Beti Bachao: Girls in UP’s Shamli walk with their heads down

To escape harassment, girls also cover their ears with their hands

NH Photo
NH Photo

Aas Mohd Kaif

The present government of the country came to power on the basis of the slogans like ‘BAHU-BETIYAN BACHAO’, but it is far from the ground reality. One such place is Shamli in UP where girls, fed up with harassment and teasing, have given up walking with their heads up. The situation is so bad that girls from nearby villages come to their schools in Shamli on tractors closing their ears with their hands and walking with their heads down. Incidentally, Shamli is the place where the BJP MP Hukum Singh had for the first time used the slogan bahu-beti bachao. On the basis of this slogan, a mahapanchayat was organised in Sikheda, Muzaffarnagar and then the riots broke out.

Shamli was the most hit by violence during the riots. The people who took pride in fighting for the ‘honour’ of women, are now silent over this brazen harassment of girls. The girls do not lift their heads in a seven-km-long stretch to save themselves from this humiliation. Not only this, when a local newspaper reported on this, hundreds of people attacked this newspaper’s office and beat up the journalists.

Dozens of girls from Duharni village, 7 km away from Shamli, come to the town every day to attend classes at Hindu Kanya Inter College. There is no transportation facility available for these girls. Therefore, the girls were already facing problems in commuting and consequently not many were able to study. In the last few years, a retired Army official, Satpal Singh, had found a solution to this problem. He installed some benches in his truck and started ferrying the girls to and from the school. Every girl paid Rs 300 per month for transport. After that, the number of girls studying in the school increased.

There are a few boys’ schools near the girls’ school where boys from the surrounding areas come to study. These boys pass vulgar comments and make lewd gestures. When the number of complaints rose, many parents withdrew their girls from the school and some found a way out: that the girls will not lift their head on the way and will not talk to any boy. If they have to react, they will do so only when they return home. Some girls stopped coming to the school after they complained to their parents. After that, the girls who wanted to study decided that they won’t even complain. But the incidents of teasing and harassment did not stop nor was any step taken to stop boys from doing so.

On November 26, a newspaper carried the report of the girls’ plight in Shamli. The state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath reportedly expressed his displeasure at this. So, the local administration stepped into action. Shamli DM Indrapal Singh first said that this is a paltry matter but later said that the administration will arrange for e-rickshaws for the girls and even a bus. After that, the village panchayat had a meeting and the newspaper’s office was attacked by hundreds of people with petrol bombs and sticks. The Shamli kotwali has registered a case against these people.

Now the village panchayat has been constantly holding meetings on the matter of girls going to school to study. The girls have been instructed not to talk to the media. The media is not allowed to enter the village. The MP from Kairana, who had passed an objectionable comment on Muslims calling them rapists, is also quiet on this issue. The local goons and strongmen, instead of finding a solution to the problem, are actually organising attacks on journalists who brought this issue to light. Women are so scared that no woman activist is willing to speak on this matter. Samajwadi Party leader Nafees says, “They are quiet because the offenders in this matter are from their own community. Had they been from some other community, violence would have engulfed this area.”

Villager Virendra Nirvaal says, “In fact, going to school with the heads down is part of our culture and it has no connection with harassment and teasing. Girls themselves keep their eyes down. But a tractor driver from this village, Satpal, who drives these girls to the school says that boys constantly keep harassing the girls and are not afraid of anyone.

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