By Siddhartha Roy:
“Now, should we treat women as independent agents, responsible for themselves? Of course. But being responsible has nothing to do with being raped. Women don’t get raped because they were drinking or took drugs. Women do not get raped because they weren’t careful enough. Women get raped because someone raped them.” ~Jessica Valenti, The Purity Myth
My father told me over the phone yesterday, “Do you know, son? The country is in a lot of chaos right now.” I silently nodded. I’ve been following the ‘news’ all the way and tried to pick up my pen several times to express how sick, how appalled I really feel. I couldn’t. As a student here in the United States, I hear people around me — fellow students & families away from home — openly discuss the gruesome and gory details of the violation of an innocent woman’s body and a nation’s spirit (which is already sick, I think). Rape, they call it. More than that, it is horrific violence. And coupling it with sexual assaults, India is 3rd in rapes in the world; Delhi designated the ‘rape capital’ of the Earth. You’d be amazed at how much India is discussed & dissected in living rooms of Indians in the US.
I just remain in a corner — my fists clenched, my body shaking a little — unable to be as evocative as I am in verbalizing my stand. What do I want to say? Nothing, I guess. Sitting here in America, all I want to do is get back to the nation’s capital, stand at candle light vigils with my fellow citizens at Jantar Mantar or wherever, BE A NOBODY IN THE CROWD and just be there as a testimony to the values I’ve been brought up with, for a country I am unfailingly counting on and try to wipe off some of the “SHAME” attached to ‘Being a Man’.
I feel vulnerable for the women in my life. And being thousands of miles away from my swades only makes it worse. Should I take that my near and dear ones are not safe outside celebrating/dining out/having fun in the night? That they have never been safe? I read the butcherly account of what happened to Damini that night and, with all rationality in place, I want those uncouth animals skinned inside out. Come to think of it, even castration doesn’t seem that evil a punishment. Death penalty? No. That is too quick an escape for the torture they subjected the girl to.
However, I belong to a democracy and a legal system I ‘should’ trust. And I am trying to let my anger simmer while fervently hoping the system doesn’t fail its citizens this time. The system — whose police and politicians make archaic and wretched quotes on why the girls “deserve” to be raped or why it was their fault. These primitive brains clearly hold the reins to a country and we, the young, are appalled by our leaders and protectors. My insides churn imagining what she went through and I am ashamed. But I cannot hold her hand. She’s no more.
I am counting on my country more than ever before that it upholds justice. And it will gain in me an even more persevering citizen who will stand by the land of the law and contribute to the country’s upliftment — not only as his duty but his personal responsibility. I will fight the fight in my own way being the ‘nobody’ in the parade who will uphold values of respecting women and standup against wrongdoing.
I understand commenting on something while being continents away is the easiest thing one can do. When my peers here tell me, “There is nothing left in that country. Settle here. Life is much easier”, I stand up and say, “No. I am going back in a few years”. Since it has been just six months of my being here, they say, “Wait and watch”. And so I begin to think. What kind of a society do I want to go back to and be a part of/contribute to? I am 24 but a few years from now, I will be starting a family and raising kids. And what environment would I want them to blossom in? Would my parents approve of such a society?
Not just high speed internet-fuelled pornography, movies and advertisements too are objectifying women to the limits where it is no longer creative but plain eye grabbing (and lust inducing). I wish we were more creative than ‘just’ that. It is one thing to celebrate a women’s sexuality; quashing it to a 24×7 orgy is a completely different scenario. We elevate women to a divine status in our prayers and yet don’t think twice reducing the standard to ‘sexual gratifier’ so often — What a paradox of the collective sickness of our heads!
It is critical that our society’s conscience is resurrected and further raised. Constantly. And I know that I — with countless others — have a significant role to play. To see that when boys and girls are raised in schools and colleges, the values instilled in them come from strong role model teachers and educators. To see that the parents of a child talk to him/her more about what kind of a person s/he should try and become, instead of what career to choose. To see that our inner moral fabric is strong enough and we raise ethically strong children who are not isolated by technology but more bonded with family and friends. Those boys have values similar to Keenan, Reuben and the guy Damini was with. And that we collectively can be Viktor Frankl and view this as our Holocaust, ‘award’ strict punishment to these and every perpetrators and build a better nation.
Let this lamentable act of horror be the lowest our society sank to. Never again.