When god killed his wife


GOD IS a psychopathic killer. Hannibal the Cannibal and Jack the Ripper are just no match.

Heretical hogwash, you might say. Weigh the way He – She? Shim? – kills; barbecuing with molten lava, roasting with a bolt of lightning, asphyxiating with floodwater, crushing under trees uprooted by a storm, twisting beyond hope with a twister, burying under avalanches or landslips, pounding with a killer tsunami, sucking into quicksand, catching unawares with tremors, playing gotcha with meteorites…

He kills frivolously too. There was this man walking merrily downhill in Nagrakata, northern West Bengal. A banded krait somehow wriggled out of the talons of an eagle flying overhead, landed on his head and escaped to freedom, but not before sinking its poison fangs on his neck Dracula-style.

But god was at his trivial – sadist, maybe – worst when he killed his wife earlier this week.

Unlike followers of single male-controlled religions, Hindus are used to gods who marry and sire children including mutants. Marital discord, albeit of the celestial kind, is thus understandable.

But no one expected Bhagaban to batter his wife to death for, hold it, putting too much salt in the dal (a runny, yellowed pulse dish).

Bhagaban is Assamese/Bengali for God.

Bhagaban Barman, 45 and a resident of Hengerabari locality in Assam capital Guwahati, used an elongated, rectangular piece of wood to smash wife Labanya’s head.

His wife-beating counterpart in eastern Assam’s No. 1 Torani village, Dipen Chutia, chose to be less violent. He forced a poisonous mix of the world’s hottest chillies (bhot jolokia that has no ghost as some journos addicted to wordplay claim) and some herb down wife Ritumoni Neog’s throat.

These are but two examples of crime against women on the rise in Assam, the ‘big brother’ among eight states in perceptibly more gender-friendly Northeast India. Many cases pertain to domestic violence, mostly dowry-related.

According to a report tabled in the 126-member Assam Assembly in 2009, the State recorded 20,155 cases of rape, murder and other crimes against women from the 2005-06 to the 2007-08 fiscal. Dowry-related violence claimed 119 women in 2007-08, up from 84 in 2005-06.

Many of the victims were Assamese – unnerving for a community that until a few years ago was fairly immune to bride-burning and other dowry-related violence.

Dowry in the Northeast is generally seen as a North Indian import, a malaise that arrived with settlers from the ‘mainland’. And like all imported stuff, it appears to have caught on.

A report in The Telegraph quotes Sumitra Hazarika, head of an anti-atrocity front, as saying how this menace has penetrated the Assamese society. The report adds that even tribal societies are affected. “There was a time when a Naga man would consider it a shame to accept even a handkerchief from the wife’s family,” it quotes Monalisa Changkija, editor of Nagaland Page.

Matrilineal societies of Meghalaya too aren’t immune to the malaise of wife-beating or terrorizing her for cash and kind. Fallout of consumerism and invasion of mainstream cultures, social scientists point out.

Only god, it seems, can help arrest this trend. A Devi, not Bhagaban.

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About rahconteur

A mid-career journalist who's worked horizontally across India - from Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat
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2 Responses to When god killed his wife

  1. Rimi says:

    Mr. Karmakar, I’ve publicised this link on my (admittedly limited) Facebook network. South Asia is not new to stories of abject cruelty to women, but every such story should be widely read, the better to combat them. Especially when they start spreading beyond their poisoned borders.

    I am writing to you for another reason, however. I will be returning home from the US this July to start my fieldwork with the Chinese community. Often, I’ve heard it said that the Chinese Indian live only in Calcutta, however, this is far from accurate. The only published study of the Chinese Indians done so far, however, was focused solely on the Hakka in Calcutta. While that was very important, I want my research to include the Chinese settled in Assam. Would you perhaps mind getting in touch via email, so we can talk a little bit more about the book you cover a few posts down?

    Best wishes,

    Rimi

  2. Rimi says:

    My informal email is sunkissed.raindrop@gmail.com. Please feel free to email me there.

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