The block development officer (BDO) in Amravati’s Teosa taluka had promised to help Bhavnatai Patil (name changed) get compensation for her husband’s suicide. Hence, when she went to meet him at his office the next time, she did not suspect anything to be amiss. But minutes after she reached, he allegedly forced himself on her. She fought back and hit him before escaping.
In Amravati’s suicide-ridden villages, tales abound of the suffering inflicted on the widows of farmers who have killed themselves because of the agrarian crisis in the region.
While candidates from national parties in the district slug it out ahead of the April 10 polls in suicide-hit villages in the state, farmers’ widows continue their battles.
In Amravati’s villages, tales abound of the suffering inflicted on the widows of farmers who have killed themselves because of the agrarian crisis in the region. Stuck between a state that is apathetic to their plight and a society that is insensitive to their emotional needs, these widows often end up fighting several battles.
According to Aarti Bais from the Apeksha Homeo Society, who works extensively with such widows, it is worse for those widowed in their 20s. Fearing society’s reaction if they remarried, these women seldom seek companionship.
“After the husband’s death, they cannot forge new relationships with men. Even if they make friends with other women, they cannot share everything since they all belong to the same village.”
Many face harassment from those they confide in, like the inlaws. “Young widows have often been sexually exploited by the father-in-law or the brother-in-law. Often, their maternal families refuse to take them back, so they have nowhere to go,” says Bais.
Bais adds that many men in the village change the way they look at a young widowed woman. “There are deliberate transgressions when they speak to her. She is also subjected to intense scrutiny by the village. Each step she takes attracts close attention.”
A patriarchal mindset isn’t the only obstacle. Often, insensitive authorities cause serious financial problems. After her husband Sanjay killed himself by consuming poison, Sangeeta Dodke, 33, who got married at 20, had to take charge of the house. Even though the suicide was three years ago, she is yet to receive compensation for it. She saw a ray of hope with Sanjay’s insurance policy. But she has to submit his body’s post-mortem report to claim the money. The local police, however, claim they can’t find it.
Gajanan Kale, another member of the Apeksha Homeo Society, says such roles are tough for women who have never stepped out of their homes. “When faced with extreme situations, they break down.”
But in Saavla most widows are stoic. “At first, they depend on authorities for help. But when it doesn’t come, they realise the need to move beyond the tragedy and take charge of their life,” said Kale.