How a Kerala Muslim woman's accident turned into a communal debate on social media
Some days ago, a few regional newspapers had reported about a woman who had fallen into a river, after being thrown off a bike on which she was riding pillion with her husband at Thodupuzha in Idukki.
According to media reports, things took an unexpected turn when the locals who rushed in to help her were stopped in their tracks by the middle-aged woman’s persistent yells on how other than her Ikka (a Muslim term of respect for husband/elder), none should touch her. All this, while in the process of trying to save her own life!
Her injured husband who was no swimmer watched helplessly from the shore urging her to hold on to some water weeds nearby, till help arrived. It was reportedly only after much persuasion that an army man led her to safety.
The next day saw some newspapers and a few online news portals report the incident with much emphasis on what the woman had insisted on, and the fact that she was wearing a purdah.
Many soon rushed in with online taunts of absurd practices and religious extremism. That is when a group of supporters stepped in and termed it a case of blatant misreporting by the media.
What exactly happened?
In a statement given to VBC News -a local news channel, an eye-witness, said on air that the woman had indeed refused help, asking them not to touch her.
However, another eye-witness, Paul Mathew -professor of Kothamangalam MA College- posted on Facebook that the news reports were only partially true.
Paul says that in the first place, the woman was not drowning, as there was only knee-length water at the spot where she fell. He does admit that the lady did refuse the army man’s help, instead preferring to wait for her husband to come to her aid.
But Paul puts it down to the fact that this may have something to do with the couple being natives of the place and well-known in the locality, and attributes such reasoning to be the norm rather than the exception.
He also qualifies this with the added fact that the woman did not seem to be aware that she was standing right next to a spot where the waters ran deep. “It was only after Rahul (the army man) convinced her that he was just like her son did she take his outstretched hands and walked to safety,” Paul wrote.
Rahul too corroborated Paul’s version –as reported by Madhyamam newspaper- and confirmed that the woman kept telling him about how her husband would have come to save her. “She did not know that he had sustained injuries in the accident and was in no shape to help her,” he said.
Meanwhile the debate continues online.