Thousands of sincere young people gathered at Raisina Hill this weekend to express solidarity and anger at the brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in Delhi.
Her case made MPs weep and courts demand answers. Police officers praised her bravery. “It could have happened to just about anybody,” Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said on TV, summing up the reason it agitated so many middle-class Indians. She might be us. She displayed no “adventurousness”, no extraordinary trust in the world. She wasn’t blurry in our imagination, like say an adivasi woman being brutalised in a faraway badland, or custodial torture, or a furtive family affair closed to the world.
In the public uproar after this gangrape, we heard all the old chestnuts about a woman’s izzat, but the discussion also touched on issues that matter, sexual autonomy, the protection racket that constricts our freedoms. In the week that followed, though, that concern about women’s safety has become a howl of undiscriminating rage. Otherwise sensible people have called for castration and killing. Some of my Facebook friends advocated public mutilation and hanging, with pictures of what that might look like. At India Gate, kids held up posters saying “No bail, only death”. Never mind the fact that the threat of capital punishment does not actually reduce crime, and might lead rapists to kill those they have raped, to eliminate the witness. That chemical castration has proven ineffective, and that “cutting it off” is as medieval as chopping off the hands of thieves. It overlooks the fact that certainty of punishment, rather than severity of punishment, is the real deterrent.
The Delhi protest, by now, has become a mechanical tirade against the government. At Rajpath on Saturday, many held up placards from protests gone by, recycled slogans from the Lokpal agitation, attacked the PM’s silence, Sheila Dikshit and the UPA’s apathy. “We want justice, we want justice”, they chanted, faster and faster, till it was just an insistent, scrambled sound. On news channels and Twitter, everyone blamed the inept government. Why weren’t politicians jumping to it, giving us “solutions”? Why weren’t they at India Gate, lighting candles and expressing grief? Some of the protestors were childishly self-centred — as though, just because they had shown up at India Gate, the prime minister must too. This demonstration of anger should force changes in the IPC, they said. Call a special session of Parliament, they demanded. Meanwhile, commentators spoke of the UPA’s empathy gap, its inability to be where the people were.
Too many of us, including TV talking heads, confuse the political with the psychological. It is not the government’s job to soothe and handhold you, or a politician’s duty to make a strident production of her feelings. It is their job to provide security and a responsive administration. But the reason rapes happen, are rarely reported, and are listlessly investigated, is not because of our government, it is because of our society. It is because we make a rape survivor feel that she is better off not asking for redress, and inviting all the social shaming and intrusive questioning that goes with it.
Institutional responses also flow out of social responses, ultimately. Much of the police is hostile to women, treating sexual assault cases with insensitivity, or outright misogyny. Though our rape law is unexceptionable on paper, and privileges the woman’s testimony over corroborating evidence or questions of prior sexual conduct and character, it is tripped by bad investigation and by delay. The police, then, could be one point of focus in this agitation. Reforming the police requires depoliticising it, remaking its incentives to make it accountable to citizens, that its men and women are better trained to deal with sexual violence, that their social attitudes are linked to recruitment and promotion, if possible. Judicial pendency would be another productive point of focus for public dissatisfaction.
The real transformation though, still needs to be internal. Rape can be driven by sadism, by the need to dominate or control a person or a group, to terrorise a woman or to teach a man whose “property” she is assumed to be. We can try to change the assumptions of a rape culture, by making sure girls and boys grow up with healthier gender roles, by making sexuality less repressed and dark than it is.
These are all long-haul projects, the patient task of families and schools, and less emotionally satisfying than attacking Manmohan Singh. Tempting as it is to rail at the government, we have to realise that responsibility for crime, including this one, is more diffuse than we would like, and we have to assign blame in the right ratio. Iron rods in all private buses are not Sheila Dikshit’s fault or within her control, but better public transport is. No politician can guarantee a deadline on how long a case will take in court. Many people attacked the police for talking about tinted windows — but that was the only thing they could realistically have tackled, in this instance. When the home minister spoke of a judicial commission to look into women’s safety, it was booed as “another useless commission”.
Time-bound justice is our due. But let’s be clear about how big and bone-deep the problem of sexual violence is. Petitions aren’t going to stop rape, nor is street lighting really, or token gestures like VIPs giving up their own security. Even at the India Gate protest, a young woman I met had been whistled at by a couple of men in the crowd. So even as we press for solutions, we’ve got to acknowledge that we are the problem.
Execution or castration is not solution...afterall "all saints have past & all sinners have future".What needed is to reform our criminal justice system in long run & that can only fetch results. Further there is need to change the way our society sees rape victim(most of the time secluded or ostrasized).She needs heroic treat & proper rehabilitation with even greater acceptence. Execution will never be a solution rather a retrograde step.Afterall all laws are to deter anybody from choosing wrong & illegal path & most important to make anybody realise his/her mistake & reform him/her. Complete justice only possible when victim post rape scenario become more strong,more acceptable & more socialized.Needs a paradigm shift from victimizing victim to make a role model & heroic treat.
