The Monster Devours His Own

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The Monster Devours His Own

Post  Admin on Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:09 pm

India is an edifice built on lies, Anglicanism’s Frankenstein monster; it is not a corrupted system, the system itself is founded on falsehoods, on corruption, which is why it rots and grinds and injures the innocent, wronging neighbors. And it is inevitable that the monster should devour its own children, a second Cronos....

The Mother-In-Law Jail - Times of India, Bombay edition, Sunday, July 23, 2006

In the Tihar Jail, there is a separate cell exclusively for mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law of dowry victims. Manu Joseph reports from Delhi for the Times News Network.


The mother-in-law, that lumbering bearer of many keys and grudges, has a special place not only in Balaji Telefilms but also in Tihar Jail. A port of Central Jail No. 6 is dedicated to housing women accused in dowry-related atrocities. Endearingly called the saas-nanaand barracks, the special prison is a cluster of melancholic cells flanking a short corridor that leads to a courtyard. About 1,200 mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law of dead and living victims enter this cell every year and almost an equal number either get bail or are released.

At the moment, there are about 120 in-laws here, over 26% of the female prisoners in Tihar. They are chiefly semi-literate women from Delhi and the villages around who spend their days weeping, milling around ay casual visitor to describe the treachery of the girl’s side, praying in serious groups, listening to religious lectures, and making bags for social workers. They even observe karva chauth, and for some reason, according to information officer Sunil Gupta, they love primetime soaps despite the frequent triumphs of the young wife in these plots. Mothers-in-law who are over 60 grimly accept the privileges of being old – 400 grams of milk, butter and eggs on most days.

The idea to separate the perennially stunned in-laws, usually first-time criminals, from more seasoned female inmates, was conceived when Kiran Bedi was the Inspector-General of Prisons, but the Mother-in-Law Barracks were born some time in 2000. There is wisdom in the move to sequester the in-laws. Some of these women are, without doubt, murderers. They did kill young women who came to their house in hope. But an overwhelming majority are inside for mental torture. They may be bad persons like many women we know but not professional criminals the way prison superintendents understand the term. Bedi says that she did not want veterans in immoral trafficking and kidnapping to influence those arrested in dowry-related cases. But the Mother-in-Law Barracks today have become a howling island from where old and young women beg for release.

Several police officials confirm that there is a growing trend of the girl’s side putting almost all the family members of the boy’s side in prison and negotiating release money that runs into hundreds of thousands. Many times, enterprising daughters-in-law, even from far-flung villages, use the benevolence of the law to teach a lesson to their mothers-in-law by accusing them of torture (Lucio: “dowry harassment”). Over 90% of the in-laws who arrive in the barracks get bail. A minuscule portion has been convicted. Just about 10 among them in the cells right now have been given a sentence. Many of them cannot comprehend the illegality of dowry of their harassment of the bride. It was a culture that they had seen all around them, and had suffered in silence when they were young. The complexity of bringing law into the traditional fault-lines between women is disturbing the consciences of jail officials. And not everybody who is cautiously sympathetic to the jailed in-laws is male.

“I wouldn’t know in percentage terms but I can say that there are several cases of women arrested in dowry-related cases who turn out to be innocent or their crimes have been exaggerated,” says Kiran Bedi. “The cruel harassment that young women face today is a very real issue but what exactly constitutes abetment to suicide is never clearly defined. These days, the police are afraid of being accused of being insensitive to women. So, when the girl’s side files a complaint, there is a tendency to make quick arrests.”

But the evil of dowry with its lasting scepters (specters) of charred girls has no other remedy but to raise a system in which it is easy for a woman to put her cruel in-laws in jail. It is inevitable that such a system will sent to the Mother-in-Law Barracks, along with real murderers and torturers, aging women who probably done nothing to deserve imprisonment. There are sisters-in-law, young wives themselves with kids in the outside world, who have spent years in the barracks as undertrials.

When Diya was arrested, her son was about three months old. Her sister-in-law had been admitted in a hospital for burns. One hour after admission, she said that she had suffered the burns while cooking. Her condition improved and she returned to her family. A few weeks later, due to improper care, she died of an infection. Before that she gave a second statement implicating Diya and others from her husband’s family. Diya was 23 when she was arrested. That was five years ago.

Sunita was an adolescent when she was arrested nine years ago for burning her sister-in-law who eventually died. Sunita is serving a life sentence in the special cell and she still maintains that se was in her village far away when the incident occurred.

Sunita and Diya are among the may who wail when anyone visits the cell, especially a senior police officer of a new social worker. Several have children back in their villages who are brought up by neighbors because whole families are in prison. Through prayers and handicraft, they survive the days. But convinctions (convictions) are rare in dowry cases, especially for harassment charges. The numbers of the more transient inmates though, the bulk of the population here, are growing every year. They are in the barracks for just weeks. Then they leave, unjustly enjoying the freedom of bail, or painfully selling off land to meet the blackmail of the girl’s side. END.
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