JLF: We Just Want To Keep The Man Above To Suppress The Woman: Harinder Sikka, Whose Book Inspired ‘Raazi’
- IWB Post
- January 29, 2019
The year 2018 saw many hit films, and one of them was Raazi, starring Alia Bhatt. We saw Alia as Sehmat, sacrificing her future for her country, taking risks, and even killing people at the expense of her humanity that she so cherished. The film was based on Harinder Sikka’s novel Calling Sehmat, the true story of a woman who gave up literally everything for India and was never lauded for the same by her country.
“Not everybody is a traitor. My mother wasn’t”- said Samar Syed, Sehmat’s son, when he heard Retired Lt. Commander Harinder Sikka lashing out in anger at the fact that Pakistani war forces seemed to have insider info of Indian war plans during the Kargil war. He was covering the war as a freelance journalist and felt that there were traitors among the army who were not faithful to their country.
For Samar, his mother’s story was an inspiration he lived by, and to hear patriots being blamed as traitors was hard for him. It was through him that Sikka came to know about Sehmat, the selfless Kashmiri Indian girl who was sent to Pakistan as a spy and who never allowed herself to lead a happy life, for she remained guilty forever for killing innocents for her country.
The last day of the Jaipur Literature Festival saw Sikka recounting this very heart-wrenching story to a crowd of hundreds who took a collective gasp when he shared that Sehmat had died in her sleep last year in April – joining the list of warriors who remained unsung.
“Well, she wanted to be unsung, never known, never appreciated for her deeds. After coming back to India, she lived in Abdul’s house, the loyal servant of her in-laws she had to kill. She felt like she was, at last, making an attempt to make her wrongs right by staying in his house, not letting it be destroyed with time. She never married, though she had someone who loved her immensely,” Sikka shared.
“She always said that she had the blood of innocents on her hands and thus had no right to lead a happy life,” he added.
As the curious questions I wanted to ask him were nowhere near finished, I approached him, following his session:
IWB: You said that Sehmat never wanted to be awarded or appreciated for her role as a brave patriot but there are other women patriots out there that rarely get the recognition they deserve. Why?
Harinder: When we say ‘freedom fighter” or patriot, the image we get is that of a man, never a woman. It is because of the mentality and perception that society has set since ages. Even Guru Nanak once said, “Why to demean her, the one who gives birth even to the kings?” But where do the maximum girl child infanticides occur? Punjab and Haryana. Why? Because we don’t want to understand and live by what Nanak said but all we want is to sell his words to make money.
We just want to keep the man above to suppress the woman. And that’s why even ‘patriotism’ has become a male chauvinist word, so how can we accept that women are brave, even braver than the men who prefer to dominate them?
IWB: So, what role did women play in the India-Pakistan war?
Harinder: They were the base. As we know, behind every successful man there is a mother, sister, wife or friend. If that woman was not there, then the army men won’t be there. These women give us the motivation, the inspiration to fight on the lines. My mother, when I had joined the army, told me, “That if you were to serve in the front, make sure that you get a bullet on your chest, not on your back.”
Women are our foundation and when we demean them, refuse to accept their worth, we are risking to shake our own roots. Do you think that the government during the 1970s wasn’t aware of Sehmat’s sacrifices? Yes, they were, they just ignored her for she was a woman. Had it been a man in her place, he would have been honored with the Bharat Ratna by now.