogged almost to death to take up the profession." Victims from Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh are being sold as slaves to brothels in Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad. "We have reports that Sheikhs from the Middle East are also buying northeastern girls from these brothels. Also, trafficking gangs from southeast Asian countries are taking a keen interest", says the report.
Neither State (read law) nor religion (ethics) has so far succeeded in arresting the varied human rights violations on girl child and women in India. The flesh trade flourishing in the metropolitan cities of India under the beneficial police glare that cares little to clean up the sleaze exposes the ugly urban underbelly of India starved by moral depravity. Female foeticide and infanticide, discrimination against women and girl child are not just social evils. They are serious crime against life itself. Much more than human rights violations of right to life and dignity, these are crimes against humanity and nations that cannot continue to exist without female population that bears life, makes homes and shares the economic production of the country.
The rising crime against girl child stems more often than not from the dowry related demands being made by the boy's people. I know one Miss Sunita, an educated girl, who in the eleventh hour of her marriage refused to tie the note with Gaurav whose people were hell bent on getting a car as part of her dowry. The wedding ceremony was disrupted; embarrassed the boy had to return home single. Contemporary India with its contemptuous dowry system still being perpetuated needs more daring Sunitas who muster courage and say 'no' to 'bridal price' .
In the first place it's time that we the people of India reclaimed and re-lived the spiritual heritage of this ancient land obsessed by gods (Devanagari) and be aware of the sublime truths like 'deho devalya', the 'divine spark within' etc, we have learned from our sacred scriptures and gurus. It is the sacred duty of every citizen to stand by the tryst with destiny we have made 62 years ago and take the country not only towards material prosperity but also to the sublime height of Himalayan purity and freedom of the spirit. Where states and religion fail, reason has to be brought in. We ought to drive home the fact that violence on girl child goes against nature. It creates a frightful imbalance in life. Humanity will cease to survive sans sufficient number of women in the world.
Social change in favour of girl child is the urgent need of the hour in India. It can happen only when the mindset of the people tilt towards a 'pro-life-paradigm'. Bringing about the attitudinal change ought to be seen as the collective responsibility of religion, education, NGOs and top it all the government of the country. In a vast country where patriarchy runs deep, the government alone can do little to stem the rot of female infanticide from the society. This is not to say that the powers that be can shy away from putting more stringent laws in place and administer severe demonstrable punishment on the perpetrators of crimes against girl child and women.
As God-fearing people, heirs of an ancient heritage where a woman was venerated as a Devi or Goddess, Life-bearer and symbol of purity and faithfulness let us take a pledge to save our girl children from the merchants of flesh trade and death. Let us resolve to respect every woman who is a mother, sister, daughter or life-partner to our brethren in the country. Drawing on the accumulated spiritual wisdom of our spiritual heritage and taking cudgels against the contaminated cultural aspect of dowry system in India, let us all join together as one people with our saintly Gurudev and take this immortal pledge:
"Life of my life, I shall ever try to keep my body pure, knowing that Thy Living Touch is upon all my limbs. I shall ever try to keep all untruths out from my thoughts, knowing that Thou are the Truth which has kindled the light of reason in my mind. And it shall be my endeavour to reveal
Thee in my actions, knowing it is Thy Power gives me strength to act" (Rabindra Nath Tagore, Gitanjali, no 4).
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