Though domestic abuse remains a highly taboo subject in India, here is a vivid example of how times are changing – albeit slowly. A group of housewives have come together to rescue a mute woman in their society who was abused by her husband and in-laws for four years.
Her husband and his parents have now been arrested, while the woman and her daughter will be shifted to a women’s shelter in Chembur. The victim (35) used to live in an orphanage in Amravati until she was married four years ago to Vivek Galgali (40). Soon after, her life became hell.
Her in-laws caged her a tiny room, beat her up, sexually assaulted her and threatened to send her back to the orphanage.Numerous wounds and marks on her body testify to the torture and exploitation she suffered. Vivek works as a teacher in trust-run school for special children, while his father Satyanarayan is retired.
Satyanarayan and his wife brought the woman to Mumbai from the orphanage in Amravati and got their son married to her. Made to work day-and-night from the start, she was tortured mentally and physically. She suffered in silence until neighbours noticed her plight and decided to do something about it.
Two days ago, a group of housewives saw the victim standing outside her house, holding a divorce notice. “We saw her weeping with a piece of paper in her hand. When we approached her, she managed to communicate through sign language that she had been beaten up by her inlaws and thrown out of the house,” said Vidya Walunj, a resident of Ashiyana Housing Society at Airoli, Navi Mumbai.
She added, “The paper was a legal notice from a lawyer, which stated that her husband wanted a divorce as she was of poor character. That evening we told her to somehow adjust and stay in the house. The next day we called a meeting of all housewives in the society.”
On Saturday evening, all the women in the society discussed the issue, and decided that the victim must be rescued and her husband and inlaws punished. “We then informed Rabale police station and with help of the police rescued her from her hell. Around 50 women from our society took her to the police station and got a case registered against her husband and inlaws,” said Neelam Tiwari, another resident of the society.
Late on Saturday night, a case of dowry harassment and assault was registered against Vivek, Satyanarayan (62) and mother-in-law Meena (60). Sushma Bidwe from the NGO Stree Mukti Sanghatna said, “She had been tortured since she was married but she did not tell anyone as she was worried about her two-year-old daughter.
On Saturday, after being rescued, she revealed that her father-in-law would touch her inappropriately after locking her in a room, that her mother-in-law would help him, and that her husband would beat her up if she resisted. She was kept locked in a room with no light and fan and was given food only one once a day.
” Senior Police Inspector Naseer Pathan from Rabale police station said, “The accused were produced in court on Sunday and were remanded in police custody till Wednesday. We will again record the statement of the victim and register an additional FIR for sexual abuse if required.”