Beaten and Burnt to Death: The Story of Indian Housewives and Their Children

May 04, 2007
Sakshi Juneja

Domestic Violence, a term most of us educated folks are well-versed with; we hear about it on television, in newspapers, via relatives and friends but frankly, how many of us do actually understand and bother to take action against this serious and one of the most pervasive of human rights violations in our country, today?

Victims of domestic violence are mostly women who come from different social and economic backgrounds. These women are verbally abused, physically tortured, sexually harassed and live in fear, in and of their homes. And some times, young innocent souls also get caught in the cross-fire. Yet, there is very little by way of response from the society, political parties or the government over the years.

The mentality is pathetic; a crime such as this is still looked upon as a personal matter, in spite of the fact that for large number of women and their children this personal matter translates into a life-long compromise with torture, both mental and physical. For many, this compromise ends only with the loss of their lives.

Chandrakant Bhoir, 29, his mother Vithabai and sister Chaya have the most damning evidence of their involvement in the death of Chandrakant's wife Priyanka, pointing straight at them — the victim's 5-year-old daughter Sakshi, who saw them set her mother on fire. Sakshi has told police that she saw her father, grandmother and aunt first torture and then burn her mother that day.

Sakshi said that on Monday morning she woke up to find her father, mother, aunt and grandmother fighting. Vithabai had been accusing Priyanka of stealing money. "I pretended to be asleep as I was very scared. I then saw my grandmother drag my mother into the kitchen and come in search of a matchbox. Soon after, I heard my mother screaming for help," said Sakshi.

At the other end of the city, a young boy and his family go through similar horrific ordeal.

Hitesh Goyil (8) had no idea of the magnitude of the tragedy that has struck his family. Around 8.30 am yesterday Hitesh's father Babu (32) clobbered his mother Jaya (28) to death with an iron strip and also grievously injured his brother Pragnesh (4) and sister Jigyasa (3).

"I saw my father fighting with my mother. He then beat her and my sister with an iron strip. I was frightened and ran away to my neighbour's house when I saw it," said Hitesh.

Helplessly watching your own mother being butchered to death right in front of your eyes - sane people like us can't even begin to imagine the insanity of such situation and its effect on adolescent minds. For kids like Sakshi and Hitesh, exposure to brutal violence is bound to affect their lives; witnessing violence is emotionally abusive, and can be just as damaging as physical abuse. Child victims of domestic violence react in a number of ways - some blame themselves for the violence, others are angry and many withdraw completely into themselves. They are more likely to suffer depression as adults and may also have problems adapting to adult social situations. In severe cases, boys who witness violence are at a greater risk of becoming abusers, and girls are at a greater risk of becoming abused.

With such a frightening present and a very uncertain future, the lives of these children will continue to hang by a thin thread.

Sadly, even today some women themselves don't question their husband's violence against them and their children. For a just society, it is important for us to make them understand that once violence begins, it will continue to soar if they don't protest against it and take a stand.

But then again who has the time to give even slight consideration to the so-called abla naris, especially when protesting against popular naris like Mandira Bedi, Shilpa Shetty and Rakhi Sawant, seems to be the flavor of the season.

Saakshi O. Juneja is an active blogger, feminist and overboard dog lover. Currently working as a Business Development Manager for a sportswear manufacturing company in Mumbai, India. Did graduation in Marketing & Advertising from Sydney, Australia. As far as blogging is concerned...is a complete Blog-a-holic.
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Aditi Nadkarni
May 4, 2007
11:14 AM

Hi Sakshi, I got done replying to comments on my own article where the debate about the "Rai-Bachchan wedding' has somehow been deflected into feminist issues.


We have a commentator who to my shock, compared "dowry deaths" to being as unauthentic as "hoax calls and ghosts" (yeah, no kidding!) and then quite ironically I saw your article.

Your last sentence takes a well-deserved jab at the current media which seems to be focusing on futile protests.

I think I will put a link in my comments section and have people check out your article. It should be a reality check for some of the people out there who seem to think that dowry deaths are feminist issues when in reality they should be viewed as humanitarian issues.

May 4, 2007
11:30 AM

Aditi - you've just been introduced to the DC contingent that's traditionally afraid of women, has a very hazy idea about terms like feminism and absolutely no interest in educating themselves about the things they rant about.

If you think Saks' gutwrenching post will make a difference, I'm certain you're going to find out that's not going to happen. In fact, sooner or later it will fuel more spittle-specked ranting... but I really hope I'm mistaken. There's always a first time.

May 4, 2007
11:52 AM

yes, that will happen, but I propose you just let them rant and do not address them. period. It's a serious issues that needs no debunking... so we can just concentrate on the issue and ignore, ignore, ignore! (of course, this is not my thread, so do what you wish, but that is how I eventually had to go on my own posts to avoid madness) :)

great post, and sadly.. something that happens all too often in many countries. this is not just a problem in India. There is probably not one country on the planet that is not struggling with this issue.

