An Open Letter To Anyone Who Could Sleep After Kathua

Posted by Aparna Gopan in Gender-Based Violence
April 16, 2018

I write this, sleep-deprived from the weight of yesterdays.

All I can think of are the songs that the little girl in Kathua hummed as she took her ponies out to graze on the 10th of January, the stories she wanted to share with her brother, the thought of her mother preparing food for her hungry stomach and the colors of the new clothes she wanted her father to buy for the new school year.

I can’t stop thinking that all these memories have been long cremated. And that in their place stands a broken house, a terrified community, a divided country and a world full of sleep-deprived souls. I have narrated the gruesome details of Kathua over and over, trying to break the silence around it like many others. But I am tired. I am tired because I can’t help change the past. I am tired because I can’t but feel like an accomplice.

I guess this is what happens when crime goes beyond individual malice. And at this confusing confluence of religious tension, gender-based violence, communal hatred, party politics and shrewd nationalism, I can’t but feel helpless. I can’t but feel guilty. I feel guilty about the society we have forged for our little ones. All those years of tolerance of patriarchy and communalism have taken their toll. And yet, we are doing nothing.

Our young generation goes to school every morning and stands with their hands outstretched, reciting the Indian Pledge. I see people stand up for the National Anthem in movie theatres with their heads held high. Yesterday, I heard of lawyers who took to the streets with the Indian tricolour held up high, in defence of those accused in the gang-rape case of a minor, demanding the deportation of Rohingyas. And I wonder, what are you asking me to be proud of?

Are we proud of the fact that we did nothing as the country got divided across borders, caste, religion, gender and communities? Are we rejoicing the future of a fundamentalist party we elected into power? Are we relieved that we stood as mere spectators to Dadri mob lynching? Are we celebrating the death of around 300 manual scavengers who died in our potholes full of caste, more than shit? Are we exhilarated that communal violence in India has risen by 28% in the last four years? Are we not shocked that there has been a 277% rise in the rape cases reported in our capital in the last five years alone?

Aren’t we upset, disgusted, helpless, angry, ashamed and all the more, dead inside? A 15-page charge sheet, 82 days of investigation and over 3 months of silence over the gruesome murder of an 8-year-old over communal hatred in Kashmir later, we are still doing nothing. We are not wondering why rape is being used as a tool to threaten marginalized communities. We are not taking measures to stop sexual violence being used as a war weapon or a political tool to ensure submission. We are not changing systems of gender-roles or patriarchal ideologies which let rape threats be meted out as casual jokes within homes and social settings. We are not fighting fundamentalist institutions and religious divisions which make the mob out of a crowd. We are not talking about those taboos that keep grave issues from being discussed and dealt with.

All we are doing is mourning the dead as they fall prey to the passive silence and blame-games we chose over active rebellion. And that is why I am guilty. I am tired. I am sleep-deprived from all this burden of yesterdays I helped create. And you should be too.