India is now staring at an upsetting trend of male infanticide, an appalling reversal of the other dejection, the female infanticide that harasses the rest of our nation. Madhya Pradesh has been confronting these ruthless incidents since March 2014. It transcends all castes, classes and all socio-economic separations. Though these murders are prominently seen in North India, a number of isolated reports have been reported in the South as well.
The first recorded female infanticide in India dates to 1789 when Jonathan Duncan, a British resident at Benares, Uttar Pradesh detected the practice among a Rajput clan. The only supporting statement documented then was about their helplessness to bring up a girl child who would do nothing good for the country, whereas a male child would develop himself into a warrior to fight against the invaders. The belief of ‘Jauhar’ among Rajput clans have also played a role in the commencement of female infanticides. The Rajputs subjected their women to mass suicide, called ‘Jauhar’, to save their honor from invaders. They opted not to take the risk of bringing up a girl child to subject them to the ’Jauhar’, in case there would be an attack.
The women who had no royal back up were often sexually victimized. The children born under such incidents were considered ‘impure’ and were murdered at once. The numbers are bone-chilling. So those who think ‘infanticides’ is a modern-dictionary word, you are wrong! India is not new to infanticides.
The strange custom in Meghalaya where the women abandon their babies when their husbands desert them is gaining focus now-a-days. Several NGOs, religious ministries and Self-Helping Groups have come up from different parts of India to educate the people there. It was not surprising to see that the religious ministries could change the mindsets of many. But still this ‘many’ is negligible when compared with the ‘whole’. The Meghalaya Government has really nothing much to do in a place where the crowd is exhausted of seeking help from them to defend the deadly militants prevailing over there. I am afraid to say that this custom has become a part of their lives and continue to be so even in 2015.
‘Female Infanticide’ has become a common word in the dictionary of a common man in India, right from the primary school essay writing topic, to Arnab’s NewsHour Debate. But now it's the male infanticide. This is actually an ‘Abduction-Sex-Infanticide’ trio.
There are a widespread network of gangsters, local thieves and some highly ranked citizens who abduct girls from different parts of India to be brought to Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh. The state highway from Mhow to Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh, mostly between Ratlam and Mandsaur is inhabited by hundreds of families who belong to a nomadic community whose source of livelihood is sex work. This is a society that considers sex-work as a prestigious source of income and obviously only women could do the work. Their main customers are truck drivers and motorists. HIV, alcoholism, drug abuse and human trafficking! Everything happens here. Anyone driving through this road can see a large number of young girls sitting on the road side combing their hair or playing in the sun. If one stops over there, the older women comes to invite for selecting girls and they are the ones who bargains and decides the rate. The rate is not more than Rs.300/- at the maximum. The truck drivers are the regular customers and they are eligible for discounts as well. The girl goes with the customer with pride. That’s how their elders have moulded them to be.
More the number of girl children, more the income. One old lady tried to educate one of her 5 daughters. She was sent to the nearest city, educated and she became a nurse. She was not lucky enough to get a job even a year after she had been passed out. What would she do for a living? Obviously, she returned to the same village for the same work the whole women community in that area have been doing.
For a community like this, sex work defines a family’s social standing. The birth of a girl is celebrated while a male child is considered a lifelong liability. Not long ago, community elders admitted, people used to resort to male infanticide to do away with the trouble of raising a boy.
There is an interesting custom that prevails in this community that contradicts the other social evil in our present society. It is ‘Bride-Price’. The boy has to pay an amount to the bride’s parents so as to marry her. It stands right at the face of the society that demands dowry. Once married, the girl is out of business. They now have more than enough reasons to avoid bringing up a male child.
Infanticides are not gender-sensitive. Infanticides are murders. The background of an infanticide can be even more frightening. The need for education and awareness campaigns is at the peak. If this is the scenario in 2015, what can you expect in the forthcoming years?
Let’s save our children.
Child is the father of man!