I do not think at all that the women do not question the violence against them. They are not equipped to know how to handle it, and by then they are so broken down, so lacking in self-esteem and so isolated they have no tools to start digging themselves out. And especially when it is a whole family against you, the women stay to protect the children. It is a vicious cycle that never ends. Chances are the auntie who helped burn that poor woman was abused by her own husband.. and many many victims (as you have said) become perpetrators... and it's not just the men. But yes, daughters of abuse victims are more likely to seek out abusive men when they are older in a strange attempt to try to fix the past (it never works out). Physical abuse is a cycle that repeats over and over until someone puts an end to it.

This means that India needs strong support systems in place. You cannot ask a woman to stand up then have nothing for her when she does. Abusive men become MORE violent when their spouses try to leave. That means there needs to be shelters and safe havens for the women and children, with programs that help them find employment and a place to live and a way to be independent. To many woman with no education, this is almost more daunting a task to face than a beating. There have to be training programs and ways to help the women and children with therapy. They need legal advise and someone to represent them in the divorce hearing so they children do not get taken away. The list goes on.

It's so much more complicated than it seems, nah?

May 4, 2007
12:04 PM

Bingo, smallsquirrel, we spend so much time discussing the legalities of the issue - and we should because violence against women is still a topic that we as a society are only coming to grips with now... all the debate about laws and punishment and perversion just points out the fact that there's miles to go before the dust settles and we get a nonhysterical reading of facts from either contingent - but we do need to discuss the psychology as well.

Next to sex, psychiatry is the worst word in India.

May 4, 2007
12:53 PM

"STOP VIOLENCE" would not only have saved space but would also have been more meaningful and less misleading.

May 4, 2007
01:12 PM

I had been surveying a near by village on Domestic violence. Frequency of Physical violence against women has been more in the lower strata of society.

An interesting correlation I observed in my sample data is that, houses where "Physical violence" was more had markedly higher incidences of violence against neighbors. May be "Domestic Physical Violence " has to do with happiness quotient and acceptability of family in society.

Thus I hypothesize, it is not power equation exclusively that drives Domestic Physical violence.

May 4, 2007
10:35 PM

amrita.. I have noticed that (about therapy here). I look at it this way... we're not expected to know how to fix our own spleen, our own TV, our own mixi-grindy. why are we expected to know how to fix our self-destructive behaviors on our own? we put so much time and care into the upkeep and maintenance of our cars, why not ourselves? Why would that be taboo? anyway, total sidetrack, but therapy (when done correctly) is brilliant... and necessary in many cases.

May 6, 2007
05:32 AM

Sakshi, two points worth note for me in this post are

1. Ignorning the abla naria and concentrating on the popular naris. Another version or tone of the same topic was neatly addressed in a post, "Personal Involvement in the Public Sphere" by Uma at DC. To me the reasons are we are moving away from reality and humanity and are repeatedly fed by consumeristic media. For us gliterrati, tinsel and showbazi centric news matter a lot and media fans this, realising well that it would sell.

2. Also I feel, what perpetuates these kinds of odious acts is the "culture of silence". Most of those tormented by domestic violence either endure it to the extent they can. Again to me reasons for this kind of behaviour are fear, stigma [ how can a wife complain against a husband ], etc, etc.

May 6, 2007
10:50 AM

Men will not get transformed unless Indian Society gives them some room to live.

What do you expect from a society which makes young boys work in road side restaurents, Dabbas and garages?

Statistics show that 8000 women are murdered every year compared to 26000 men.

Men (especially poor and marginalised) are pushed into criminality. Both the men involved are poor which is evident from their professions.

One of the story also shows that women can be extremely cruel, merciless and violent. Yet, our patriarchal society rarely gives stringent punishment to women.

May 6, 2007
11:03 AM

sumanth... so because some men have difficult wives it is alright for them to burn their wives to death in front of their children? Did you get whiplash from the point of this post passing you by so quickly????

May 6, 2007
11:04 AM

I really must learn to proofread. I meant LIVES, now wives. Jeez! (cringe!)

June 5, 2007
04:51 PM


For more than two decades we have been exposed to never-ceasing and ever-increasing propaganda to create sympathy for battered wives. Nobody deserves to be treated violently. However, not every woman who is being battered is simply a victim. Countless members of both genders are 'prone to violence', victims of a deep-seated addiction to violence--both as victims and victimizers, vectors in the never-ending cycle of family violence.

As grim as the reality of these facts is, there are possible solutions that can cut the vicious circle of violence that has our society in its tightening grip, in spite of the attempts of the battered women's shelters advocates who have not had all that much success with their aims since Erin Pizzey wrote her book Prone to Violence.

Prone to Violence was boycotted by radical feminists to such an extent that a search of all libraries in the world that could be accessed from the US Library of Congress through the Inter-Library Network in 1996 revealed a total of 13 listings in the whole World.

I did a search in November 1997, of university- and other on-line catalogues showing library listings. I found two listings in Canada. One was at the University of Alberta Library, the other at the University of Toronto. Look for the book in bookstores. If you should happen to find a copy, hang on to it. It is a rarity and possibly worth quite a bit now -- very likely far more so in the future, once the insanity of the destruction of our families is recognized as such.

Prone to Violence (http://www.bennett.com/ptv/index.shtml), thoroughly boycotted and totally censored by the feminists, is accessible now on the Internet, but for those who would like to have a hard copy on hand to be able to read it more comfortably if they don't have the need to do word searches, it is now back in print.

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