sulabh swatchh bharat

Tuesday, 25-June-2019

Instant Justice!

Once the victim of male chauvinism herself, this 42-year-old widow has taken up the gun and runs a kangaroo court to tackle atrocities on women

Her name sends a chill down the spines of road-side Romeos and those perpetrating crime against girls and women. Without firing a single shot, the barrel of her gun does the ‘faisala on the spot’ (instant justice). So much so that she has earned sobriquets like ‘Lady with a gun’ and ‘Lady Robinhood’.
This is the story of an orthodox 42-year-old Muslim widow who took up the gun for the safety and security of girls and women in the non-descript village of Mahanandpur under Sidhauli police station in Shahjahanpur district of Uttar Pradesh.
Fighting Vulnerability
Born in a farmer’s family of Pilbhit district, Sahana Begam was married to a truck
driver, Mohammed Shabbir in Shahajanpur some two decades  ago. Unfortunately, her husband died in a road accident a couple of years after their marriage, leaving Sahana vulnerable and distressed in a feudalistic, male
chauvinist society.
“From childhood, I witnessed how girls and women were being treated and were subjected to restrictions, atrocities and physical abuse by men. This had given me a steely resolve to take up the cudgels whenever the opportunity comes my way,” recalls Sahana of her metamorphosis from an orthodox Muslim women to a ‘Lady Dabang’.
She claims that she was well protected till her husband was alive but not after that.  “I used to fear going out to the market, as I was showered with lewd remarks,” she recounts. An incident of a woman harassed for dowry in her village - and police inaction,   despite the woman attempting suicide twice – finally made her more determined to fight against such people.
She applied for a gun license. But she was denied, as she refused to grease the palms of avaricious babus. Then came the Mayawati government and she applied again. “I thank Mayawatiji for giving me the license and I bought a gun to bring justice to these hapless girls and women,” she says proudly, displaying the gun.

Gunning for Justice
Once the gun was in her hands, the ‘Lady with the gun’ never looked back. So far, she has settled hundreds of cases of physical atrocities against married women, dowry cases and taught lessons with the butt of the gun to roadside Romeos, which included a few men in khakhi and  wards and relatives of some mighty politicians.
The first thing she used to do was to go to the dowry victim’s house and point the barrel of the gun towards the head of the husband and in-laws. Recounting one such incident she says with satisfaction: “The woman is happily married now, with three children, and neither her husband nor his relatives ever made any further demand for dowry.” But then, the gun is not her only weapon. She exposes, publicly humiliates and parades guilty men   after blackening faces of those who dare to subject girls and women to any kind of harassment.
A few influential boys were eve-teasing a girl from her village for the past two years. The girl was too shocked to lodge a complaint or share with her parents. Once Sahana Begam came to know of this, she took out the gun and rounded up four boys, blackened their faces and paraded them through the entire village. “Since then, none of them dare wink at the girls of our village,” recalls Kamta Devi, an elderly women who supports Sahana’s efforts.
Once a boy abducted a girl of the village to rape her but ‘Lady Dabang’ Sahana recovered her the same night. She forced the boy and his parents to marry the girl the very next day. They both are living happily now.  With gun in her hands, she regularly holds a panchayat at her residence to solve any crime cases. “We all are her eyes and ears. We tip her off whenever any such case comes to notice and Sahana Aunty solves the case within an hour,”  says Seema, a student.
But there are many who disapprove of Sahana’s style of ‘dabangai’.  “There are police, courts and village panchayats to tackle bad elements. Her ways take us back to old barbaric rules,” reacts a former gram pradhan not wishing to be quoted.
Even senior police and district officials, criticise her gun-toting valour. “This is against the law of the land, threatening anyone at gun point,” complains a senior police officer. But due to support from villagers, police never dares to register any case. Her instant justice are now lore in neighbouring villages too, where crime against women has dropped drastically in the last few years.
The National Crime Records Bureau says crime against women in UP has gone up by 34 per cent in the last four years. From the bizarre Badayun rape case till date, there is no downward trend in the Akhilesh regime, despite the young tech-savvy Chief Minister launching the 1090 women’s helpline.
In a state where registration of an FIR is still a herculean task and most of the times victims do not come forward to tell their tales of victimisation, Sahana Begam has set an example. If a woman has the resolve to fight against injustices then things can be set right, even if they have to take up arms to change the feudal system and  fight the prevailing gender bias.