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For harmony and more, mothers- and daughters-in-law come together in Gujarat

Under the slogan ‘ek bija ne gamta rahiye’ (let’s keep liking each other), the daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law vowed to ease out differences between them and keep their houses in order.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2018 14:05 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
daughters-in-law,daughters,mothers-in-law
A sea of women, dressed in red, from various age groups thronged a party plot in the city. (HT Photo)

Huge gatherings of Patidars have become common in Gujarat over the last two-and-a-half-years. On January 29, Rajkot witnessed yet another congregation of the influential community. But, unlike the past rallies that focused on demanding quota benefits for the community, this had a difference.

A sea of women, dressed in red, from various age groups thronged a party plot in the city. The 30,000-strong crowd comprised daughters, mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law of the Kadva Patidar community.

Under the slogan ‘ek bija ne gamta rahiye’ (let’s keep liking each other), the daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law vowed to ease out differences between them and keep their houses in order.

The promise assumes significance given that 25% of domestic violence cases — according to state government data — result from a fallout of poor relations between mothers- and daughters-in-law.

The community is also plagued by a severe skewed sex ratio, which is said to be around 700-800 women against 1,000 men. The sex ratio of Gujarat is 919. Patidars have been running a Beti Bachao drive for a decade now.

Hoping that a mutual respect and affection between mothers- and daughters-in-law can help address various other social evils like dowry, harassment and female feticide, Patidar women sat through counselling sessions by prominent writers like Jay Vasavda and government officials, including the head of Abhayam — a government-run women’s helpline.

“Peace pact is a win-win situation for both saas (mother-in-law) and bahu (daughter-in-law). It not only helps bahu get the respect and rights she is entitled to that men in the family may try to curb, but also ensures that the saas won’t have to spend the last stages of her life in an old age home,” said Vijyaben Patel, president of Patel Seva Samaj (Women Wing).

She attended the event along with her daughter-in-law Kinjal, who said, “When the mother-in-law is by her side, a woman feels the strongest at home as well as in society. This helps her take on any challenge life throws her way.”

It was not a one-off event. The women have decided to take the message forward by turning it into a campaign. “After the gathering, we launched Samadhan Manch (redressal forum) by the women’s wing. The cell will meet twice a month where saas and bahu or husband and wife can come with their issues. We will try to resolve the issues through counselling,” said Vijyaben.

Manish Changela, who conceptualised the event, said they always knew one such meet “is never enough” to address the complicated issue. “But well begun is half done,” he said, adding, “What is important is that women from well-to-do families in Rajkot participated, indicating acknowledgment of the issue and willingness to address it. The problem gets worse when influential families try to keep the matter under wraps.”

“Through the write-ups and groups on social media, we intend to carry forward the message,” writer Vasavda said.

They have lined up more such conventions in other parts of Saurashtra. Talks are also on to make it part of temple construction drive by Umiya Dham in Ahmedabad under which a motorised rath will travel across Ahmedabad for a week, he said.

The community, known for its political clout, is trying to keep the drive a purely social. “There shouldn’t be any religious or political tone to it so that the drive does not lose its focus. At the Rajkot event, except for speakers, no community, religious or political leader were present,” Changela said.

According to Abhayam, such drives are the need of the hour. “In more than 25% of domestic violence cases we receive, a rift between female members of the family is the reason behind the fight. We used the platform to further our point of standing by each other,” said Tushar Bavarava, regional head (Saurashtra-Kutch), Abhayam.

The organisers had prepared a book of a collection of essays by prominent writers on the subject. Women, who went door to door for registration and distribution of the book, discussed the issue within small groups.

“A generation back, this was not such a big issue. We were just used to obey our elders out of respect. But with changing times, there is widespread awareness for individual’s rights. Now, a mother-in-law can’t take her daughter-in-law for granted. This is where the need to have harmony comes into play,” stressed Vijayaben.

First Published: Feb 11, 2018 13:48 IST