By Pratik Sinha
Senior Gujarati Journalist Prashant Dayal has written the following letter on behalf of Sonal Chauhan, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, based on his conversation with her. Written on August 30, 2016, the day the Prime Minister landed in Gujarat after a gap of two years, the original letter is in Gujarati (click HERE to read)
Respected Narendra Bhai,
I will not address you as ‘Saheb’ as we still consider you as ours despite you becoming the Prime Minister. You’ve come to Ahmedabad today and I’m in Ahmedabad’s Nari Sanrakshan Gruh. Though I belong to Vadia village, my current address is the Nari Sanrakshan Gruh in Odhav area of Ahmedabad. You must have heard of my village Vadia, it is 70 kms from Palanpur on the highway from Palanpur to Tharad. Even though my village’s name is dis-reputed, every single night many reputed and well known people visit my village, and sometimes they even come in cars with red beacons. My work is to satisfy my customers. My grandmother and my mother also did the same work, and if I happen to have a daughter in the future, possibly she would also be forced to do the same work.
Since I’m talking about my daughter, I also want to let you know that my mother accepted this profession thinking that it is her fate, a decision which I never approved of, which is why I have run away from my home. I’m not going to do this ‘dhandha’ any more. If I ever have a daughter, to ensure that she’s not thrust into this hell, I have left Vadia. I wanted to go to school, I wanted to study, I wanted to play, but that was not in my destiny. I remember when I still used to play ‘Ghar Ghar’ in the courtyard of my house and one day I started menstruating, I was in pain, I had no clue what was happening but strangely my mother seemed happy. A few days later, my mother told me that I also have get into the ‘dhandha’ (dhandhe par baithna padega). I used to cry, and I would refuse but I was beaten up every time I refused. I did not have the courage to withstand the battering I received everyday.
Please try and imagine my situation.. I did not know any of these men, I did not love any of them… Can you imagine how these men treated me whose only priority was to extract full value of the money they had paid? I hadn’t even figured out what life is and what it meant but I never imagined that life could be so incredibly cruel. In my village, this happens every day, every hour. And I’m not the only girl in my village… I have friends, I have sisters, and each one of them is into the same ‘dhandha’. None of them want to be in this ‘dhandha’, they want to study and find their own ‘Rajkumar’ with whom they can make a life for themselves. Now that we are talking about society, I want to tell you that we always know who our mother is, but we never know who our father is. I don’t think even our mothers know who the fathers are.
I have brothers too. The men of my village haven’t worked for years. They stand on the highway near Vadia and they look out for prospective customers. They are our pimps (dalals). Even some money lenders in my village are essentially pimps. They had lent some money to my mother and my relatives, and in order to pay the interest amount, for our entire lives, we have had to satisfy many men. I have come to the breaking point of my endurance (sahanshakti) now and I can’t tolerate this anymore. At first, I thought of going to the Tharad police station, but then I thought to myself that at the end of the day they are all men. And I have seen how the pimps of my village gather at this police station regularly, I have seen these pimps with police officers and politicians. I had heard in form of a saying that police do not extract money from the butchers, the dead and the prostitutes. However the police in my village have no hesitation in extracting ‘prostitution money’. I wonder if they ever think of their own daughters while going about their business.
Anyway, there is no point of blaming the police since we have lost the ability to fight for many years now. However, I have decided to fight now. Problem is that till the time that someone doesn’t die and there’s a public outrage, the establishment remains deaf. My life is also in danger. In order to take me back to Vadia so that I can be pushed back into the ‘dhandha’, my own relatives and pimps from the village are always on the lookout for me. How long can I keep hiding? But I have decided, I will die but I will never go back to that ‘dhandha’. Possibly, if I die, the establishment might get shaken a little and hopefully, other women like me in Vadia will finally get the right to live like a regular woman.
Narendra bhai, I’m not begging before you. I’m asking for my rights, I want to live my life like a regular human, like a regular woman. At least, give me my rights. You talk about ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, your intentions are noble, but my Vadia village and I are never in anybody’s radar. Dalits come out to fight for Dalits and Patels come out to fight for Patels, but look at my misfortune, I was a prostitute and prostitutes have no caste, no community. I am an abhorred element of this society who disgusts people during the day and is liked and wanted during the night. I hope that after you listen to my ‘Mann Ki Baat’, you will do something.
I have already written quite a bit, I don’t think you need any more explanation because you know how to read India’s mind and I’m also one such India ( Hindi – Aap bharat ka mann padhna jaante ho aur mein bhi ek bharat hoon). And well, you’ll sit on a plane and fly off to Delhi, but thats okay because chief minister Vijay Rupani had also accompanied you and I have heard that he’s a good man.. I’d be glad if you let him know my thoughts and it’d be appreciable if other girls from Vadia can be helped…
That is all I wanted to request, because there is nothing more I can do besides requesting. Because I’m a prostitute. (Hindi – Bas itni hi vinanti thi, kyonki vinanti karne ke sivay main aur kuch nahin kar sakti. Kyonki mein Dhanda karne wali stree hoon.)
Name: Sonal Chauhan (Age: 20)
Village: Vadiya, Tehsil: Tharad, District: Banaskantha
Current Address: Nari Sanrakshan Gruh, Odhav, Ahmedabad.
Letter dated: 30 August 2016