Shehla Rashid Tales of Domestic Abuse is a Reminder of How Widespread the Problem is in India


Shehla Rashid Tales of Domestic Abuse is a Reminder of How Widespread the Problem is in India

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Domestic abuse is an issue that is often talked about in hushed voices within Indian society. Wives and daughters are often advised even by relatives, to not make much of it. In that vein, it is courageous that student activist Shehla Rashid has called out the abuser at home.

In a series of tweets, Rashid revealed that her mother was a victim of domestic abuse for years. “To keep it short and straight, he’s a wife-beater and an abusive, depraved man. We finally decided to act against him, and this stunt is a reaction to that,” she said.

“When my sister and I were kids, we were unable to protect our mother. Now that we have started speaking up against his physical and mental abuse, he has started abusing us too. I have also filed an FIR in September. Request everyone not to take him seriously and let us mourn in peace,” Rashid added.

The matter came to light after Rashid’s father Abdul Shora sought security cover from Jammu and Kashmir’s Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh, citing a “threat to his life” from his daughters and wife. He has also alleged that they were carrying out “anti-national” activities.

In his letter to the DG, Shora claimed that he was offered money to join the Jammu and Kashmir’s People Movement. “They offered me ₹3 crore for Shehla to join those notorious people. As I felt that the money is coming from illegal channels and shall be used for unlawful activities, I did not take the money, and later asked my daughter to not indulge in any such transactions with these people,” he said in the letter.

“I have a strong belief that anti-national activities are going on in my house, the characters involved in this plan are my daughters, my wife and Shehla’s security man named Sakib Ahmad, who lately threatened me with his pistol for my resistance to Shehla for her activities,” he added.

But refuting the claims, Rashid revealed a horrific tale of domestic abuse. She shared a copy of the court order restraining him from entering their home and a letter to her father from the Mohalla Committee in 2005 asking him not to abuse them.

The activist denounced the political angle to the personal issue. Since the allegations were made public, there has been incessant trolling on social media, with #TukdeTukdeGang trending on Twitter for hours. Right-wing trolls have used controversy to take potshots at someone they consider “anti-national”.

A serious domestic violence case being used for petty political commentary tells us everything about the state of our society. It also brings to mind how widespread domestic abuse is in India. Cases of sexual assault and rape often get grab headlines but domestic abuse remains largely underreported. In 2019, domestic violence was the top crime against women – of the 4.05 lakh crimes registered by the National Crimes Bureau last year, 1.26 lakh, i.e. over 30 per cent were that of domestic violence.

A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health pointed out that one in three women in India has been subject to some form of domestic abuse in her lifetime. However, only one in ten women report violence to the police, suggesting that putting up the exploitation is normalised.

There are few things that take as much courage as standing up to a tormentor at home, as we have seen in the case of Shehla Rashid, a powerful student activist. What then might be the plight of everyday women?

Since Rashid’s tweets last evening, many have stood behind her courageous decision to call out violence and abuse at home. Author Sanjukta Bose wrote, “Insecure patriarchal man cannot deal with empowered daughters/wife runs to political vultures to play victim” and Supreme Court activist Karuna Nundy lauded her courage.

There should be no tolerance for intolerance and abuse, and Shehla Rashid’s actions might also encourage others to take such steps. More power to her.