New Zealand’s parochial media has utilised Ranjeeta Sharma’s tragic death to go to great lengths in demeaning the Indian community.
It chose to spin its own version, giving vent to ‘Honor Killing’, without getting basic information.
Ranjeeta was from Fiji, where Honor Hilling is not practiced.
Yet, the insensitive media took the opportunity to rub salt on the raw wound of a community that was reeling in grief.
Honor killing is a despicable crime and those who resort to it are criminals. Neither the Government nor the society condones it.
By no means should such acts by individuals be used to demean and denigrate communities that censure such actions. Admittedly, Honor Killing has happened and does happen in India.
It is a nation’s shame. Last year, 900 such killings were recorded in India. While many have gallantly attacked the mainstream media for blighting Indian honour, few have stood up to defend 900 innocent lives lost.
Women, as mothers rarely hesitate to lay their lives for their children and families at the altar of sacrifice. Ranjeeta was one such mother who wanted to make sacrifices for her only son, four-year-old, Akash.
I met Ranjeeta soon after her wedding, when she had not fully emerged from her shell as a bride. Living with her in-laws, she looked like a bird that was recently caged.
She had prepared dinner for us but looked frail, fragile and lost.
She came from Ba, my home town. I always endeavoured to talk to people from Ba and been pleasantly surprised by their disclosures.
Ranjeeta was not related to me but her family home was near my cousin sister’s farm, where I used to spend time during the school holidays. Her family, like most others of Indo-Fijian origin, was poor.
I am now reflecting on my visit to her home. It is not common for a guest to speak to a daughter-in-law in the presence of her in-laws. However, something was bubbling inside me to speak to her before I left, as I was drawn to her obvious sorrow and sadness writ large on her face.
That evening, everyone except her spoke and I wanted her to feel valued, recognised and respected. At that time, I was not even aware that she had already begun her abusive relationship with her husband. Her father-in-law was a practicing Pundit, who now lives in Sydney.
I spoke to her in a reassuring manner and she responded with charm and dignity.
Historically, women in every culture have suffered from male domination and even violence and cruelty. Some cultures have made remarkable progress in this regard and women have gained ground on the road to attaining equality but some cultures continue to treat them as weak, inferior, subordinate, dependent and subject to the will of their husbands. The emergent trend of couples becoming partners has become a powerful medium for women to be more assertive.
The endurance, struggle and sacrifice of women for the family has not been scrutinised and yet, on the scale of sacrifice for the family, women, as mothers and homemakers have made extraordinary sacrifices.
Ranjeeta was one such mother who bore mental and physical pain for the sake of the family and her son Akash. She aptly noted on her Facebook that her son was “her love and life.” For the sake of her son, she was prepared to make the sacrifice to suffer the physical violence, help rebuild a broken family and provide opportunity.
Akash is an innocent and unfortunate victim in this saga. He is left with an uncertain future. Every day, he will wake to find an empty and inexplicable world.
He will have to grow without the love and affection of his natural parents.
In six years, Ranjeeta had made considerable progress in her nursing career. There was no need for her continue to live in an abusive relationship. There are sufficient governmental and private institutions that could have assisted her in terminating this relationship and restoring her life with her beloved son.
There are many women like Ranjeeta in New Zealand, who are suffering in silence and they need not and should not suffer. They must come out of their den of suffering, pain and indignity and liberate themselves from ongoing trauma.
The Police in New Zealand act swiftly against family violence but they are often frustrated when victims reconcile and refuse to cooperate with them.
It is time for community leaders, social and religious organisations and neighbours to come out and liberate such people from ongoing pain and suffering. To do nothing against such incidents is cowardice, if not criminal.
Rajendra Prasad is our columnist. Email: raj.prasad<at>xtra.co.nz