Wanton Wives and Widows: Offending Female Bodies in the Daroga Accounts of Priyanath Mukhopadhyay
Chapter 3 examines a few of Daroga Priyanath Mukhopadhyay’s “true crime” first person accounts of personally solved cases from Darogar Daftar in which women are victims of crimes like cheating, spousal assault, abduction and homicide. The writings about the investigation of these cases have been examined alongside similar archived cases of wife killing, assault and abduction culled from contemporary Bangla and English newspapers and court records. The stories that surface in the investigation around the evidence of the battered, brutalized, killed or abandoned female bodies undermine or nuance contemporary cultural stereotypes of so-called “Hindu” femininity either as impossibly virtuous or as pitiable and passive victims of untold suffering and of the “Hindu” home as a sacrosanct space. These accounts show how despite the gendered biases and stereotypes that shaped the putatively “objective” investigative process as well the narrating of it, the ejahars and jabaanbandis (statements) of the women as witnesses, reveal astonishing stories of how women had stepped out of prescribed roles, asserted sexual agency, formed unconventional bonds, and even manipulated the contradictions between patriarchal norms of conduct and colonial law.