Buried as a baby, she fights for girls
Vijay Singh, TNN Mar 8, 2011, 03.49am IST
NAVI MUMBAI: Sunita Aralikar (53) can never forget the name of the Latur hamlet where she was buried alive by her illiterate father at just 16 days old after her mother died. Her maternal grandfather pulled her out of the tiny grave, in fact did more than that—he gave Sunita`s life purpose.
Today, she is an author and a well-known social activist in Latur, fighting evils such as female infanticide that nearly took her own life.
Sunita recently documented her incredible journey in her autobiography `Hirkanicha Birhad` (The House of Hirkani), written in Marathi.
Inaugurated last month by former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. Hirkani was a simple, brave milk-seller during Chhatrapati Shivaji`s regime who gained fame for scaling down the dauntingly steep mountain slope of Raigad Fort one night to return home to her crying child.
“I recalled Hirkani in my book because she had scaled a mountain for the love of her child. I too have faced challenges,” says Sunita. After matriculation, she fell in love with a social worker Dilip Aralikar and married him. She is now the president of the Mahila Congress in Latur.
“My mother died 15 days after I was born. And on the 16th day, my father took me near a pond in Tupadi village (Nilanga taluka of Latur) and buried me alive. He did not want me,” says the feisty activist.
Sunita, who learnt the dark truth when she was nine, says she owes her life and education to her grandfather, Kundalikrao Mane, who got wind of the planned killing and followed her father to Tupadi. “Latur then was a very backward place and I was born in a poor Dalit home. Those were dark ages, but my grandfather decided to educate me on his own,” she says.
“I am proud of my mother,” says Jamir Aralikar, the younger of Sunita`s two sons and a paediatrician at Sir J J Hospital in Mumbai. “After surviving the attempted infanticide, she now helps others fight social injustices like dowry, eve-teasing and casteism.”
In 1975, during the Emergency, Sunita and her husband were jailed for their “anti-establishment” stance. “Both my sons were less than three years old, so they, too, were in jail. I learned how to write a diary in prison after observing other female political prisoners. That`s when I realized the power of the pen,” she says.
Two years ago, Sunita met a Pune-based publisher, Rajan Khan, who encouraged her to write her autobiography. “If my story can motivate others, I`d be very pleased,” she says.