Trials, errors and the art of compromise
This morning The Hindu carries a long piece I wrote on one of Jaipur’s more sensational trials. The idea of “samjhauta” or “compromise” has informed a lot of my work over years, and this instance is particularly heart breaking. Court documents and chargesheets are always interesting things to read; in this instance, it was intriguing how the police accorded one woman – Pushpa – infinite agency when she creates a cycle of repression and exploitation; while the other – Shweta – has zero agency and is thoroughly incapable of independent action.
One dawn in January last year, a young woman slipped out of her house, walked down to the Gandhi Nagar station and stepped into the path of an oncoming train.
She survived, but lost her left leg and all sensation below her waist. Last Wednesday, the woman, Pushpa*, was brought before the Special Judge for Women Atrocities and Dowry Cases to identify the three policemen who, she alleged, had sexually tortured her to the point of suicide. Also in court was Shweta*, a 20-year-old known to Pushpa, who claimed that Pushpa and her cohorts had drugged, raped and blackmailed her in December 2010.
The two women had been friends, meeting occasionally in Pushpa’s room to gossip, experiment with cigarettes and alcohol and on one occasion photographed themselves kissing. In many ways, their twin trials document the contradictory impulses of the small Indian town grown big, where tech-savvy youth shun the contractual new economy for the security of the bureaucracy, the government school, and the government bank, and the sheher’s liberatory promise is tempered by the lingering claustrophobia of the samaj.