Satyamev Jayate or Truth alone triumphs?


Actor Aamir Khan, the host and co-producer (with his movie director wife Kiran Rao) of the TV show Satyamev Jayate or Truth alone Triumphs. The show comprises of thirteen different topics. The first episode highlights the cruel practice of female foeticide due to husbands’ and their families’ preference for male-children. PHOTO/Now Public

Daughters are Precious

The South Asians’ craze for male children found a powerful weapon in the form of ultrasound technology in the 1990s. India’s already unequal ratio of 947 girls to 1000 boys in 1991 widened to 927 girls for 1000 boys, a decade later. 2011 saw 914 girls vis a vis 1000 boys. The abortion business turned into a huge Rs. 1,000 crore industry (US$ 244 million). This unethical tradition has turned a woman into a child-producing farm without any consideration for her mental, emotional, and physical health. As if all these cruelties are not enough, she is then wrongly blamed for not producing a boy. The fact is, as Aamir Khan points out, that it is the man whose sperm plays a determining role whether the foetus will turn into a male or female.

The host also punctured the generally held belief that this heinous custom is practiced by the lower strata. The financially well-to-do and/or highly educated people are not immune from this evil either. As a matter of fact, the foeticide began in big cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, and Chandigarh and among rich people.

The three victims whom Khan interviews on the program are: Amisha Yagnik from Gujarat, Parveen Khan from Madhya Pradesh, and Dr. Mitu Khurana from the Indian capital Delhi.

Yagnik went through six forced abortions in eight years before she decided to leave. The doctors she was taken to had turned the common greetings in Gujarat such as “Jai Shri Krishna” or “Victory to Lord Krishna” and “Jai Mataji ki” or “Victory to Mother [Goddess]” as code words for a boy and girl, respectively.

Parveen suffered multiple abortions and mutilation when her husband ate her face. (See pictures at 17:41 in the video.)

Khurana suffered mental torture but was able to move in with her parents in time and was thus saved from any abortions. Her mother-in-law (a retired vice principal of a school) had once volunteered to carry the cot, with one of the twin daughters in, down the stairs. What she instead did was put the cot on the floor and kick it down the stairs. Because of the blanket covering the child she didn’t notice that the child was buckled up; the child was saved. (Her husband is an orthopedic surgeon, her father-in-law is a history professor at Delhi University, one of his husband’s sister is PhD in mathematics and the other one is a school teacher.)

The show has been compared with the Oprah Winfrey Show. Three episodes have been aired but this article is based on the first episode as the writer has not watched the other two. Unlike Oprah, Khan has avoided over-dramatization.

Aamir Khan

When Khan was informed by an interviewer of people’s criticism about his brief interludes with different causes, his answer was not very forthcoming:

“I find it a very faulty critique. It’s actually your desire of seeing me as a full time, 24X7 social activist. I am not that. It’s not what I claim to be. I can agree, support, endorse but I can’t leave my job which is films.”

Very few people are 24/7 activists. Most activists have other passions and interests. It would be foolish to expect 24/7 activism from Khan. He is in the film-making business and has been fortunate enough to be a superstar. However, when he is dealing with such a serious issue of life and death, and for which he is being paid a huge sum of Rs. 3 crore for each episode, people do expect a bit of an activism from Khan. Most people wouldn’t want him to quit his job–he is an excellent actor. But when someone shows the courage to tackle such a tragic and media/government/society-neglected and commercially unpromising issue, it is natural for people to think that the person doing this great work must be very serious about this issue, and would devote a bit more time to enhance awareness among more people about sex-selective abortions and putting pressure on people in power to eliminate this curse.

Aamir Khan takes up social, political, and economic issues in his home productions or works in such films. Peepli Live, his home production, was a film about farmer suicides. But instead of going into the causes of this issue, it was turned into a satire. Of course, it was a well made film and you’ll enjoy it if you’re unaware of the fact that in a span of about a decade and a half over 200,000 debt ridden farmers have committed suicide due to the pressure of the market forces. Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti, the Nagpur-based farmer’s advocacy group pointed out that the movie trivialized such a serious issue.

The solution to foeticide, which Khan termed as “jadoo ki chharhi” or “magic wand” is to write to the authorities to do something about this issue. Such a simple solution.

Can 65 minutes and “jadoo ki chharhi” change much?

With so many ills bedeviling India and the gradual desensitization of people to such issues, it is extremely difficult to draw people’s attention. So when someone succeeds to take that issue to national TV, people must be grateful. However, in today’s world where life has become busy with lots of problems, and where most of the people want to be in the news by any means, an hours program can make people cry and think about the issue (but not for long.) The diversions are many, from Poonam Pandey’s stripping announcements to Veena Malik’s daring acts.

The two main hindrances to elimination of this plague include the degree to which it is embedded in the culture and the commercialization of the issue. As researcher and social activist Ram Babu Bhatt (at 28:39 in the video) points out in the program, the people involved in this business do work in a “packaged” form–that is, doing the ultra sound as well as the abortion. They may even lie. If they say the foetus is a boy, they’ll get Rs. 20,000 and the client will be gone. If they lie that the foetus is a girl, they can make money out of an abortion.

A one-hour program, publicity, discussion, and writing letters is not enough to solve a problem.

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

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