“When she has removed the clothes of impurity and appears beautiful, he should approach her and speak to her. If she does not willingly yield her body to him, he should bribe her with presents. If she is still unyielding, he should strike her with a stick or with his hand and overcome her, repeating the following mantra:’With power and glory I take away your glory.’ She thus becomes discredited” – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter 6.4.6 , OUP/126.96.36.199, Harper Collins**
For a generation of Indians, December 16 used to be the day of their greatest battlefield triumph. For another, the day might go down as one of enduring shame. In the two weeks that ensued, media whirred into action (with every possible detailed juiced out to allow maximum pain for victim’s dear ones) before conveniently moving on to retirement of nation’s most worshipped sporting icon, 200-crore making movies and New year festivities. The youngistan of social network went abuzz with cries for ‘hanging the rapists’, ‘speedy justice’ to ‘asking the prime-minister to resign’. The government as ever, first hoped their silence would let the storm pass, then mouthed a few platitudes and eventually pottered around like a middle-class daddy whose winter afternoon siesta has been interrupted by his child. Candlelight protests which started as ‘peaceful’ ended with tear gas, water cannons and death of a constable Subhash Tomar to heart attack induced by blunt force trauma (who probably was doing what most of us do – carrying out orders of his boss, and hoping he could return to his wife and kids that evening). Two weeks later her mortal remains were cremated amidst tight security, ironically an iota of that in proper place might have saved her. While she went to sleep forever, India claimed to have had an awakening.
The perpetrators have been captured, one of them has even begged that he be hanged. Tomorrow morning, we will see the hanging of six men telecast live – media will pat its ‘responsible’ back, delighted protesters will mouth off in glee, and government will solidify its chair having ushered the ‘new, honest age’ of India. Heck, we might even have a quiz contest asking for the names of the men killed. Instant gratification – sealed and delivered.
Alas, truth is often stranger than such fiction!
On August 14 2004, Dhananjoy Chatterjee – formerly a security guard in Bhowanipore, Kolkata was executed for rape and murder of a fourteen year old Hetal Parikh. It was an event telecast on certain prominent television channels. Just that since then the crime rate against women in India has only had an upward curve. In last year alone nearly 24000 cases of rape were reported. The number has gone up by nearly another 10% this year. In the culturally lofty Kolkata – the year began with a gang-rape in Park Street. Two days later, the chief-minister, a woman herself, dismissed it as a ‘political shenanigan’ to malign her. Shortly afterwards, another female MP of her party, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar went a step ahead terming the whole incident as ‘.. misunderstanding between two parties involved in professional dealings. Between the lady and her client’. Since that fateful night of December 16, there have been nearly twenty other rape cases reported; six in Delhi alone.1 A fourteen year old victim in Ahmedabad is battling for her life, having consumed poison to hide the shame. I wonder what is a bigger shame – that we as a society, as a nation have long lost the respect for life? (more so if that is a female life) or that she hasn’t found support in Facebook or placards outside India gate?
Then again, why is it even a surprise?
We, essentially, are a society rife with ‘lack of accountability’. When even the educated ones litter the streets, spit on walls, scratch our names on historical monuments – it is bound to reflect in the same ‘we’ who take bribes in government offices, same ‘one of us’ we elect who gets away with multi-crore scams, the same ‘one of us’ who jumps at a chance to rape someone, for he knows he’ll get away and the same ‘one of us’ who presents this story in media with dollops of sensationalism (until the next ‘sensational’ byte comes along). It’s the same ‘we’ who erected mausoleums for Kargil war hero Kanad Bhattacharya, only for that to become a garbage-dump for nearby apartments in a matter of months. When ‘we’ are insensitive enough to share her severely mutilated pic on Facebook soliciting ‘Like’s, what exactly puts us on a pedestal worthy of pointing fingers at ‘them’ who are rapists? Instead of installing CCTV camera on public transport, having a working emergency number, holding policemen accountable or levying exorbitant fines to deter crimes in their germ, we think going the ‘Saudi Arabia’ way is going to make us better? When even pilgrims to Mecca have been gang-raped as late as this October2, what utopia are we living in?
Last year, same bunch of ‘us’ were awakened by a neo-Gandhian leader and few other high priests of social reform. Furious slogans against corruption made airwaves, mass gatherings followed and effigies were burned. The red mist settled soon enough, and the only enduring memories are for those who made merry selling those ‘Anna Hazare caps’ or those who suffered immense traffic inconvenience for those few heady days. Of course, neither Hazare, nor Kejriwal are anywhere to be seen now in times of a real crisis. And here I was in my fool’s paradise, expecting that Raj Thackeray would actually pick a genuine cause to motivate his ‘maanus’! North-Indians better be warned, next time the brickbats might come gift-wrapped with an additional tag of ‘rapists’ – of course the abduction of female tourists in Juhu Beach or rape of a teenage daughter in hands of her father in Dombivli last week did not happen.3
Meanwhile shining India moves on. We keep producing female workforce, Olympic athletes, entrepreneurs and even female chief ministers (who can match their male counterparts for corruption and idiocy!). Elsewhere TrustLaw, a news service run by Thomson Reuters, ranks India as the worst country in which to be a woman.4 Neither is it any solace that you might escape the male lust if you are ‘past your youth’. For essentially the crime itself is much more about show of male power/ dominance than actual lust. Nearly 46% of victims above the age of thirty, including a 45 year old woman who was raped and murdered in West Bengal yesterday, would testify to that if they could. Nor is the shame for men alone. Despite being officially abolished in 1961 a size-able proportion of female deaths are caused by mother-in-laws setting their daughter-in-laws on fire for dowry demands or ‘inability’ to bear a male heir. Dr. Anita Shukla, an agricultural scientist and Lions club secretary came out last Wednesday stating “.. when surrounded by six men, she should have submitted to rape – at least it would have saved her intestines”. The gangrene has spread far beyond her intestines – it’s down to the very fabric of what we represent.
In a society where male-female ratio is so alarmingly skewed, eight million female foetuses have been aborted in past decade alone, how exactly do we expect men to grow up respecting a woman? In a country where twenty seven candidates fielded for state elections have been charged with rape how do we expect the authorities to provide speedy justice? In a society where centuries old sacred texts** insist women must exist to ‘please’ men how do we expect an instant change?
Let us put the awakening nonsense to rest and suck it up. It took us two hundred years to overthrow a colonial rule. It has only been two weeks …
- Source: Economic Times
- Source: ABC news
- Source: Times of India, Mumbai
- Source: BBC UK