It was the business class of an Air India Flight on the Delhi- Toronto route. The air hostess had just served the food and some of the passengers had already armed themselves with a fork and spoon. Fork on the left, spoon on the right. Just as it should be, the way it is taught at the best schools of India, the convents and the boarding schools.
As the attendants came with some fresh supply of bottled mineral water, the conversation turned to the Delhi rape case of a 23 year old Para medical student who was gang raped in a moving bus.
“But what was the girl doing so late in the night with that guy?” asked the software engineer at the window seat. From Gurgaon and going for a client visit, he went on, “Apparently she was drunk and making out with him openly.” “What? Was she? Then she asked for it herself,” said another. Some heads had already begun to nod in agreement when another passenger, by now red with rage, said, “Next time someone grabs your sister’s bottom, the police should first find if she asked for it or not” There was pin drop silence.
In the same flight in the economy class were sitting two young men from Punjab who were on their way to ‘Kaneda’ (Canada). After having sold their agricultural land they, were going to get settled there. Money is a license to get citizenship there, and they had plenty. “Air hostess to badi maal hai yaar, paas bula usko, maje to lein……poore paise diye hain ticket ke” said one of them to the other. The other man intentionally spilled some fruit juice on his lap and then with a devilish grin on his face, snapped his fingers twice, made some ‘shshsh’ sound and nodded his head to call the stewardess and pointed to his lap asking in a way to clean it.
What do the above two incidents reveal? These are two segments of our society which are probably very much varied on the parameters of wealth, education, upbringing and family background but their thoughts about the fairer sex were ‘ditto’.
A few months back there was sudden hue and cry over this Delhi-rape incident. The tweets, Facebook statuses, the celebrity statements, newspaper headlines, TV coverage everything buzzed on same tone and similar pitch. People were out on streets, roads were jammed, traffic was stopped, and people even marched towards the Parliament. Every single man and woman out there decried ‘Captial Punishment for the perpetrators’. After Indira’s Emergency and Anna’s anti corruption crusade, this was probably the only time that masses across all the segments of society were united for the same cause. This incident was just the tipping point. The volcano had been being building up for centuries; it was going to erupt sometime. And this was the time.
Well, if we look at our past, women were never at par with men save the era of Indus Valley Civilisation. From there on, their plight got worse and worse with each passing dynasty. During the medieval times, the situation was so bad that Tulsidas even went to the extent of saying,
" ढोल गंवार शूद्र पशु नारी | ये सब ताड़न के अधिकारी ||" (Dhol (Percussion musical instrument), Foolish, The lowest caste in Chaturvarna system ,animals and Women should all be beaten up))
But today in our country, they are living the worst of their times. Firstly, they are denied the right to birth and if they are born, they are not given access to education and proper health care facilities and survive on the leftovers after their brothers have had their food. Then they are traded at a price which people euphemistically call as ‘dowry’. And if they survive the desperate attempts by in-laws to kill them and get new brides, as the dowry amount was not enough, they become children producing machines and end up in the most pitiable state without a penny of the wealth earned throughout life, in their name, and often survive on the mercy of the children .Majority of you who are reading this would have never experienced this and would find it hard to correlate with your life.
In order to get perspective, why are women in some households not allowed to perform their domestic duties and enter into places of worship during certain days of a month ? Why are girls under the disguise of ‘Dev-dasis’ used by priests in temples as sex slaves and no one protests? Why are women not allowed to offer Namaz? Why two women witnesses equal one man in Islam? Why aren’t women allowed to speak in church?
If this is the state of their everyday life, then why this hullabaloo over a one time assault? Women are being raped everyday in every field, isn’t that just as grotesque and appalling? Just because it was a ‘celebrity rape’( well educated girl, had a boy friend, happened in the capital ) people pretended to care about it And the media made it a breaking news to gather TRP.
Everyone talked about ‘nirbhaya’ ‘Damini’ but if you ever pick up any regional daily, there are tens of ‘Daminis’ everyday. From as young as 6 months to as old as 80 years, from the deepest of the jungles of Dantewara to villages bordering Delhi. But they never grabbed any headlines and they never will. No one would ever get to know about them, no one would shed a tear for them and no would ever care to protest for them. They don’t even have any hope of getting justice.
I didn’t agree initially with a friend when he told me statistics about ‘rapes’ all across India. Finally he challenged me and said that I should pick up any regional daily and look for the rape and molestation news and if any day I fail to find one, he would put his profile picture back to normal, and till then it would be ‘pitch black ’ in protest. I looked up the papers, even tried newspapers of other areas to win my point. But after exhausted attempts, I stopped looking for such pieces of news after a month, because I knew, if newspapers reported just 1% of all the crimes and still I couldn’t find any newspaper without such news, then the state of women is much more pathetic than I had thought of!
Coming back to the Delhi incident, what was saddening was the part of post-incident-comments. With reasons pouring from all corners of the country and each different from the other as East and West but all equally laughable, everyone seemed to have had a RAM-BAAN for this rape malady. From greater access to pornography(News channel debates), to a growing inclination towards noodles and Chinese food (khap panchayats) ,to using mobile phones and wearing skin-tight jeans(Gram sabhas in U.P.), to being connected to western culture(RSS chief), to not calling the rapists “bhaiya”(Some self-proclaimed Bapu whose name is not worth this space) And the heights were reached when someone said rapes happened in ‘India’ and not ‘Bharat’
Rape is not a societal disease in itself. It is just one of the symptoms of the deep rooted malady of injustice to women being done from ages. You can’t eliminate rape till you wipe out discrimination with women. Just as a paracetamol can merely provide relief from pain for some time and can’t cure cancer altogether, similarly these technological solutions of CCTVs, more police personnel etc. Alone cannot prevent crimes against women in the long run.
