(Updated 0927 hrs, 15 Jun, 2021) After having endured the worst of COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant economic wrath in the past one-and-a-half years, India inches closer to celebrate its 74th independence anniversary in the coming August. To celebrate the country’s 75th Independence Day on August 15, 2022, the government had planned a series of events, aptly dubbed Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, spread over a period of 75 weeks, and the same was launched by the country’s Prime Minister in the month of March just gone by. It should have been a time to look back and reflect on how our republic rose memorably from the independence struggle against British colonialism and transformed itself into the democratic world’s fastest growing ‘large economy’.
In the last 70 odd years, India and its people have come a long way. The country and its people are ruled by a set of law enshrined in The Constitution. It guarantees six fundamental rights to the citizens and the foremost among them is the Right to Equality, which ensures that men and women are equal in the eyes of the law. These fundamental rights follow from the ancient Indian history and culture. In the Vedic times, women had every right that the men had. They studied religious literature, participated actively in religious discourses and some like Lopamudra, Maitreyi, Gargi, Ghosa and Sikata-Nivavari even wrote Vedic hymns.
The country has had glorious traditions of imparting respect to its women, who enjoyed high status in the society. Indian culture has been all about considering the women to be the source and epitome of strength, resilience, and power.But such idyllic ideas and moments are short lived and are regularly shattered by harsh reality. Looking deeply into Indian society, we can see it riven by numerous examples of social evils that have no place in a civilized and increasingly globalized world.
In the present incident that is recounted below, we can see an interplay of male chauvinism, patriarchy, gender inequality, the obsessive deification of false power, ingratitude for the armed forces and a complete disregard for every canon of jurisprudence of the land.
It all came to light with a tweet from a well known twitterati Ambreen Zaidi aka the ‘Feisty Faujan’ on 11th June 2021. She wrote, “An army wife living alone with two young kids, in Dwarka Sec 7, Crown Appts, is being shamelessly harassed by RWA,due to a misleading phone call. All her rights incl visitor rights hv bn takenaway,can’t even get repairs done. Husband is posted in Nagaland. Twitter please help.”
And sure N4M investigated, digging in to get to the core. The central character in this sad and harrowing tale is Mrs. Aarti Kohli, the daughter of a retired Air Force officer and wife of a serving officer of the Indian Army who is away on a field posting in the North-East. The lady is the mother to two young children. On the other hand, the two gentlemen, Mr. Jai Singh and Mr. Pawan Mathur, comprise the management committee (RWA) of Crown Apartments, Sector 7, Dwarka, New Delhi.
Mrs. Kohli had been staying with her father for the last four years to care for him since he had suffered a paralytic stroke in 2014. The reason for this was that her brother had allegedly abandoned his father seven years ago and severed all ties. This was when Mrs. Kohli and her elder sister shouldered the responsibility of caring for their father. Later, as the elder sister moved to another city, Mrs. Kohli shifted to the father’s apartment as the sole caregiver. All this while, the husband of the said lady stayed alone at his place of posting, away from his wife and children.
In April of the current year, as her husband moved to his present posting in the North-East, Mrs. Kohli rented an apartment in the same apartment complex as her father’s so as to store and keep her household goods and furniture. In the last week of the same month, her father left for his heavenly abode. The family could not even grieve him properly when the said management committee began its alleged harassment.
The lady’s husband, who had come home on leave for obvious reasons, had a chat with Mr. Jai Singh and Mr. Pawan Mathur and offered to discuss threadbare any issue that might have arisen due to the demise of Mrs. Kohli’s father but he was rebuffed. It seems as if these two men were biding their time, as in less than 36 hours after the officer’s departure, the lady was called to the RWA’s office to discuss the same issue but she rightly declined as she did not want to face these two men all alone. The next day, she along with her father in law, went for the meeting where they both were assailed with threats and intimidation of the vilest kind. The two gentlemen, visible examples of male chauvinists, screamed their hearts out on Mrs. Kohli in telling her that she had to vacate her father’s apartment as her brother was the actual owner post the father’s demise. Now, the cat was out of the bag! The shenanigans of Mrs. Kohli’s brother was the reason for the hot air bloating the innards of these two office bearers of the RWA.
All this despite the fact that Hindu Succession Act, 1956 clearly states that daughter coparcener has equal right to family property by birth. This action on the part of Mr. Jai Singh and Mr. Pawan Mathur was a needless interference into a family dispute which was completely uncalled for and demonstrates a total disregard for the law of the land.
Realizing that Mrs. Kohli was not the one to bow down to such threats or harassment tactics, the two RWA officials went on an overdrive and threatened to lock the lady, along with her children, inside the apartment only.
Completely unfazed and not afraid, Mrs. Kohli went to the local police station and filed a complaint against the RWA. She reported to the police officers present as to how the RWA was poking its upturned nose in a purely family dispute where it had no locus standi. The Delhi Police, as their tag line says “With You, For You, Always” listened to the lady’s complaint patiently and promptly dispatched an officer and his team to instruct the RWA that they do not have any legal grounds to interfere in a family dispute and the affected siblings were already in the process of settling the issue at the earliest.
But the RWA office bearers refused to see reason and have now allegedly resorted to preventing anyone from coming over to visit Mrs. Kohli at her apartment. This includes her father in law and other family members. As brought out by Ms Kohli, about two days back, she had engaged some labourers for some repair work in her apartment, but they were turned back from the building’s entrance by the security guard. Now, it seems that the lady and her children are under a virtual house arrest!
It looks like as if despite all this hullabaloo going for the past 4-5 days, the RWA office bearers are not ready to accept their folly and step back. Even today i.e. 14 June, Mrs. Kohli’s father in law was denied entry to the apartment block. In all this matter, the security guard is a minor player as he has to do the bidding of the management committee otherwise he faces the chopping block.
All the actions of the RWA apparently seem arbitrary and illegal and cannot face the heat in a court of law. Worried about the physical security and safety of his wife and children, Mrs. Kohli’s husband has today written a letter to Lt. Gen. V.K.Mishra, GOC, Delhi Area, seeking his indulgence in raising the matter to an appropriate level. Now, it looks like as if the culpable duo will face the full force of the law.
A tweet by Tahseen Poonawalla alongwith the letter can be seen here:
The law of the land is crystal clear about gender equality. In a judgment in 2017, an honourable Supreme Court bench said that “In a civilized society, male chauvinism has no room. The Constitution of India confers the affirmative rights on women and the said rights are perceptible from Article 15. When the right is conferred under the Constitution, it has to be understood that there is no condescension.”The bench further said that “A man should not put his ego or, for that matter, masculinity on a pedestal and abandon the concept of civility. Egoism must succumb to law. “
The truth of the matter is that some Indian men are male chauvinists though many others might not be as brazen about it. Another truth about Indian society is that today Indian women are hell bent on shattering the glass ceiling as they go about invading the last places of male domination with élan. They are working in the government, MNCs, IT companies and banks. They can be seen all around us working as corporate leaders, journalists, pilots, bankers, IT programmers and fashion designers. In short, they are working in fields that empower them socially and economically. They are breaking away from traditional male control and this is what Indian men fear and it is this fear that manifests itself as harassment, sexual or otherwise.
The crux of the matter is that the force of the law and the might of the institutions of the government must drill the fear of exemplary punishment into the collective heads of such men, so that they do not, even for a moment, dare to think themselves above the law and harass some hapless lady. We, the people of India, care about the common citizens of the country and need to do our best to prevent any sort of miscarriage of justice.