“I decided to burn his feet so he couldn’t run after me
At the age of 23, with a heart full of dreams and hopes Kiranjit Ahluwalia moved to United Kingdom imagining a long and happily married life with Deepak. However no sooner than her henna faded did the abuse begin. In her words “He would push me about, yank my hair, hit me and drop heavy pans on my feet. I was treated like a slave. He would not allow me to drink black coffee or eat chillies, for the simple reason that I enjoyed them. But I was so frightened of him that I didn’t say anything. I often lay awake at night next to him because I was too frightened to sleep.
Tolerating physical and emotional abuse became a routine for her and when she asked her parents for help and support, begging everyone around to help her with a divorce, she was told to stay put as it would bring shame and disgrace to the family. With no support she continued to be a victim of abuse. The physical and emotional abuse grew to include marital rape when she refused sex; Deepak believed it was a wife’s duty to be available in bed for her husband irrespective of her state
10 years later, one day she retaliated with all her might when Deepak threatened to burn her face with a hot iron after she refused to give him money. Later that day when he felt asleep, she poured petrol on his feet and set them on fire. It was not with the intention of killing him, but, as she says “I decided to show him how much it hurt. At times I had tried to run away, but he would catch me and beat me even harder. I decided to burn his feet so he couldn’t run after me.” Five days post the incident Deepak passed way and what followed is something that made history, something that will always be considered an example in British legal history.
After she was charged with the murder of her husband, the Southall Black Sisters, an Asian Feminist organisation came forward to her support, they arranged for legal support for her and ran campaigns to gather public support in both Asian communities and otherwise. She got a lot of support from all over and the murder charge was changed to manslaughter in what is considered a historical judgment.
Kiranjit went from being a scared and scarred victim to a strong and confident survivor many women today look upto for strength. Kiranjit later co-authored her heart breaking yet inspiring biography with Rahila Gupta called “The Circle of Light”. The book was also later made into a film called ‘Provoked” starring Aishwaraya Rai as Kiranjit.
She was also honoured in 2001 at the Asian Women awards for helping to bring to light domestic violence, a subject that is not talked about often in Indian culture.
Today she lives with her two sons, juggling between paid and volunteer work and giving support and courage to other victims, helping them turn into survivors just as she did.
In her words, “I want to show the women who are suffering that they are not weak. We are hard workers, we are strong. Women can do anything, and we can do it without men”