Delhi had 405.25 policemen per 100,000 of population in 2007, which is more than Britain(267.8), Australia (325.4), Canada (186.3) and Japan (152). Delhi with an area of 1,483 square kilometers has one policeman per 0.02 square kilometers of area with nearly eight vehicles available per 100 policemen. Hardly any state in the country can beat this figure. During the same year number of rapes in Delhi is more than the combined rapes committed in five major cities — Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata — put together. Proves my point that more number of police personnel doesn’t necessarily mean a safer city, although vice versa is certainly true!!
Then what is so wrong with Delhi? What is there in NCR that makes it a hell for women? Are the testosterone levels of men in NCR more than anywhere else in India? There is plethora of reasons. A few dominant castes(not naming them for obvious reasons) which are politically and financially strong in Western UP, Punjab, Haryana and Northern Rajasthan and who have come and settled in NCR, have scanty respect for the law and are not much educated either. Coupled with new money from their recently sold farmlands acquired by the builders and developers which has turned them into millionaires overnight from poor peasants. They feel that they can do as they wish and don't care two hoots about anybody else.
Money solves a lot of problems, but it creates a few grave ones when you don't know what to do with it. The police in Delhi, especially at the constable, SI level, is filled with recruits from these communities and they feel that they can get away with crime easily. Community Support –The urban villages consider all villagers as one family and try their best to make sure no action is taken even against the guilty.
Gurgaon, a satellite city of Delhi, crammed full of malls and transnational companies built on agricultural land epitomises this clash. In the remains of the agricultural community not yet displaced by technological developments, there are high levels of female infanticide, caste violence and women trafficked from poorer parts of the country(Bihar, Chattisgarh) to make up for the shortage of brides caused by infanticide. At the same time, women are seen wearing high heels and working in the malls and MNCs. This stark difference between the women at home and women working in transnational companies is not digested by the locals. And working women become their easy targets in their attempts to show their masculinity.
NCR is homogeneous economically but has fragments of different political regions and Delhi approximately lies on a tri border area. Police being a state subject matter, complicates the whole thing even more. It’s very easy to cross state borders ,thus making the job of police tougher. For example,Mr. X commits a crime in Noida, and comes to Gurgaon. Then it is very difficult for U.P. Police(Noida) to track Mr. X who is in Haryana(Gurgaon) unless there is prompt cooperation and logistics support from Haryana Police. So until there is flawless co-operation( LOL :D ) between UP Police, Haryana Police, Rajasthan Police and Delhi Police,crime and criminal tracking becomes a hard row to hoe.
Where ever in India, women are treated in non-discriminatory manner, crimes against women are the least. In Darjeeling, for instance, police stations across the district will tell you that in the last decade they have come across only a couple of cases! And that in one of them, an outsider was involved. The Khasis of Meghalaya also score very high on gender parity. So do the Nagas, Mizos, Sikkimese and generally the people of the North-East. Another indication of this equality is the absence of dowry in these communities. And this is because there really is no price on the head or body of a woman. This translates itself in many heart warming ways. You will, for instance, never see a woman in any of the Darjeeling buses standing for want of space while men are sitting down.
There has been much talk about the way women dress and that in turn provoking men to commit rape. People with this sick mentality need to learn that it is MEN WHO RAPE, WOMEN DON’T ASK FOR IT!! You don’t have a right to barge in my house, steal and later say that you did that because I didn’t put a lock, in the exact same way you have no right to rape even if you feel that girls haven’t dressed ‘properly’ and by properly I mean standards defined by you! Indian Constitution and Human Rights, both provide for this freedom as a right to them. If revealing dresses were the reason behind rapes, we wouldn’t have girls as young as 6 months being raped!
Having said this, rape as a crime against women can’t be seen in isolation. This crime has to be gender-neutral. Fortunately the criminal law amendment bill 2013 enlarges the definition of such crimes much to the relief of women. But still it doesn’t recognise rape among the homosexuals. That means only a man can commit this offence on woman. Whereas the truth is that more number of cases of sexual assault, rape and forced sex go unnoticed in Gays because of the social stigma attached with it. Already they find it tough to get acceptance in our society and the law of the land too doesn't recognise their exploitation.Section 375 and 376, in sexual offence statute do not recognize males as potential victim. This in short means gays can rape men and get away with it and no charges of sexual assault can be framed against them,even if their crime is proved !! The law needs to bring in parity and treat them on equal terms. There has been much uproar from the civil society organisations for the same after the ordinance by President was issued in March this year.
Harsher punishment, sensitization of the police force, setting up of fast-track courts, better patrolling, cleverer use of technology like GPS and CCTVs, amendments in criminal laws and a data base of public transport personnel are some of the suggestions which if implemented would improve the post-rape investigation and justice delivery.
On an ending note, every quarter of the society has to take efforts to battle this menace To start with, women need to be aware of their surrounding and laws, they have to be extra careful when travelling alone or at odd hours, they must keep emergency numbers handy, learn self defence and dress sensibly (of course they themselves have to set the standards for what is sensible, and no law/society/group would do that for them). A little precaution is no harm because at the end of the day even if we have all the latest technology, society gets totally transformed, our police becomes another Scotland Yard, but still we can’t know what is going inside the mind of a pervert and what crime is being perpetrated by him inside the four walls.Even if the culprits are caught, tried and punished in record time still this crime once perpetrated can’t be undone and the emotional, psychological, physical and societal trauma is way too much to get off one’s mind easily.
Then why not take the initiative yourself and aspire to see the change.
© 2013 Kunal Rahar
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