Does new Kerala belong to greedy demons?text_fields
"Everyone wants money. The biggest thing is money" - PG student of Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Dr. Shahana threw these words at Kerala's face before killing herself last Monday. Shahana was one who overcame poverty. A greedy family chose to drown her life at the same time when the Chief Minister was leading a march with all his ministers singing about the all-round progress of the state and the entire state is engrossed in the discussions with claims over Kerala's progress. The man who threw her to death when she extended her hand towards a married life is not an ordinary person. It was not a nobody who pushed the woman to her death after reaching out to her for married life. He is a doctor with a medical degree. He is also the leader of the doctors' organisation which fights not only against the disease in the patient's body but also against the disease of society's mind. So what? He stooped to the point where he did not hesitate to become a pawn for money. His family believed money was the source of status and that they needed to surpass others in that regard. He became a stooge with his family as if he were cattle for sale. The family of the girl he chose was ready to give property worth Rs 50 lakh rupees and 50 sovereigns of gold or a car. But his family insisted on getting 150 sovereigns of gold, one-acre land, Rs 1.5 crores, and a BMW car. As a result of this bargain in the marriage market, Shahana died by suicide grieving the loss of her dreams. Her death reveals that Kerala society, decorated on the outside with literate, enlightened, and beautiful facades, has a deadly disease eating away at the inside.
Shahna is not the first. Kerala's recent experiences do not allow one to believe that she will be the last, though one can still pray for her to be the last. When the medical student Vismaya died two and a half years ago, her father's prayer that this fate should not happen to anyone else was also a prayer of the entire state. However, statistics reveal that no compunctious urge are capable of swaying demons. Dowry harassment cases reach five thousand every year in Kerala. 260 girls have lost their lives in the last decade and a half. Many men have killed their wives by hanging them, burning them, starving them, and even sending snakes after them over dowry; the last as seen in the case of Uthra from Adoor who lost her life despite her family paying 100 sovereigns of gold, three acres of land, a car, Rs 10 lakhs, and Rs 8,000 per month for household expenses. Over the delay of Rs 2 lakhs, a mother of two young kids was forced to starve to death. What kind of New Kerala is being made without dealing with these greedy demons? There is a dowry prohibition law in place in the country that prescribes a punishment of five years in prison and a fine of Rs 15,000 to one who takes it or induces it, six months to two years in prison and a fine of Rs 10,000 for demanding it, and five years in prison and a fine of Rs 15,000 if it is advertised. However, laxity on the part of law enforcement machinery often leads to the dilution or concealment of crimes. There were accusations that the police had shown negligence in the Shahana case as well. The State has an obligation to adopt an inflexible stance in the detection and getting a sentence in cases of offence.
The government by itself will hardly be able to stop society from going wrong. For that, the community, political leadership, and civil society should also take the lead. Keralites should be willing individually and collectively to introspect about how much Kerala's renaissance and progress have been realised in practice. It is not a good sign that dowry-seekers are growing among Muslims who are self-convinced and convince each other that they are bound to radiate the light of worship and ritual into daily life. From Mahal Jamaats to elaborate organisational systems, they are working for the upliftment of the Muslim community. But let them introspect if the leaders and scholars have been successful in liberating the ranks from the lure of money. And for those who proclaim the name and praise of the prophet, who trained his followers to pray that even the highest achievements in life do not make one addicted to material power, can they save themselves from the evil of saying amen to the power of money? And despite the scripture and the Prophet having taught the way to earn, use, and spend money, and despite the code of conduct for marriage having been clarified, the community leadership, who turn their backs on it and make them a source of income, are also part of this guilt and are responsible for dowry deaths. The community leaders should keep away from the absurdities of making marriage a private ritual and of interpreting dowry as a gift of pleasure from the bride's family. By so doing they will only be giving success to those after money. Such reform-oriented leadership should be given the support of the administrative and political leadership. If a collective effort is made in this direction, that will be the dawn of fortune not only for women but even for the country.