The Long Dead Conscience Of A Nation, Finally Awake

Posted on December 23, 2012 in Society

By Shobhit Agarwal:

I have seen and heard enough people give their opinion on the Delhi gang-rape case. The only reason I have waited so long to write something on the matter is because I was keenly observing the reactions of people. And after a comprehensive analysis, these are the conclusions I have drawn — the political class continues to let us down, both with their reaction as well as their assessment of the problem; the judiciary, self-admittedly is inefficient in dealing with the pending cases, let alone handling the new ones; and we, Indians, have already started blaming any and everyone for the current situation, without standing up and talking responsibility by acknowledging that the biggest culprit lies within us.

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Before I say anything, let me get one fact very straight — the issue of women security and molestation isn’t a new one in our country. Many people might be becoming aware to the gravity of the situation only now, after the extensive media coverage and social media attention this incident has received, but the fact remains that a woman in India is molested every 15 minutes, and a woman is raped every 30 minutes. And let me warn you, this doesn’t even include marital rapes and abuses, wherein women are forced into intercourse by their husbands. If those figures were to be somehow included in the statistics, we, as a society, wouldn’t be able to look ourselves in the mirror. So this is not a problem that has appeared out of the blue. It is just that the brutality of this incident has forced people into admitting that our society is severely flawed and is incapable of looking after its women’s well-being.

To take the discussion forward, let us start of with our much ‘esteemed’ political class. Thanks to the ‘vast’ and ‘varied’ body of work behind them, the expectations of the people of this country from them are at an all time low. So here was an opportunity for them to reimpose in people, especially women, the faith in their functioning by stating in the bluntest of words that the culprits will be immediately put to task and every accuse of such a heinous act from henceforth will have to pay very dearly. Although they would be false promises (60 years of independence, we have become smart enough to understand how the political class functions), yet they would have at least helped reassure the citizens that their representatives sitting in that circular shaped building, besides fist-fighting and hurling abuses at each other, do manage to spare a moment to address the concerns of the junta.

But the kind of reactions that have come, or at least the ones that I saw, were nothing less than appalling. The CM of the Capital, after the news of the incident went viral, upon being pressed and cornered by the media regarding the actions that are being taken by the state, said and I quote — ‘We have cancelled the licence of the transport company.’ That’s it! Nothing more, nothing less. This is all she had to say. In the ensuing few days she has said that ‘we shouldn’t politicize the incident’ and that the state would bear all expenses for the treatment of that young girl. I would have so liked to ask her this question— ‘In that case ma’am, what about the other women who get raped every 30 minutes in the NCR region? Just because they didn’t get press coverage, doesn’t mean that they aren’t entitled to your benignity.’

Former Union minister of Child and Welfare, in one of the debates on a news channel s says that we shouldn’t for a moment think that the women in the political class are immune to such abuses. She says and I quote — ‘It is worse for us. Because we are in the political class, we can’t articulate and say what happens in our own backyard… We do not have the luxury of going to the media and talking about it or stay at home mourning over it. We just have to say that the show must go on and we continue.’ So for a woman to be able to share her assault details with the media or stay at home trying to recover from the shock is a ‘luxury’ for her! Being a MP, who is a former Child and Welfare minister, she, rather than pacifying the women of the country about their safety, is instead saying that she herself isn’t safe in her own constituency! Weren’t you sent to the parliament to raise this issue and work with others to get solutions to it?

Here we have two women ministers, who hold position of high power making such statements. Being women themselves, one would imagine that they would be the closest in the parliament who would be able to relate to that girl. But statements like these present a different story altogether. To be fair to the CM of Delhi, her statements shouldn’t come as a surprise because she still lives in a land where ‘Rs.600 per month, in a place like Delhi, is enough to feed a family of five.’

A few solutions have been forwarded. Two of the most prominent ones among them are — establishment of fast track courts (FTCs), and capital punishment for the crime. A little probe into their viability and we soon realise that these are nothing but knee-jerk solutions to the problem.

In a country known notoriously for its poor judiciary records, (out of the 96% reported rape cases, only 26% receive conviction, i.e. only 1 out of 4 rape cases have a verdict meted out to them) neither is the establishment of FTCs nor is the threat of capital punishment going to create any waves in dispatch of justice and curb the menace. The very fact that there are calls for special provisions in the judiciary made (e.g. setting up FTCs), every time a woman is raped or a corruption scandal breaks out or a bomb blast occurs, only glorifies the inefficiency of our judicial system. Trying to build a solution that makes use of such a system as its foundation will sooner or later result in collapse. FTCs are nothing but an escape route that the legislature and the judiciary resort to whenever there is complete failure of their policies.

Coming to the most important subject of this discussion, and in my opinion, the biggest culprit of this mess, ‘we, the society’. I cannot lay it out more clearly than this — When will the society finally take responsibility and admit that there are serious shortcomings in the way it operates? Isn’t the fact that it took such a brutal act to finally wake it up to the downtrodden plight of women, proof enough that its conscience has long been dead? When are we finally going to point the fingers at our own selves and say this is where the problem lies?

The fundamental problem in this whole incident is the way how men perceive women. Until and unless there is a complete revamp in that, no amount of law enforcement or efficient judiciary can help eradicate the menace of women molestation. Failure of the society in allowing women to have as much say in its functioning as the men, have set this wrong notion among men that since they are the ones who dictate the rules, they have the right to treat other members in any which way they want.

All that anguish and anger we see on social media is good to create awareness, but will be rendered useless if no action on ground level occurs. Let us understand that there is no short term solution to this problem. Castration, capital punishment, FTCs are only the solutions to the problem after it occurs. What we instead need to do is shift the focus to the prevention of the problem which will happen only with the change in our mindset. Let us, as a society, give women the respect they deserve. And to all the men, let us pledge at this very moment that we will refrain ourselves, as well as the ones around us, from committing such atrocities against women. It is time the society’s conscience is revived from the dead.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Shobhit Agarwal is the author of the book — ‘Ordered Cheese Delivered Chalk — My Kota Safari’.To read his other posts, click here.[/box]

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