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Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (July 18, 2002)

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (July 18, 2002)

I also think that the greater the violence, I don't see that as disheartening. Violence against women has increased because women are asserting their rights in many ways, walking out. If you think back on African-Americans, as they began to get their rights here, violence against them went up. In India we also have untouchablility, now called Dalit. And Dalit violence is rising even as their presence in the legislatures, as property owners, as at university is increasing. So violence should not just be seen as a negative index. I know I stand a little bit alone in saying this. I do not condone violence. But you have to read violence. And you have to see that it always goes up when the entrenched, vested interests are threatened, they will become more violent. So I actually think of rising violence as a bit of a silver lining and I say this soto voce.

Thank you.

I will recognize people who want to ask questions.

In some books I have read about India and colonial times, the distinction you made about property that is so important doesn't get brought out enough. Could you talk to the previous history of women's rights in India?

I drew a baseline from precolonial to colonial India using the Colonial Record. The British were not just taking revenue, but they were also deciding that Punjabis, who were tribal, martial, were like Scottish clans. They were at great pains to record what the clan custom might be. They collected customs and wrote them down as laws, but they also reinterpreted them. For instance in Punjab, wives are equal. The British called this primitive. They wiped out those rights, so you find that wives without children were given no rights. Through reading these, I could understand pre-colonial rights. This was oral, rendered into a document, mediated through British officers, so you get a very complicated picture.