Self-immolation was a direct execution of sati. Cold sati was also practised which included shaving the widow’s hair, restricted to wearing white saree, restricted from wearing jewelry, one meal a day, restricted from attending weddings and she is not supposed to meet anyone who starts for work or any auspicious event. Since India’s independence in 1947, at least 40 cases of sati were reported, of which almost twenty eight cases took place in Rajasthan, especially in the district of Sikar.
Europeans who traveled to India were highly impressed with the devotion of Hindu wives, as it was atypical and astonishing according to them. Despite all these admirations, the British continued to condemn sati with the intention of opposing a highly valued tradition just in order to offend them. Their act to prohibit it had the expected reaction from the elite high class section in Punjab when they tried to preserve or defend this practice thinking that it would sustain the pride of being a Hindu and an Indian.
Lord William Bentinck, governor-general of the East India company from 1828-1835, was influenced by the support of an Indian revolutionist Raja Ram Mohan Roy through his continued efforts to ban sati supported by his organization Brahmo Samaj. He was the reason for enforcing a law in 1829, which prohibited sati and promised heavy penalties to anyone proved guilty of perpetrating sati. Despite their efforts to forbid the practice of sati, there were continued episodes of sati in the following years of 1829.
Other Indian leaders who were concerned to ban sati were Dayanand Saraswathi through Arya Samaj and Mahatma Gandhi who directly condemned sati with no fear of condemnation against him from the public for going against the tradition. This evil practice was followed until the late 1980′s for more than a century after the statutory bodies prohibited it. Sati Prevention Act of 1987 and Rajasthan Sati prevention ordinance of 1987 brought fruitful efforts as the act was too hard with punishments such as death sentence or life imprisonment for anyone proved guilty of perpetrating it.
A group was formed to preserve the practice of sati; named “the Committee for the Defense of the Religion of Sati – Sati Dharmi Raksha Samti”, which had all the educated fundamentalists of Rajput men who were just twenties and thirties, grouped together to sit across the table to stop women from showing their real potential, as they have already realized that the active participation of any women in the outside world would pull down the participation of men. The agenda of the committee was to claim to legalise sati. It was a powerful tool for men at that point in time to emotionally blackmail women in the name of the family welfare, which naturally held women from stepping out for work. Sati is just a sign to demonstrate domination of men over women in India .
Rural areas in some part of India still support practices like sati, child marriage and other illegal practices just to follow the tradition irrespective of the pros and cons attached to such evil events. Kangaroo courts and anti-social acts like illegal marriages still continue to exist in rural parts of India, this indicates the absolute lack of education in the rural parts of India and gives us a hint on the reach of education in India.
The practice of sati was invariably practised even when laws were enforced to stop it. The most horrible point to be noted was that women volunteered to practise sati and they also encouraged the practice of sati to be compulsorily imposed on the widows, immaterial of the affected party’s consent towards it. Feminists in India were simply upset with the fact that sati was followed inviolably in most sectors of Rajastan, irrespective of the hard and stringent acts being enforced. Feminists in India took all possible efforts to articulate the value of life to the poor women in India. A practice which was followed for years and decades, which was inculcated to be a moral practice, which was taught to be honorably right with the grounds that life for a woman after her husband’s death is meaningless and insensible cannot be changed just like that. Indians were not all that broadminded to accept a radical shift or a paradigm change all of a sudden.
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