Society is responsible for this. Yes we do need to have stringent laws and sensitive police, society and courts to deal with these issues. should not victimized the victim. But the reform starts at home. It is every parents duty to make their son respect the women. Do not teach them that they are better than daughters. When we ask our girls to stay home after certain hours why do not we ask our boys about there whereabouts. They should be home by those hours which needed their sisters to be home. We protect our daughters and sisters but we allow our sons and brothers to chase others daughters and sisters. The society need to change. We need to give equal rights to our daughters also. Why do we pray to Gods to give us sons? Why a mother ask her daughter to do chores for her brother? The rules should be the same for both. And if any body needs to stay home it is the men. We protect ourselves from men, we are scared of men, and if they would not be there, there is no need to stay home.
I do not think continued protesting at India Gate and the Government's closure of Metro stations coupled with brutal Lathi-charging on the protestors will ever solve the problem of everyday rapes and sexual assaults in our country. The police has hardly any concern for the citizenry wherein posting SHO to Delhi's police station comes with a fat price tag attached. Instead of protesting at India Gate we have to develop our character - tick off petty acts of indecency at all places and admonish miscreants, the police will then follow the public instead of shielding criminals. We the common people have to prevent crime, cure may not be on the agenda of the administration for the time being.
When the country is burning for a change this person is giving fundas and diverting the attention of the people. Blame it on the politician. They are for the people, by the people and of the people. Why are they considered as VIP? Who is having the accountability - PM, Government, Police.....What are you trying to articulate?
A very nice analysis....My full compliments to bring out such an article...People should not blame the govt for everything ..just see whether your actions are in sync with nations development.... A good point on news channels,they are just irritating...they just pick up one stmt from whole speech of minister and start projecting it and fan anti govt views...pls act with moral sense and don't be so cheap....
This column smacks of arrogance and lack any conviction. If police is not part of government whose main job is to protect then what forms government? The best leaders running a government are those who can relate with the mass and wipe their tear in the hour of anguish.
Very convincing analysis by Mr Amulya -- are politicians now blamed for even a rape epidemic in Delhi? Understandable our electronic media is fanning anti-political flames for middle class TRPs but this is a distinct issue from corruption etc. Demonstrators and critics should make productive suggestions more sophisticated than "hang the rapists". Public discourse is very immature at present.
I will desist from name calling , but it is exactly this kind of wacko logic that has got the Indian people so angry and frustrated . It doesnt take a genius (not that i'm suggesting that the author is)to figure that the protests largely are a reflection of the common mans's frustration at the state of governance in this nation . Be it the BJP or the Cong , be it security or public roads , it is equally abject. Couple of decades ago , a sober nation looked upto its leaders for direction,but things have changed drastically , the aspirational young indian sees the world and the world around him and blames the establishment and rightly so. Take heed , there is a storm on the horizon. A note to the author : I really am dismayed that some one who could express oneself so well could write intelligibly such hogwash!
Well,my dear friend..if something of the same happens to you or your loved ones,would you still say the same..that the society is responsible..and all the mental and physical wounds that the victim suffered will be washed away if future mothers bring up their sons better and the society imposes more freedom restrictions on their daughters.It is their moral right to fight for justice.This justice has to be given by our government. They were elected to solve peoples problem and provide them security and not to stay aloof of the society and come in midst of the people only during the next elections.Its the common man who is fighting for justice..and its a shame that maximum rape cases are reported in a city ruled by a lady.The society should change,but you must remember that it has not for the past many centuries.Such attacks against women were there for many years.A strict law should be made giving capital punishment to the culprits.
I concur with what Mr Amylya has brought out in this article. Though the state can't be fully absolved of the responsibility on its part, we as citizenry of this democracy do have some responsibility. Though we are entitled to show our angst against these heinous crimes but we have to look for the remedies to avoid recurrence of it. It is our social structure that is somehow progenitor of people who perpetrate these acts. As rightly brought out the schools can play a greater role to develop the sense of sexual equality amongst our future citizens. We all are part of society be it the president, peasant or any other for that matter. The type of culture, education, ethics we develop in this society will determine the health of it in the longer run. Demonstration though a tool to refine the democratic set up must be used judiciously. Though is it just in this case but we must refrain from developing this culture and also that should not be misdirected.
Thank you for being such an unabashed apologist for the government. "It is not the government's job to soothe and handhold you"...well definitely not here though in far flung Amreeka, President Barack Obama did go out of his way to address the congregation at Newtown's parish church after kids were gunned down at an elementary school. In civilised societies, such gestures are important; Pres Obama thought he was accountable to his people and had to 'soothe' them a bit before venturing into complex legislation. You are right, given that the Congress has the divine right to rule this country forever and ever, what were the protestors really thinking?
thank you Ms and IE. now extend that logic to every crime that happens in this country its all because of society, so disband the government, the inept administration and the lawless police. Why do we need them if they cant deter crimes by strict law enforcement. with friends like IE we the citizens dont need enemies. if there is a word called 'consciousness' in your dictionary read whatever you have written again !
A very sensible article - the solution lies within ourselves and with speedier justice. We, the aam aadmi, have become morally 'soft', we condone/turn blind to everything and leave everything to the govt (an entity which has may be 0.001% of the population). God helps those who help themselves.
So congie stooges in the media from Expres to Ndtv have stooped to blaming the protesters. Yes they are angry from everything from pricees, inflation , corruption and this incident has acted as a spark. But cmon isnt that the case? Why are they or nation angry? Try to analyse that instead of protecting govt.
Wow. What an awesome analysis. So basically, the government has absolutely no responsibility, and it is not a law & order breakdown at all. you should take the place of that fool manish tiwari as i&b minister, mr. amulya.