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The Silence and the Storm: Narratives of Violence against Women in India

Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | English Non-fiction

The Silence and the Storm: Narratives of Violence against Women in India

Author: Kalpana Sharma
Publisher: Aleph Book Company

Award Category: English Non-fiction
About the Book: 

From the rape of Mathura, a young tribal girl, by two policemen in desaiganj, Maharashtra, in 1972, to the brutal sexual assault and murder of an eight-year-old girl in kathua, Kashmir, in 2018, The narrative around violence against women in India has barely changed. While laws have been reformed, societal structures that perpetuate and even justify this violence have remained the same over the decades. Kalpana Sharma, who has written on gender issues for over thirty years, goes deep into the subject in the silence and the storm. She argues that violence against women is not restricted to sexual assault, rape, domestic violence and child sexual abuse. What of the violence that developmental policy and Environmental destruction wreaks on women—on their health, on their workload, on their mobility? Poor women lose their lands, their livelihoods and access to common resources like forests and rivers. Their daily lives, already burdened, become close to unbearable. There is also the violence in which women are often collateral damage. In conflict zones, men take up arms on behalf of the state or an ideology but the cost is not just loss of life on both sides, but also the trauma inflicted on women caught in the middle. Sexual violence against women in India is also inevitably linked with the kind of politics that dominates today—sectarian politics that feeds on, breeds, encourages and inflames societal divisions. And, as always, in the battle between warring groups, women pay the price. In her book, Sharma provides the necessary perspective to understand violence against women in India in the larger context of the politics and economics of the country. Her passionate, empathetic and cogently argued account deepens our understanding of the violence that Indian women have had to endure for decades.

About the Author: 

Kalpana Sharma is an independent journalist and author based in Mumbai. In over four decades as a journalist, she has worked with Himmat Weekly, the Indian Express, the Times of India and The Hindu and as Consulting Editor with Economic and Political Weekly. She is the author of Rediscovering Dharavi: Stories from Asia’s Largest Slum (2000) and has edited Single by Choice: Happily Unmarried Women (2019), Missing: Half the Story, Journalism as if Gender Matters (2010). She has also co-edited Whose News?: The Media and Women’s Issues (1994/2006) and Terror Counter-Terror: Women Speak Out (2003).


‘The book is based on my personal experiences as a journalist addressing gender. It is not an academic exercise. Not does it aim to be an omnibus on the history of Indian women’s movement. Through what I have observed, commented on and reported, I am putting forth the argument that not much has changed up these thirty years and that the cord of violence that binds women’s history in contemporary India seems almost indestructible.’
- Kalpana Sharma


...the narrative of violence against women in India has barely changed. When there’s an assault or rape, it is followed by an outpouring of anger but then a weak system usually allows the perpetrators off the hook till another heinous crime grips our imagination.
-The Hindu

Backed with solid research, the book aims to decipher the deep-rooted mindsets in our society that impact the very perception of a women along with their role in our society. sharma quotes statistics from research and concludes her theories with proper details. her language is lucid, which ensures the points raised are not only understood but also thought upon further.

The media’s role endorses the hierarchy of violence: only those cases with sufficient drama for middle class audiences are highlighted, everything else is embalmed in silence. Business as usual for some, a nightmare without end for others. Despite the uphill battle, the author suggests that there can be different endings. For that, however, a healthy conversation between genders has to occur. This book provides the perfect opening.

Bilkis Bano's story is one of those stories from the 2002 Gujarat carnage that few can forget. A young Muslim woman, six months pregnant, runs for her life from village when rampaging mobs attack it on 28 February. She has with her a three-year-old daughter, her mother and other relatives. They move out of their village under the cover of darkness and hide in a field, hoping to escape. Instead, the next morning they are confronted with a mob of twenty to thirty men carrying swords and sickles who assault and gang-rape the four women, including Bilkis and her mother, kill many of the others, and kill her three-year-old daughter by “smashing” her on the ground. Of the seventeen who left the village, only three survived, the bodies of eight were found and six are still missing.” As Kilpana 's next line says, “The horror does not end there”.
But for more one has to read the book, full of real stories, with facts and without bias.
-The Week

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