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Questions We Need To Be Asking Ourselves Today, On The 16th Of December

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By Somrita Urni Ganguly:

He raped her and then brutally pumped the breath out of her adolescent body till she died. Her parents returned home to find their daughter lying mutilated and dead. You were outraged by this act of gross violence. You demanded that Dhananjay Chatterjee be hanged till death for the crime committed against Hetal Parekh. Fourteen years later when he was eventually executed, you wore black in mourning – you talked of human rights, and his scope for reformation; you cried that capital punishment should be abolished.

rapes in india

He open fired at innocent people in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. He orphaned Baby Moshe at the Nariman House. He crippled and maimed several Mumbaikars. You were outraged by this act of gross violence. You demanded that Ajmal Kasab be hanged till death for the crime committed against India – for holding a terrorized, terrified nation at gunpoint. Four years later when he was eventually executed, you wore black in mourning – you talked of human rights, and his scope for reformation; you cried that capital punishment should be abolished.

They forced themselves into her body, first individually, then together; and then they forced an iron rod inside her and punctured her uterus and lower intestines. She was in coma, her gangrened intestines having been completely removed from her body, fighting for life before she finally succumbed. You were outraged by this act of gross violence. You demanded that the rapists be hanged till death for the crime committed against the 23-year-old Jyoti on December 16th 2012.

A “fair trial” later when the perpetrators of the heinous act are possibly given the death sentence by the Supreme Court of the nation, you will again wear black in mourning – you will talk of human rights and reformation; you will cry that capital punishment should be abolished.

Today you put up status updates on Facebook demanding capital punishment for rapists.
Tomorrow when the President quietly orders their execution, you will suddenly become conscious of “human rights” and scream your lungs hoarse against death penalty. The day after tomorrow there will be rape of girlfriends, torture of sisters, beaten mothers, bruised wives.

There are questions that you need to ask yourself today — fundamental questions, fellow citizens. What does your anger amount to? Whom are you defending? What are you challenging? Who are you? Were those six men the only culprits? Did Nirbhaya die only because of those six? Is you silence not a crime? Is your misplaced judgement not questionable? Does your duty end with a candle light vigil outside Safdarjung Hospital and a silent protest demonstration at Jantar Mantar? Have you fought enough for Nirbhaya? Are her sisters safe in this world? Is your sister perfectly safe with you? And your mother? And your wife? And your daughter? And her girlfriends? Are you sensitive to their needs? And the needs of those absolutely unrelated to you by blood? Does Akshay Kumar pinching Sonakshi Sinha’s well-endowed bottom titillate you? Do you still sing tu cheez badi hai mast mast? Have you danced lately to the tunes of Jalebi Bai, Sheela ki Jawani, Munni, Chikni Chameli or Fevicol? Oh, have you also been vocal in your criticism of the Supreme Court vis-à-vis Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code while having mentally abused your “effeminate” friend from the all-boys Jesuit school by calling him “gay” for years?

There are questions that we need to ask ourselves today. Are we so insensitive that we can hoodwink ourselves to heaven?

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  1. Jayasmita Ray

    Very good article and quite aptly stated. A huge part of hoodwinking is due to fear and callousness. However, i have some other questions that i want to consider as well:

    1) What can we do to instill something called sensitivity for differences and value of consent in a culture that is so contradictory in itself?

    Friendships between men and women are looked at in a different way. Dating culture is something many haven’t experienced in reality. Meanwhile, the diet of item numbers in movies which display women as objects in the name of “innocent entertainment for the family” along with several other degrading projections are repeatedly shown. It is worsened with the continuous feeling for the potential rapist and molester that he might just get away or live off on our tax money in jail for some years.

    Also, it is completely alright for marital rape to happen but it is not ok for two consenting adults to exercise their sexual preferences in their privacy?

    2) Why does someone sexually assault another?

    Violence is never black and white. By trying to understand where this aggression originates from, we can do our best to prevent it in the first place or atleast start subduing the numbers. Many sexual abusers have actually been abused in the past and also suffer from mental problems. Gender sensitization and removal of stigma is definitely the main goal but it needs to be accompanied by studying more about the other explanations of the problem too.

    Clearly, we have a lot of thinking to do!

    1. Urni Ganguly

      I couldn’t agree more with you Jayasmita. Have you read Toni Morrison? I’m thinking of her debut novel here, The Bluest Eye. Besides other things, it is also the story of a young Afro-American girl, who desired blue eyes (the archetypal symbol of beauty in a white America), and who was impregnated by her father. The genius of Morrison lies in not, never for a moment, allowing us to sit in judgement over Pecola Breedlove’s father. In fact, if anything, the passage which talks of the father raping the young girl, is one of the most tender passages in the entire novel – the “tenderness” that the father shows her is a stark contrast to the “abuse” that she faced at the hands of the racist society that she lived in. Yet, was that tenderness not also the worst form of abuse? Clearly then, there can be no black and white. We ourselves are so dirty that we cannot sit in judgement over anybody else. Therefore, my questions were directed not only at “others” but at myself too. Glad you posed some more 🙂

    2. Jayasmita Ray

      I will read that book. It sounds very fascinating. We have to consider and i guess the tenderness this girl describes is something that some young victims of abuse often feel towards their apparent care-givers. Many people choose not to walk out of emotionally abusive relationships not only because of financial reasons and other pressing concerns but also because there is subconscious need to prove their ability to actually reform someone. Its actually also a sign of low self-esteem along with a very deep-rooted fear.

