Respected Mr. Neemuchwala, Mr. Mukherjee, and Mr. Malkani,
Each day, every day, across your many offices around the globe, you all must be receiving numerous letters and correspondences. This is unlike any of them. This letter is unlike any other I have written in my life. It is one I hope never to write again.
A beautiful young soul left our midst. But her death was not a natural one. Twenty-six-year old Bhavya Handa had been married for just over four months. She was a bright young techie and had been working with Wipro in Bangalore for a short while. On April 8, 2017, she died a gruesome, painful death. The end of a vibrant young woman, a software professional, in a pool of blood. Bhavya’s husband, Mohit, has been arrested and is now behind bars.
Bhavya had met her Mohit when they both had been in the employ of HCL. A four-year-long courtship and a big, fat Punjabi wedding inexorably linked the two lives. Mohit Verma, his sister Rajini Gera and brother-in-law Dheeraj Gera told the police that it was a case of suicide.
Bhavya’s family, friends, and colleagues refuse to believe that a strong-willed woman like her would have ended her life. Bhavya’s mother claims that dowry demands started soon after marriage. In fact on the very day of her death, Bhavya was to collect Rs 40,000 from a family friend, to meet her husband’s demands, her mother claims.
Bhavya’s friends and family raise pertinent questions that warrant answers. While Whitefield police shall do their very best, it is upon Bhavya’s numerous friends and her beloved family to collect evidence and hand it over to law enforcement. Rajini and Dheeraj, who were taken into police custody with Mohit, are absconding. Mohit is an employee of PWC India and Dheeraj is an employee of CISCO.
The point of this letter is not only to narrate the sordid tale of Bhavya’s death, but to raise some important questions that have to be asked at some point.
We’re modern, we’re progressive, we’re educated, we’re strong. At least that is what we have been telling ourselves. We, the urban folk, who educate our daughters and teach them to be fearless. We, the Indians, who believe that IT has been the biggest boon to our country. We, the parents who congratulate ourselves, when our daughters land high paying jobs with major IT companies.
But have we really, truly changed? As a nation, as a society?
Do we still treat our womenfolk differently?
Are we routinely failing our daughters, sisters, colleagues, friends?
Do we protest when the groom’s family insists on a lavish wedding instead of opting for a court marriage as suggested by the bride?
Do we teach our daughters to deal with dowry demands despite years of courtship?
Have we learnt to identify signs of domestic abuse and violence in our neighbourhoods, our workplaces?
Do employers encourage office romance as an employee retention tool?
Do we dare protest when a woman, any woman is abused in any form?
IT is a gender-sensitive industry. That much, we must admit. A young woman staying back at work overnight to complete her project will still raise eyebrows. A savvy young girl, who is capable of getting herself hired by some of the greatest IT companies in the country, may still have been a victim of dowry harassment. And that is the ugly truth of our world. Our daughters are still vulnerable – despite the education, the legal protection, the progressive outlook we have adopted – that is our reality.
How far have we come from being a land of snake charmers? That is now for us to decide. The transition from “What can we do?” to “What will we do?” will decide the future of millions of young women like Bhavya. And by ‘we’ I mean all, not only individuals, but conscientious corporates as well. Bhavya’s friends and family have closed ranks, started to collect evidence that shall point to the truth of her life and death.
But will major corporations like CISCO, PWC, and Wipro do their bit?
There will be those who know Bhavya, Mohit, and Dheeraj in these organizations. There will be snitches of conversations that can help reveal the truth, there must be friends, colleagues, coworkers who can point the way. Will they step up?
Mr Neemuchwala, sir, will you lend Bhavya your unflinching support? She had been an employee of Wipro for a very short while. By committing to stand by her, even after she has left us, you shall be inspiring the hundreds of young men and women who work in your offices with lessons of loyalty.
Mr Mukherjee and Mr Malkani, standing up for a just cause can often be a difficult thing. Standing up to our friends, all the more difficult. But it is these challenges that define us, show the world what we are made up of, what we represent.
This is my appeal to you, your organisation, and to the thousands you employ to come forward and show Bhavya your support. Share any information that may seem relevant to her death.
There is a need for each of us to introspect and decide if we shall let the lessons that Bhavya’s death teaches us go unheeded, or if we want to transform the anguish into action.
*(Bhavya Handa interned with Mapsofindia.com.)