Ever since I heard the story of a young girl brutally raped in a moving bus in the capital city of my home country, I was restless and furious. It was not the first time, I’d read or heard about a rape story from India or for that matter from anywhere else. Time and again we hear these kind of brutalities and this happens and can happen any part of the world, not just the Taliban hit areas. Among the thousands of such incidents, only a few gets reported in public, a fraction of it gets to the mainstream news media and a smaller percentage reach us; And let us don’t forget, not many girls/women dare to say such incidents in public, with all the social pressure surrounding them. Even in this modern society, woman and children largely have to live under the ego of a cruel world caricatured by sadism. It pains, it hurts and I am ashamed of myself not able to do anything to stop this suffering.
Think of this. A 23 year old medical student , an adult girl, is traveling with her male acquaintance in a capital city of the largest democracy in the world. Mind you, it is one of the most populous city in the world (with a population of 14 million. That means, there are a lot of folks around; For a comparison, this in count is more than that of a city like New York!) with all the central and state government establishments including the police administration in the vicinity! The girl and boy, to their innocence were lured to board a bus and to their misfortune, it turned out to be the wrong bus. What did the 6 wicked men in that bus do? They hit the boy on his head, dumped him on to the road; What happened then on is a mockery of what civilization should be. In a moving bus the girl is brutally forced on by senseless men, one by one. All the while a helpess girl is being tortured, the bus moves around the city where police men patrol around, without noticing anything beyond normality. The girl in unconscious state is finally thrown out from the bus after all deed. She stays motionless for hours on the roadside before some medical help comes on her way. The police, government (both state and central) administration(s) turns first the blind eye, then a denial and eventually an eyewash damage control exercise. Even after many days, the girl is battling for life. She has multiple organ damages, including intestine, liver and brain. When things got into dangerous situation, the government shifts her to another country, apparently a political move. Whether it is political or medical, the situation is grim! What a sorry state our society is in!
As usual, this news took people to streets. Naturally people are angry and they protests against the lackluster response from both state and central goverments. As always, some section tried to get some political milage out of this. Reality however is this. The biggest sufferers in cases like this are the girl (in this case the boy too) and their families. They end up paying a very very high price for the recklessness of wickedness in our society. The elected government and its administration could have taken this as a last warning to engage a strong political and social change. Unfortunately, the leaders by and large miss the point. Few from the government dared to speak and whoever opened the mouth (like the President’s son) made a jock of their senses. The mainstream media on the other hand is debating what punishment is ideal for the culprits, but the larger point should be: what are we doing as a society to prevent such atrocious incidents?
Praveen Swami has written this piece. Largely, I agree to his points. The solution to this social menace is not hinged on whether the culprits gets death penalty or not. Some may argue a Shariyath like law (arm for an arm, eye for eye or blood for blood method) is the way. Frankly, none of these post incident punishment alleviate this massive menace. The problem as Swami articulated here, is integrated in our social scheme of things. He rightly pointed the way the mass media, mainstream cinema and even the social stigma of son worshipping all directly or indirectly adding the bias to increasingly misogynic society of us. While the west also have cases of rape, the numbers are less because they have at some point in the past went through a political and social refinement, where the fundamental right of a woman to say no and a man to treat her no as a firm no. Again, this is not something that happened in Kandhahar or the tribal areas of Taliban hit Afghanistan, but the capital of the the largest boasted democracy in the world!
While the vast majority in any society will strongly condemn an act like rape, how many will respect the dignity of a woman travelling in any part of a country like India. Again, this problem may not be just India specific, but I have seen men’s colors even in buses in Kerala, a state socially way forward compared to the rest of India. As a matter of fact, you wont see woman in a bus after 7 PM in most part of Kerala too. The other parts of India may be even worse. The cities may be better off to stretch that 7PM mark to say 9PM, but thats it. Mumbai may be an exception, but even a city like Mumbai I wouldn’t count to be safe for woman. It will be a happy news if I hear otherwise. Bangalore, even with the celebrated success of modern life is unsafe for woman. I dont have the numbers, but during my stay there, I have heard far too many cases of woman employees getting assaulted, raped and at times murdered (Just do a google search on woman safety. You will hit through several of them). I am sure every city and small towns in India will have a gruesome shade of such a sad reality. No amount of police force can resolve this, in many cases they are the problem themselves, but things don’t stop even with them. It has to come from each one of us, from early stage to respect every one on their privacy and their right on individual freedom and choice. No one has the right to bulldoze on others, even morally, let alone physical. I don’t think the rape cases are mere act of sexual assault, they are deep rooted display of dominance of their hegemony. And in any case what sort of pleasure do men get after brutally injuring an innocent girl? These are beyond our senses. When will we as a society grow up to stand guard to our own sisters and mothers? Borrowing Bertrand Russell, “I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot and hence I too suffer”.
Let us turn clock for a few years. Does anyone remember Aruna Shanbaug? Some may have forgotten, but she comes to my mind every now and then. I don’t know her, but ever since I heard about her (first time I heard was several years ago during the euthanasia debate) my bloodstream freezes at times. She is the living martyr of male recklessness. As a young nurse in a city hospital, she was brutally raped by a servant boy. Why? As a vengeance for reporting a crime committed by the boy! Ever since then, she stay motionless, a life merely existing as a symbol of our social cowardliness. What punishment the culprit got is immaterial. The young woman, who was supposed to have soon got married to a doctor, sacrificed a good life for our social reckoning! Her case is largely forgotten. We got many new cases to ponder, but we failed to grow!
As I write this up, I just heard the news on NPR (yes, the news gets reported even in my KPBS car radio here in San Diego, while I was waiting for my daughter from the piano class) that the girl eventually succumb to injuries. She sacrificed her life. Just imagine, she was an aspiring medical student. She had a whole life of her choice had to be ahead. But for the callousness of few men, we had to see her go. What a shame! Aren’t we all responsible for this one way or the other?
Whether the insane gang of six stupid men gets death penalty or not is irrelevant. Our wicked society just threw our sister to the fire. The slow government acted ever slow and everyone in the administration will find a way to excuse themselves. The media will find another sensational story and latch on to it. Leaders like Abhijeet Mukharjee will again get re-elected (For record, a portion of the elected legislators in parliament and state assemblies are themselves criminals!). The family of the girl lost one of their own and we lost another beautiful life. Her homage made our lives less colorful. Didn’t it? If only we grow up and stand up to prevent yet another casualty like this beautiful girl. The grim reality is penned by the BBC reporter Soutik Biswas from Delhi. A serious introspection is needed and the time is now if it wasn’t earlier.
Rest in peace girl! Our hearts are heavier!