20 Girls, 300 Boys



From Outlook India:

Avon Kanwar lives in fear. She is scared her food may be poisoned. She is afraid to sleep at night because she suspects she may be strangled. Avon, eight years old, is convinced her parents will kill her. “I don’t know where she hears such things,”says her father Sangh Singh, “We stopped killing girls in Devda long ago.”

But clearly this is no country for young women. A case of female infanticide was reported as recently as in the first week of April in this village near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. An anonymous complaint was lodged against a young couple, Gulab and Banne, for the suspected murder of their girl child a day after she was born. The grandfather, Inder Singh, ironically one of the few men in the village to have embraced the birth of girls in his family, claims his granddaughter died of “natural causes”. The principal medical officer at the hospital where she was born, however, says the child was “born healthy and not premature”. Probe a little, and the youth of Devda open up. Says 21-year-old Nehpal Singh: “Yes, girls are still killed, but so quietly that nobody would ever know. If a girl dies soon after being born, they say she fell ill, or that she was born premature.”

This is the first ever case of female infanticide that has officially been registered in Jaisalmer. “I haven’t ever seen a case of female infanticide being brought to our attention,” says deputy SP Pahar Singh. “On our part, we have taken suo motu cognisance of the matter and are treating it as a case of ‘suspicious death’.” The body of the infant, which had to be exhumed from an abandoned ground near Devda, was sent for a post-mortem. “Since the body was so heavily decomposed by that time, the cause of death could not be ascertained. So now we await the forensic report which will reveal whether the child was actually poisoned or not,” explains Singh.

So little Avon’s fears are not entirely imagined. Devda, a village of about 150 landed Bhati Rajput families, has just 20 girls, and 300 boys. In more than 110 years, the village community has hosted just two weddings, as there are so few girls to marry off. Jaisalmer itself has one of the worst sex ratios in the country—868 girls to 1,000 boys.