Take a bow and get ready for a big movement – the biggest possible fight. We are done with trusting others to stand up for us, so let us stop shrugging off these matters, however occupied we may be.
Lacerations on the vulva of the girl (vulva is the external part of the female genitalia), hymen not intact, blood stained discharge found inside the vagina, bluish discolouration over the abdomen around the limbs, abrasions over thighs, abrasions over forearms, deep lacerated wound behind the right ear, tongue protruded.
All this is mentioned in the post-mortem report of the eight-year-old Kathua rape victim. The horrific and brutal rape shook the nation and caused worldwide outrage. What added to the outrage was the accused being shielded by MLAs and lawyers. Leaving aside all the whataboutery and polarizations, people lashed out with anger and strong emotions on social media and took to the streets all around the world.
It was but extremely sad to see thousands among them sharing fake news spread by the likes of the Dainik Jagran only a few days later. The same people who were shouting their lungs out questioned the investigation and accepted it was only a murder. It’s my request to all of them to read the forensic reports and then go through the charge sheet too. It won’t fail to send chills down your spine.
The concerned media houses, however, did not even care to seek an apology or correct themselves.
With the ongoing protests, rape cases in Surat, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Uttar Pradesh came to light too. The protest against the accused in the Kathua case first occurred back in February but failed to get attention outside Kashmir. The public outcry, after lawyers staged support in favour of the accused, was phenomenal and too loud but does this end with the ordinance against child rapists?
Sorry, but the ordinance does not in any way guarantee a way to stop to such crimes. Morality and habits cannot simply be imposed. The government, being under pressure, brought out the ordinance but if the perpetrators can walk scot free due to their political connections and are eventually acquitted, then as a result of this law, only poor rapists will be punished. The many acquittals of blast and riot initiators and the closure of Judge Loya’s case have already made us realise what mulls over the judiciary and the investigating agencies. Parents of young victims are now worried whether the abuser will ever leave the victim alive.
Another rally had been brought out in support of the Unnao rape accused BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar. However this time, we weren’t shocked. There were no outcries because this has become the new normal. The protesters alleged that their MLA was being made the target of a ‘political conspiracy’. Holding placards and banners that read “Hamara Vidhayak Nirdosh Hai (Our MLA is innocent)”, the protesting group was reportedly led by the Nagar Panchayat president Anuj Dixit. This was disgusting but it didn’t receive much media coverage and we expressed our discomfort ‘comfortably’ this time.
At the time of the Nirbhaya case back in 2012, there was no question of politicisation or polarisation before or after the rape. No one asked the religion or political inclination of the rapists. People were on the streets because we wanted an assurance that the same wouldn’t happen again. But the eight-year-old in Kathua wasn’t a victim of lust or alcoholic frenzy. It is evident that the incident was meant to terrorise the particular nomadic Bakarwal community. The hatred among the accused for her community made her the prey. The ‘reason’ in this case holds a particular significance because India is taking its last breaths as a democracy with lynchings, attacks and riots becoming normalised in the name of religion and caste. Not much could be done to put an end to this. Political speeches fuel such hatred to quite an extent. We are getting so used to this hatred that we have started overlooking or staying away from such issues.
But a war or riot, most importantly hatred affects different sections of society in different ways. Women have always, since time immemorial, been victims of war and its aftermath. The number of women and girls on either side of the border who were abducted, raped, mutilated, made sex slaves or wives by enemy families during the 1947 partition may count in lakhs.
This is not only true for India but it’s a phenomenon prevalent across nations. Enemies consider it a victory, shaming the opposite party by attacking their women. The violence did not stop there but continued in the form of riots in Independent India. The merciless rapes of pregnant women, young girls, tearing apart the stomach of women in the 2002 Gujarat riots, the alleged rape of around 100 women in the Kashmiri villages of Kunan Poshpora, the many unreported and unnoticed rapes during the Muzzafarnagar riots, in Bastar, Assam, Manipur – women have always been targeted and continue being victims to hatred. So, the Kathua case is different from the Nirbhaya case and needs a different understanding. Our empathies, as well as concerns, should be different. Nirbhaya was not a victim of political hatred but politics did play a role in the Kathua rape.
Having said that, after the Kathua and Unnao cases came to light, the number of rape or assault cases being reported increased manifold. Rallies are being organised and there are outpourings of rage on social media but simultaneously, we are developing a tendency to overlook these. This has become the new normal. It makes me feel sick. Do we have no humanity left that we can simply carry on with our daily lives? I experience this every passing day, and feel scared that the fire within people will die out soon.
Maybe women were assaulted in earlier times but do we not realise that times have changed? Do we not deserve a more humane and civilised world for our girls? What are we going to do with 33% reservation in Lok Sabha and top class education for our girls if they are not safe anywhere? We need to raise our girls to become independent, send them out for higher studies, allow them to work late at nights. We just cannot afford to let them sit back within shut doors and compromise with their lives anymore.
Things were different years ago. Women were kept confined to their houses mostly and with their families but not anymore. We cannot call ourselves progressing towards a civilised society if we are still stuck in those times. Daughters of the coming generation need a more free and humane society to grow and bloom fully. It’s upon us to give them that world or else the independence we dream for them is futile.
Let our busy lives not normalise this issue. Please continue making your voices heard. It’s time we roll up our sleeves and brush our shoulders, hold hands and take up this responsibility for a huge outcry and movement like never before. Starting with our homes, workplaces, communities and localities, we need to make a noise for every wrong that is committed. Continue empathising, introspecting, helping, being there on the streets and raising the strongest and loudest voices. We are done trusting anyone to help us. Let this be the biggest movement once and for all. Our little angels need us to unite and stop being helpless spectators.
If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.