In Madhya Pradesh, Chidilal Satnami recalls, “My daughter, Rajvati, had told me her husband and in-laws were harassing her for dowry.” He further adds, “When she tried to reason with them, saying that I [Chidilal] will not be able to arrange for the money because of my disability, they reprimanded her and asked her to meet their demands by any means possible.”
Rajvati was married to Ramesh Choudhary in June 2015.It was difficult for Rajvati’s unemployed father, who also had a disability, to arrange for the marriage and dowry, but he managed somehow. Soon after marriage, Rajvati’s husband and in-laws started demanding more dowry to buy him a motorcycle. Rajvati knew this would not be possible. Her marital relationship started worsening and her husband started suspecting that she was having an extra-marital affair with his brother, that is, her brother-in-law. In midst of this, Rajvati gave birth to her son in June 2016. But this didn’t mend their relationship. August 8 was a day like any other but things were to change for Rajvati forever.
Seeing Rajvati chatting with her brother-in-law, Ramesh attacked her with an axe in a fit of jealous rage. She sustained fractures and nerve damage and her voice box was completely severed. A police case was filed and Ramesh was arrested immediately. So grave were Rajvati’s injuries that she had to be rushed to the government hospital in Jabalpur, 154 kilometres away. As Ramesh and his family refused to bear any of the expenses for her treatment, Rajvati’s family had no option but to get her treated at the government hospital despite the lack of adequate infrastructure. Since the accident, Rajvati’s in-laws have prevented Rajvati from meeting her infant son.
“Her in-laws demanded ₹50,000. I couldn’t afford it. So her husband attacked her,” the survivor’s father told Community Correspondent Rekha Bhangre.
Rajvati’s story is unfortunately not exceptional. As of 2015, Madhya Pradesh registered the third highest number of domestic violence cases according to the National Crime Records Bureau data. Further, the data reveals that crimes against women have an appalling conviction rate at under 22%. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act has been praised for its comprehensive understanding of the issue, which reflects in the provisions of shelter and guaranteed right of residence and compensation for the survivor. And yet, implementation lags behind, as Rajvati’s case amply demonstrates.
For instance, in Rajvati’s case, she was in the Jabalpur Hospital and Research Centre for almost a year. So long and slow is the legal process, that she is yet to receive any compensation. Her father had to fund her treatment by taking loans. Though her husband was imprisoned the day after the incident and continues to be in jail, the court hearing against him has still not begun. Although Rajvati is unable to speak, she has given a written statement affirming that her husband had demanded ₹50,000 from her parents to buy a motorcycle. He had threatened to kill her if she failed to give him the money.
Not much has changed since the time this video was shot in September 2016. Though Rajvati has recently been released from the hospital and has returned to her home in Singoli village, she is unable to speak and has difficulty eating. She still has to go to Jabalpur for check ups twice a week. The Jabalpur Hospital authorities have told her that they are awaiting equipment that will enable them to operate on her larynx. Her son will be turning one soon, but continues to live away from her, at her in-laws’ home. Nor is she financially or physically capable of caring for him at present.
Rajvati needs your help. It is time to take a strong stance against domestic violence. Women like Rajvati are doubly victimised – first by their violators and then by an apathetic system and society that makes the survivor run around to get justice. You can help her in her struggle to live with dignity and recover from this horrific ordeal.
You can contribute and help fund her treatment at a medical facility equipped to operate on her and enable her to care for her child.