A lot of noise is being made in India – again. It has become repetitive, like a sinusoidal wave. Something happens, gets into the media and people get outraged. They come out in numbers in big cities like Delhi, Mumbai or even smaller ones like Ranchi and Chandigarh – yet nothing happens at the institutional level. Over the top editorials are written in major newspapers, like this one in The Hindu, leading people to believe they are at the cusp of change and yet nothing happens. It leaves one feeling underwhelmed, like it was just there, within reach but somehow eluded us. In reality, nothing can be farther from reality, it never was and never will be real. All the outrage and disgust brings no change. Why, one asks? Well, for one all this outrage is being expressed by an electorally insignificant group. It’s mostly the young middle class that was outraged, one that doesn’t vote – a fact not lost on our government run by political cronies. Most of the outrage was expressed by students or young professionals who are a migrant population with a short attention span and so politically irrelevant (contrast with the Gujjar protests that brought the government to its knees). Additionally, the government has seen and survived a similar agitation of a larger scale and duration but by the same set of protesters, emerging unscathed, hence the disdain for such demonstrations. Secondly we are a biased and hypocritical society that
differentiates discriminates based on education, background, region, etc. Hence a similarly heinous crime against a woman from a rural area gets little or no coverage and elicits no outrage among us, the educated class. Women from the north-east are habitually misbehaved with. There are numerous cases of rape and molestation each day in and no one bats an eyelid, but when it happens in Delhi to a girl from amongst us, we are outraged. Our last President, who incidentally was a woman, pardoned rapists, killers and child-molesters, no one cared. We have hundreds of peoples’ representatives with records of crime against women.
A callous and numb society
We are a society that differentiates between heinous, and non-heinous crimes against women. So a rape is just a heinous crime, rape and battery is at a higher level of heinousness and rape, battery and murder causes outrage. What does that say about us as a society and peoples and more importantly what does it say of our government when such a view is expressed by people in government? It shows how habituated we have become to witnessing such a dastardly crime and how much of a daily occurrence it has become that no one bothers when a woman is raped, it’s just another crime, not yet another crime.
A crime against a woman is the most heinous crime that can be committed – to be treated on par with murder, punishable by the same standards. It shows one of the most depraved aspects of a man’s nature – an unforgivable crime that should warrant the harshest punishment possible. This without resorting to medieval forms of punishments like public flogging, flogging to death, etc as suggested by some citizens and politicians. Resorting to such methods of punishment does not reflect kindly on a modern, secular, civilized democracy. I’m sorry but imposition of Shariah/inhuman punishment will not solve the problem. Instead proper governance, rule of law and handing out of judgements within a reasonable time-frame will.
There is a school of thought that would have us believe that there is no fear of law among criminals, which is correct, but this has more to do with the abysmally low conviction rates and less with the maximum possible sentence for a crime. I still remember Hindi films of yesteryears when the honest police officer would warn the criminal – “Kanoon ke haath bahut lambe hote hain“. In how many recent films have you seen such a dialogue? I haven’t seen one at all. What does that show? I believe that in this age cinema mirrors society (much the same as literature did earlier) and what it shows is the lack of fear of law among criminal – such a dialogue would be intended to invoke the fear of law but would be scarcely believable to audiences and be laughed at by the criminals today – and lack of respect for and belief in law among the law enforcement agencies themselves, that if one committed a crime, the law would ultimately catch up with them.
Quietly airlifting the victim to a foreign country, reining in protests – much like colonial rulers
The poor victim was quietly airlifted out of the hospital in Delhi to a hospital in Singapore. One could say that it was the government trying to provide the best possible care to the victim. Yet the surprise move causes one to question the motive of the government, especially in light of the heavy handed and unconcerned attitude shown by the government towards the peaceful protests, the fake meeting of Ms. Sonia Gandhi, ruling coalition chairperson and de-facto ruler of the country, with so called representatives of the protesters who were rumoured to be members of the student wing of her party (the wing had been trying to incite violence during what was an essentially peaceful show of anger). Such skullduggery causes one to doubt the motives of the government, more so when the Indian Medical Association questions the need for such a move. Besides, the heavy handed manner in which the peaceful protests were broken up, women and elderly lathicharged, tear-gassed and jailed by police was reminiscent of our colonial rulers, as was the secrecy of the airlift which reminded me of how the British used to try to execute/move political prisoners in secrecy to avoid protests and demonstrations. Another surprising aspect is the amount of control the government has tried to exercise over anything associated with the victim, including her last rites.
PM stays silent, then says “theek hai”
The Prime Minister kept silent for an agonizingly long time, probably waiting for a green light from 10 Janpath, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s residence and when he did address the nation, he appeared less than earnest and more concerned with how it looked on TV, a fact that his “theek hai” at the end betrayed. What was more distressing was the all the while massive protests were going on, his office, and by implication he, was more concerned with flagging ASEAN rallies and welcoming international guests. This impression was reinforced by his twitter handle activity which had previously reacted and clarified very quickly, on political statements made during the Gujarat elections by Narendra Modi and yet seemed eerily mute on such a massive show of public outrage. The Home Minister, Mr. Shushil Kumar Shinde actually lauded the security agencies for doing their job well and later likened the protesters to Maoists when asked why he chose not to meet with the protester. The son of the current President commented on the right and credentials of the women protesting in Delhi. Such callousness on the part of the government betrays a sense of confidence that can only be attributed to their conviction of victory in the next national elections of 2014.
Public figures, from actors to politicians, were seen professing outrage and shame at such a crime. These same people never thought twice when sharing public fora with people accused of similar acts of horror. These figures were seen crying in public, giving statements of outrage and I somehow couldn’t believe them. They were guilty of consorting with criminals or themselves committing heinous crimes of murder – their holier-than-thou act seemed insidious.
Silly Home Minsters Patil, Shinde
Our Home Ministers do not seem to inspire any confidence, not that other ministers do but it is much more so in case of the Home Ministers. A case in point would be Mr. Shivraj Patil, Home Minister during the terrorist attacks on Mumbai and so is Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde, the current Home Minister. Both are from the state of Maharashtra and have been removed from state politics to prevent them from causing mischief and brought to the Central government, not because they are able administrators. They had become a political nuisance in their state and so the . Both are ill quipped and toothless politicians more concerned with being in the good graces of the Family.
In conclusion, I believe that until this government sees that if it doesn’t take action it will be voted out of power, it will continue to disregard public opinion, which is not the same as popular opinion because the vast majority of the people are not on Twitter or Facebook. Nor are they hooked to 24×7 news, having nothing to do. The vast majority is poor and desperate, that leads a hand-to-mouth existence and still regards the party in power as the party of the Mahatma, for whom Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi are synonymous with Mahatma Gandhi. They need an education, which the party in power is reluctant to provide, and for which it is more politically expedient to keep them poor and uneducated to maintain a political vote-bank and re-use the same old political slogans of more than 40 years vintage, “Congress ka haath, Aam aadmi ke saath” & “Gareebi hatao”.
Even at the risk of sounding cynical, these, in my opinion, are some of the reasons why nothing is going to change in India, at least until the outrage is shared by the entire nation, not just by the politically insignificant internet population of a few lakhs. This outrage should not be limited to this crime but to a host of issues like corruption, scams, mis/non-governance, non-performance and multiple failures to implement reforms and progressive measures.