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Support for future Shraddha Walkars

Support for future Shraddha Walkars

Details of the Shraddha Walkar murder case have gripped and quite frankly sickened the whole nation. The 27-year-old was allegedly strangled to death by her live-in partner Aftab Poonawalla, who used a fridge to store her remains after chopping her up into 35 pieces.

Based on reports, the couple met through a dating app when they were living in Mumbai. Walkar’s parents objected to the relationship so she left home and moved in with Poonawalla. She was estranged from her family when the two moved to Delhi. Poonawalla was a chef-turned-food blogger with a reasonably popular Instagram account where he—ironically—regularly displayed his support for women’s rights. Mainstream media describes him as “woke”. 

Walkar’s friends have told the police of repeated instances of physical and emotional abuse leading up to May this year when she wanted to move out but didn’t because Aftab emotionally blackmailed her and said he would die by suicide if she left him. When Walkar stopped communicating with her friends for over two months, they reached out to her family and her father filed a police complaint. Poonawalla was arrested and he confessed to the murder in custody, six months after the crime was committed. 

Apart from the grotesque details of the murder, the reason why this crime has horrified so many of us is that our social circles are full of people who have similar life trajectories that don’t make us blink twice: a chef, a food blogger, a young woman rebelling against her parents, a couple who met on a dating app, those who chose to live in or couples who have abusive relationships. This could just as easily be someone we know. 

It’s also why most of us were horrified when sanctimonious politicians, self-righteous news anchors and the all-knowing uncles of WhatsApp started blaming the victim for her choices and turned the Shraddha Walkar murder case into a cautionary tale. 

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One politician blamed educated women. In an interview with a TV channel, he said, “These incidents are happening with all those girls who are well-educated and think they are very frank and have the ability to make decisions about their future. Why are they living in live-in relationships?” Social media abounded with pleas for parents to be “ stricter and firmer” with their daughters and not allow them to use dating apps or have live-in relationships.  The argument is that living in, using dating apps, or even being educated, drives women to “think” for themselves. 

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