Opinion | Raise your voice against dowry and domestic violence

On Thursday night, in my primetime show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on India TV, we showed a video clip in which a married Muslim woman Ayesha Banu was telling her father to take care of himself, minutes before she committed suicide by jumping into the Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad. This video has caused tremendous outrage in the Indian Muslim community over dowry and domestic violence issues.     On Friday, imams at most of the mosques appealed to people to shun dowry and stop harassing their wives and daughters-in-law. AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi also joined in issuing a similar appeal.   First let me narrate some facts relating to Ayesha Banu’s suicide. A resident of Almina Park in Vatva, Ahmedabad, Ayesha was a final year MA Economics student and was employed in a top private sector bank. She married Aarif Khan, a mining supervisor, after a love affair in 2018. Soon afterwards her husband and in-laws began harassing her for dowry and Ayesha was ultimately forced to take the extreme step. Aarif Khan was nabbed by Gujarat Police from Pali, Rajasthan on March 1 and is presently in custody on charges of abetment to suicide and dowry harassment.   On February 25 afternoon, her husband challenged her to commit suicide after making a video so as “to absolve him of any charges”. The girl, made a two-minute video in which she made an emotional appeal to her father Liaquat Ali Makrani requesting her not to pursue a case of domestic violence against her husband. In the video, she said she “was granting freedom to Aarif”, before jumping into the river. When her body was recovered, police initially filed an accidental death report, but when the video became viral and there was widespread outrage in the social media, Aarif Khan was booked under Sec 306 IPC (abetment to suicide).   Ayesha’s father told police that the in-laws had demanded Rs 5 lakh as dowry, but he could manage to give Rs 1.5 lakh to Aarif’s family on January 26 last year. This money was paid after a case of domestic violence was lodged against Aarif, his parents and sisters in 2019, in which Ayesha alleged that she was beaten up at her husband’s residence in Jalore, Rajasthan.   Ahmedabad Police have obtained call detail records (CDR) which show that Aarif had a 72-minute conversation with Ayesha on February 25, the day of suicide. Ayesha also had a 5-minute conversation with her parents, who pleaded her not to take the extreme step. Aarif even went to the extent of telling his wife “shoot a video message for me and then kill yourself”.   In her last video shown in ‘Aaj Ki Baat’, the girl Ayesha is telling her father: “Hello, Assalamvaleikum, My name is Ayesha. Whatever I and Aarif Khan are going to do, we are doing out of our own will. There is no force or pressure from anybody. What can I say now? The life given to me by Khuda is this much only. This was a life of peace for me. And Dad, till how long will you fight your own people? Withdraw the case. Ayesha is not meant for fighting. You love Aarif, will you now fight him? If he wants azadi (freedom), then let him be azaad (free). My life will now end. I am happy, I will meet Allah and then ask him, where was my mistake?   “I got loving parents, and friends too. But there was something missing, either in me or in my fate. I an happy, I want to leave in peace. I pray to Allah never to show me the faces of human beings. One lesson I have learnt in life: if you love somebody, it must be both-sided, not one-sided. Chalo, some love is left incomplete even after marriage. Oh river, I pray to thee, take me in your arms. Whatever happens after me, please do not create disturbance. I am like the wind, I want to move, on and on. Never stop for anybody. Today I am happy, I have all the replies to my questions. And whatever I had to tell, I have said this truthfully. That’s it. Remember me in your prayers. I don’t know, whether Heaven is there for me or not. Alvida (Farewell).”   Emotional words, these.   In the last phone conversation recorded with her father, much of the talk flows like these: “Beta where are you?... Aa rahi hoon main.(I am coming)…Where are you now?....At the riverfront, aa rahi hoon main……I am sending Montu, wait Sonu,..listen to me, Beta. …Kuch nahin sunna, Papa (I don’t want to listen)…Look, don’t do something wrong, speak to your Mom..I don’t want to listen, I want to jump into the river…Beta, don’t do this…Bahut ho gaya ab..If you do such a thing, people will say, you have not done the right thing….Let people speak whatever they like….Don’t do this…I have to jump into the water. I don’t want to live. I am tired….Don’t do this, Allah is great, He will forgive….I don’t want to listen, I don’t want him (Aarif) any more in my life. He wanted azaadi, I gave him azaadi. He said, if you are going to die, make a video of it, so that police doesn’t nab me. I said, theek hai. Made the video and gave it to him. ..”   Ayesha was a well-educated girl, a girl from Muslim community, she had a progressive outlook. She knew the Islamic teachings and also the intricacies of modern law. She knew, her in-laws were committing a crime by torturing her. But, in the end, she lost the battle.   I salute Muslim ulema and Owaisi who have taken up this social cause. I also salute yog guru Swami Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and other Hindu saints like Swami Avadheshanand Giri and Mahant Paramhans Das, who spoke against dowry in my show. There are stringent laws against dowry and domestic violence in Indian statute books, but these laws have certain limits. India is a vast country. In spite of enacting tough legislations, the evils of dowry and domestic violence continue in the lives of married girls. Rapes and gangrapes continue despite stringent laws.   I believe, apart from strict legislations, spreading of social awareness is the need of the hour. Voices against dowry and domestic violence must rise from temples, mosques, gurdwaras and churches. This cannot be achieved in a day or two. It is a long, uphill struggle. Preparing a society for the betterment of women by spreading awareness will take a long, long time.   With folded hands, I appeal to all of you, to raise your voices for eradicating the social evils of dowry and domestic violence. These twin evils are eating into our society, like cancer. Until and unless, our society boycotts those devils who torture girls in the name of dowry, the battle can never be won. Such devils must have no place in our society.   We, as conscious citizens, must identify and boycott such devils, so that they can realize their follies. Let us all unitedly raise our voice against social evils like dowry and domestic violence.

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