    3. Urni Ganguly

      Well, if I can recall correctly, the narrative voice was not that of the young girl but the third person omniscient narrator. In other words, Morrison, herself, in this passage expresses the “fondenss” that the father felt towards the child. Judging the father is the easiest thing one can do; trying to see the rationale behind his action, no matter how pervert, is the difficult bit. I suppose that’s what we need to consider at this point of time. In our attempts at inclusivity, we have to realise that jumping to conclusions is easy; being non-judgemental is actually the most difficult part of the story.

  2. Nitin

    Both yous are different. Those in support of capital execution dont necessarily agree with the yous crying human rights. There are all sorts of yous in a democracy, and so only those with majority are heard. I dont know about rest of your questions, but I dont find ‘tu cheez badi’ or akshay kumar pinching offensive as long as opposite sex dont find it so, its done in a flirtatious manner, and not she dont get uncomfortable with it.

    1. Urni Ganguly

      Well, maybe you should consider the rest of the questions too? 🙂 Because the one that you considered was asked in a context, and not as a stand-alone one. However, while I do see the point that you’re making flirtation (and honestly, there was a time when I would’ve agreed with you completely on this), now I am beginning to realise that there’s this very very fine line between being flirtatious and being offensive. I suppose the line of demarcation can be seen only by the receiver of such gestures, never the giver.

    2. Nitin

      its easy to rise questions. If you really need any answer, post one at a time with your solution backed with data and logic, and then allow debate to occur. If not anything at least we commenters will get some knowledge. The post looked more like she is ‘getting mad as hell, and cant take it anymore’ and so is posting questions that were true even in 10th century.

      Flirting is about feeling the vibe and then getting more bolder until you feel she doesn’t think line is getting crossed.

    3. Urni Ganguly

      Haha! Yes, Nitin, “she is getting mad as hell, and cant take it anymore”, indeed. And you already know the reason behind it – these are issues which have been plaguing the society since the “10th century”, and perhaps earlier. It’s been quite a while, you know! 🙂

      She however, completely agrees when yo say that questions need answers. The purpose of this article was to raise trhe questions. The answers will come through introspection. You might have noticed – these were not stray questions thrown at stray readers to create shock effect. The author directs the questions to herself as well. Once the introspection leads to concrete answers, she’ll write another article on it. If you find answers before her, you could write the article before she does. We’re all looking for answers here, are we not? 🙂

      But then again, as they say, if we got all the answers that we sought, life wouldn’t be what it is.

    4. Nitin

      ah! who cares. One question before I leave – are you her mother(no Somrita, but highlighted), or you are using both names.

    5. Urni Ganguly

      Ah. Certain questions leave me so amused that I consider not answering them sometimes. Go figure! 😀

  3. Prashant Kaushik

    I had almost skipped the article as it is on a very common theme, but just a cursory glance made it clear how different it was. Really admire you. You have aptly brought out the mutually contradicting stance of civil activists which negate and neutralize each other. This is the reason why we arent a really progressive society because of the different groups, which in the name of liberty, cancel out each other’s efforts.

    1. John A Raju

      but that is why our nation is called a democracy, we hear all sides of any proposal, it is time consuming, it is sometimes cumbersome but we try hearing every group’s arguments and acting prudently at least in principle though not always in practice. I do however agree that our gestures shouldnt just end with a candle light, but rather the fight should be an ongoing vigil.

    2. Urni Ganguly

      Well, there’s a reason behind calling us the largest democracy of the world, is there not? 🙂 However, how functional it is is the subject of another debate. The point of this article however was to highlight the Hypocrisy that we all seem to live. That needs to be changed.

    3. Somrita Urni Ganguly

      Thanks Prashant! Well, as they say, we need to change the world, all right, but the change needs to begin with us.

  4. An egalitarian man.

    Good article. Good questions. We, as a people feed on hypes. The media does it. And we blindly follow. Are you saying that there were no gangrapes or molestations before the listed incidents? We chose to ignore them. There were many instances of rape victims being married off to the rapist as punishment to the rapist and to retain the “honour” of the victim. The need to introspect is necessary, as you have written in your article. The 19th century legal system borrowed from the Brits is in desperate need of reform.

    The Big Question is this, why are we a reactive population and not a proactive population?

    The ads on all media asking you to whiten your skin and to ape models and actors is doing more harm to our psyche. We let them do it. There are deep consequences to this preying of insecurities of an already insecure nation.

    1. Urni Ganguly

      Absolutely, E-Man! You know, on another note, what I suddenly think is right about the Fair and Handsome ads (because for quite some time I was terribly mad at those ads)? Well, at least they seem to have broken the gender stereotype even if it is just at a superficial level. That leaves them with just one more thing to combat – racial stereotypes. Well one enemy is better than two I suppose. I can’t even believe that I’m justifying those ads, but I’ve reached this stage where I’m desperate to see something good in the evil that we propagate. Thank you for the feedback.

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