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Murga (also spelled murgha) is a stress position used as a corporal punishment in parts of South Asia (specifically Northern India, Pakistan and sometimes in Bangladesh). It is used primarily in educational institutions, and by the police as a summary, informal punishment for petty crimes committed by boys, such as eve teasing. The punishment is usually administered in public view, the purpose being to deter recurrence of the offence by shaming the offender and providing a salutary example to others.
The word murga means rooster in Hindi and Urdu Language. The punished person takes a position resembling that of a rooster, by squatting and then looping the arms behind the knees and firmly holding the ears. Having to hold the ears makes it especially painful. It can become extremely painful after one minute. Over the years, corporal punishment has been banned in schools in Pakistan and although caning is still frequent, the Murga punishment is now rarely, if ever, used.
Murga Punishment is usually applied on boys, although it is sometimes used on girls as well. One of the famous Pakistani singer Annie Khalid claimed that she was given this punishment by her husband while she was tortured. In one state of Indian Punjab, a girls' school principal was suspended when someone from the school leaked out pictures of girls punished with Murga on school grounds. The students also claimed that this sort of punishment was often practiced by the principal on the girls. In 2013, a student in Alwar died after being forced to contort her body as part of the 'murga' position.
There are many variants of the Murga punishment. Some of them are:
Standing murga punishment is similar to remain sitting in the air without a chair. The punished person must remain as long as in sitting position looping the arms behind the knees and firmly holding the ears. In standing murga, the recipient of the punishment is required to position the buttocks as high as possible. This is the most intense and severe punishment, as it requires constantly working against gravity to keep the bottom raised, and therefore becomes extremely painful within a matter of minutes.
For an average person, muscle fatigue starts to set in within a couple of minutes of getting into the standing murgha position. Holding on even for a total of two minutes becomes very painful. As the punishment continues, it gets unbearable and legs start to tremble. It is nearly impossible to hold this position for 3 minutes or longer. That said, it is possible for a person to improve their ability to do this longer by practising regularly.
This is the default murgha position, i.e. if you tell someone to assume the murgha position, they go into the sitting position. In this position, the person is allowed to relax his/her bottom on the arms. The only requirement is to hold the ears by bringing the arms from behind the legs just as in standing murgha. Being able to rest the bottom on the arms makes this milder than standing murgha, and therefore, it can be done for much longer durations. Nevertheless, it is still a very severe punishment. The lower legs and arms start hurting pretty soon. The arms hurt as they are squashed between the upper and lower part of the legs, and the lower legs because it's a very awkward position. (In contrast, standing murgha is easier on the arms as they are not squished, but it is much tougher on the legs including the thighs as one constantly has to work against gravity to keep the butt lifted. Sitting murgha does not hurt the thighs much).
As the duration gets longer, the pain starts to get more unbearable. At some point, one may feel compelled to raise one's bottom to get some relief. However, that only brings temporary relief as keeping the buttocks raised is painful (see standing murgha section), so one soon returns to the lower position. That again brings only temporary relief and one again feels like going back to the raised position. In this way, one can end up oscillating between the two positions, not getting much relief either way.
All that said, being able to rest the buttocks on the arms means that the sitting murgha position it is doable for a much longer period compared to standing murgha, but is still very painful. For younger people in their teens and may be even early twenties, even an hour is not unrealistic. However, doing this for such a long duration serves as an extremely severe punishment and is therefore used rarely, and that too only for very serious offenses.
Combination of standing and sitting Murga
Sometimes, sitting and standing murga are combined in order to make the punishment both long and severe. One such combination is to make the person stay in standing murga almost throughout, but allow them to rest their bottom in the sitting murga position for half a minute or so from time to time. This makes it possible to increase the duration of the standing murga punishment.
Another combination is to start with standing murga for the first few minutes when the person is fresh, and then let them lower their bottom for a much longer sitting murga punishment. Yet another approach is to do the same, but have the last few minutes of the punishment in standing murga in order to end on a tougher note. Yet another combination is to switch between sitting and standing murga once every few minutes and have several such iterations.
In murgha parade, the person in addition to being in murga position, has to walk. It is almost impossible to walk in sitting murgha, so for all practical purpose it must be done in standing murgha. This can be extremely tiring for both legs, hands and back. Recall that standing murgha is very severe by itself. Add to it having to walk and it becomes really tough. It also hurts the ears because of irregular movements. For these reasons, an average person can only do this for a very short period, usually not more than a couple of minutes, and that too with a lot of difficulty and pain.
A variation of this punishment is to make someone walk under the sun which causes extreme discomfort and dehydration. It is however somewhat uncommon and considered highly inadvisable to do so due to the health risk involved.
In this kind of punishment, the person is asked to move his buttocks from the higher position (as in Standing Murga) to lower (as in Sitting Murga) and vice versa every 5–6 seconds.This is a very severe form; the legs start trembling after about 40 sways and becomes unbearable after 70-75 sways.
Heels touching murga
This is a somewhat less common variation of murga punishment. In this the heels of the person should remain in contact. It can also be either sitting or standing. This is a very severe form of Murga, and is impossible to maintain for too long. As a result, the inevitable shorter duration of the punishment reduces the effect of the additional severity to some extent. Moreover, it can be tougher to monitor as the punisher has to keep an eye on the punishee's heels to make sure they are being kept together. If a severe punishment is intended and regular sitting murga is not enough, then standing murga is generally the preferred option rather than sitting murga with heels touching as it is much more interesting. Likewise, if the punisher wants to make the punishment tougher than regular standing murga, then a parade is a much more appealing option rather than heels touching standing murgha.
Uthak Baithak or sit-ups
This is a different punishment, and not a variant of murga punishment. In this kind of punishment, the person is asked to go down i.e. sit (uthak) and again stand up (baithak). The person has to hold his/her ears. (Left hand should hold the right ear. The right hand should hold the left ear), overall it means sit-ups. This is repeated for dozens of times. This is a somewhat severe punishment as it can cause tiredness in the legs after 30 or 40 repetitions and can become unbearable after 50 or 60 times. This punishment is very common in Myanmar. In Myanmar, the most common cause is being late to school, not finishing homework and failing tests. Sometimes, if the person is not able to complete the number repetitions the teacher has told, the teacher will cane the student.
In this punishment, the person is made to carry another person on his back. A less intense variant is to put some weight (but not a whole person) on the back of the person in the murgha position.
In practice, apart from being very difficult, murgha riding or putting a weight on the murgha is very bad for the back and can even cause long-term damage. It is therefore highly inadvisable and should therefore never be done.
- Srivastava, Arunima (June 29, 2006). "Public prosecution: Crime and instant punishment!". The Times of India.
- Sanchita Islam (14 June 2011). Gungi Blues. Chipmunkapublishing ltd. p. 127. ISBN 978-1-84747-259-5. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- Madan Mohan Jha (1 September 2010). From Special To Inclusive Education In India: Case Studies Of Three Schools In Delhi. Pearson Education India. p. 51. ISBN 978-81-317-3217-5. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- Student dies after teacher forces her to contort body, By Rajendra Sharma, TNN | Mar 20, 2013, 06.40 AM IST