The Story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia - The Woman Who Sparked the Fire for Women’s Rights

Bollywood industry constantly fuels the box office each year with a variety of movies ranging across various genres. Mainstream genres include romance, comedy, horror and action. 

Let us now steer into themes involving realistic representations of mental health for a change and find out whether these subjects have been handled with the required responsibility. 

Fast-forwarding into the list of such films, an underrated movie that needs more focus beyond the on-screen portrayal is the biographical drama called 
Provoked: A True Story starring Aishwarya Rai.

Provoked is a true story based on the life of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, a Punjabi woman who relocated to London post her coerced marriage with Deepak Ahluwalia. The movie traces her journey from a helpless victim of domestic abuse to a convicted murderer. 

Her struggle for freedom even changed the law in the United Kingdom in favour of abused victims. Especially women who are suffering from the battered syndrome. It is a psychological state that can arise when a person experiences abuse from an intimate partner.

Kiranjit grew up in Chak Kalla located in Punjab and was the youngest of the nine siblings. Both her parents passed away by the time she was 16. Her siblings pushed her into the deep well of holy matrimony owing to their deeply rooted family traditions. 

Deepak Ahluwalia held the hand of Kiranjit and drifted away to London pretty soon. She wanted to become a lawyer and hoped to continue her education in England, but Deepak decided to drop the axe on her career plans right after the marriage was over. 

He became an alcoholic and began abusing her - both verbally and physically. He was also involved in multiple relationships with other women. 

She reveals "I did not want to spoil my family's reputation and trouble them with my problems". She was hoping all of this would end soon and things would become normal. 

Things only got worse after the birth of her two sons Rajeev and Sandeep. She was not even allowed to drink coffee or eat chillies, simply because she enjoyed them. 

Kiranjit soon developed symptoms of the battered syndrome - the victim becomes so passive, depressed and defeated that she accepts her condition and becomes incapable of blaming her abuser. She was afraid to speak out and seek help. 

She had sleepless nights filled with the fright knowing that the person right next to her, can hurt her anytime. Deepak raped her repeatedly, manipulating her that this it was his right. 

One night followed by their usual brief fight, Kiranjit had gone to sleep but was woken up by Deepak who demanded money to settle his debts. Refusal meant her ankles being twisted and beaten up mercilessly. He furthermore held a hot iron to her face. Ahluwalia couldn't bear this toxicity anymore. 

Pulling out a can of petrol, pouring it on Deepak's feet who was fast asleep on his deathbed, she set them alight with all the rage that she had suppressed for ten long years. She decided to burn his feet only so that he couldn't run and catch her while she attempted to flee. 

Five days later, Deepak died due to excessive burns and Kiranjit was arrested on the charges of murder. On December 1989, she was imprisoned for life. 

The prosecution implied that she was jealous of Deepak's affairs and planned to murder him. The defence, however, pleaded not guilty but nothing was working in Kiranjit's favour. 

There was light at the end of the tunnel for Kiranjit in the form of an Asian feminist organisation called the Southall Black Sisters (SBS).

Following a movement led by the SBS, Kiranjit's conviction was revoked on appeal around 1992. The court accepted new evidence that gave the green signal for her freedom. She was not aware that guilty could be pleaded to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. 

The fact that she had been enduring severe depression and affected by battered syndrome when she tried to burn her husband.

She agreed to manslaughter at the retrial and was finally released. Her release was greeted and celebrated by a bandwagon of cheering followers and garnered media attention from all over the world. 

The story of Kiranjit's triumphant appeal against the murder conviction set a historic exemplar - women who kill as an effect of severe domestic abuse should not be charged as cold-blooded perpetrators. 

Kiranjit exclaims, "I never intended to kill him, I just wanted to stop him from hurting me!". Her internal journey from a cowed woman with zero confidence into a strong and independent individual became an inspiring tale. 

The movie Provoked spills light on all these aspects, which is too hard-hitting and realistic for any cliche Bollywood movie. 

When Kiranjit first saw the preview of Provoked with her son Rajeev who held her hand the entire time because she could not bear the visuals of her husband burning and screaming and reliving the horrors she faced. 

Ahluwalia has settled with her sons now, who are currently engaged in doing voluntary work against domestic abuse and violence. What remains most notable aspect is that women experiencing abuse now come forward and seek help after being inspired by her story of survival.

Her son Rajeev, who is a student of law, returned in shock from his class one day because the lecturer was discussing the significance of the Kiranjit Ahluwalia case!

Written by - Deepan R

Edited by - Ivanova


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