Kiranjit Ahluwalia

Kiranjit Ahluwalia

Infobox Person
name = Kiranjit Ahluwalia

image_size = 241px
caption = Aishwariya Rai and Kiranjit Ahluwalia (l-r)
birth_date = 1955
birth_place = Chakkalal, Punjab, India
occupation = Human rights activist, author
children = Ravi and Sanjay Ahluwalia

Kiranjit Ahluwalia (born 1955) is an Indian woman who came to international attention after burning her husband to death in 1989 in response to ten years of profound physical, mental, and sexual abuse.cite web|url=|title=Killer given domestic violence award|date=November 12, 2001|source=BBC News|author=Cherie Booth]

A decade of apparent abuse

In 1979, at the age of 23, Ahluwalia left her home of Chakkalal in Punjab to travel to the United Kingdom after marrying her husband--a man she had only met once. For ten years, she suffered domestic abuse of profound severity, including physical violence, food deprivation, and marital rape.cite web|url=,,2049522,00.html|title=I wanted him to stop hurting me|date=April 4, 2007|author=Staff Writer]

When Ahluwalia looked to her family for help, they reprimanded her, saying it was a matter of family honour that she remain with her husband. She ultimately tried running away from home, but was found by her husband and brought back into her abusive environment. Deepak apparently was suffering from some sort of undiagnosed mental illness. During her marriage, Ahluwalia had two sons, Ravi and Sanjay, who often bore witness to the violence she endured.

Deepak's Murder

One evening in the spring of 1989, Ahluwalia was allegedly attacked by her husband later accusing him of he trying to break her ankles and burn her face with a hot iron, apparently trying to extort money from her extended family. Later that night while her husband lay sleeping, Ahluwalia fetched some petrol from the garage. She poured it over the bed and set it alight, and ran into a garden with her three-year-old son. [cite web|url=|title=Abused wife who killed her husband shocks Bollywood|author= James Rossiter|date=April 3, 2007]

In a later interview she claimed: "I decided to show him how much it hurt. At times I had tried to run away, but he would catch me and beat me even harder. I decided to burn his feet so he couldn't run after me." She also claimed: "I wanted to give him a scar like those he had given me, to have him suffer pain as I had"

Deepak suffered 40 per cent burns and died 10 days later in hospital from complications of severe burn injuries. Ahluwalia, who could only speak broken English at the time, was arrested and ultimately charged with murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at Lewes Crown Court on December 7, 1989.cite web|url=|author=Joanne Payton|date=April 8, 2007|title=Express India Interview with Kiranjit Ahluwalia] At the time, her counsel made little of the violence she had endured, while the prosecution suggested that Ahluwalia was motivated by jealousy due to her husband's repeated affairs.

outhall Black Sisters and inadequate counsel

Her case eventually came to the attention of the Southall Black Sisters (SBS) and Ahluwalia became a symbol of the repression of Asian women in Western society as the group pressed for a mistrial. Ahluwalia had her life sentence remanded in 1992 on grounds of insufficient counsel--Ahluwalia had not been aware that she could plead guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. In addition, it was brought to light that she was suffering from severe depression when she lashed back at her husband, which her counsel argued had altered her decision making abilities at the time.

Ultimately, Ahluwalia's struggle helped raise awareness of domestic violence in families of non-English speaking immigrants to Western countries, as well as changing the laws for domestic abuse victims in the United Kingdom. Her case, known in British legal textbooks as "R v Ahluwalia", changed the definition of the word 'provocation' in cases of battered women, so as to reclassify her crime as manslaughter instead of murder.

Film, autobiography and awards

Ahluwalia was honored in 2001 at the first Asian Women Awards for helping to bring to light a subject that had been kept behind closed doors in the patriarchal Indian culture. She has also since written an autobiography with co-author Rahila Gupta, "Circle of Light". [cite web|url=|source=The Telegraph|author=Amit Roy|title=An eye for an eye|date=June 12, 2005]

Her story was fictionalized in the controversial film "Provoked", which was recently screened at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. Naveen Andrews, well known for his role as Sayid Jarrah on the television series "Lost", plays her husband Deepak. Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai plays the role of Ahluwalia.

During the screening at Cannes, Ahluwalia sat next to Rai, holding her hand and sobbing during the most violent scenes.

ee also

* "Provoked"
* Domestic Violence
* British Asians
* Cannes Film Festival
* Women's Rights


External links

* [ Amazon UK Page for "Circle of Light" by Kiranjit Ahluwalia and Rahila Gupta]
* [ Stop Violence Against Women] , Amnesty International
* [ Services for Domestic Violence Victims and Their Families]
* [ National Network to End Domestic Violence]
* [ National Coalition to End Domestic Violence]
* [ Family Violence Prevention Fund]
* [ National Domestic Violence Hotline (US)]
* [ The Marjaree Mason Center] Shelter-based Domestic Violence Program
* [] US based legal resources for survivors
* [ A list of organizations for women whose lives have been affected by abuse]

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