The gang-rape and murder of a 26-year-old Hyderabad veterinarian shook the nation last week. But are we really surprised?
The victim noticed a punctured tire as she went to her vehicle to return home from work a little after 8 p.m. She was about to leave her two-wheeler at the toll plaza, and take a cab home when two men approached her and offered help to get her vehicle repaired.
The woman was then ambushed and dragged into the bushes by the accused, barely 50 meters from Tondupally toll plaza, behind a line of trucks, that was parked near the road. Her charred body was then found under an underpass the next morning.
The four accused, Mohammed Arif, Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu, Jollu Shiva, and Jollu Naveen, have been arrested in the case, and they have confessed to committing the offence. The accused doused the body after raping the doctor, and it was reported, that two out of them had returned to the site to check whether the body was completely charred beyond recognition. The police claimed that the four accused were arrested within 24 hours of the crime.
As soon as people were informed about the incident through different sources, including social media; sorrow, grief, and anger, engulfed them. Citizens across the nation erupted in angered unison after they heard of this heinous crime.
The rape and subsequent murder of the doctor were sure to trigger great public outrage, as is always the response after every case of sexual violence.
People didn’t limit their anger to social media only, but several people took to the streets to protest and demanded ‘instant justice,’ and students took out protest rallies with candles, across the two Telugu states, as it is always done after any such atrocious crimes come to attention.
People are regularly posting about the case on social media with a trending hashtag. The campaigns online and otherwise are demanding strict actions against the culprits.
When has it ever made a difference? Once again, we have shifted our focus on the crime and how to punish the culprits, rather than focusing on how to prevent it from happening in the first place.
If online protests are not going to make a difference, neither will shouting ‘hang the culprits.’ There’s rhetoric to the whole hanging the culprits as well. The culprits can be hanged only when the police agree to file the FIR, without further harassing the women, or causing a delay in filing the report. Three policemen were reported to be suspended for the delay in filing the FIR.
Only one out of every four rapists are convicted in India. The fault lies within the system, both political and societal.
The other perspective of the rape and murder case cannot be ignored either. As expected, it did take a communal turn. The politicians have jumped on the bandwagon of communalising the incident. While it might serve their political agendas, it does nothing to ensure women’s safety and prevent such an incident from happening again.
The rape culture our society built is flourishing, and it won’t be long before someone blames the victim.
Online campaigns, trending hashtags, protests, and rallies, and candle marches are a great way to show your anger towards the crime and the culprits and your support for the victim and her family, but it is neither going to prevent the crimes. Nor it would ensure women’s safety.
We need to ask why we take actions only after a crime is committed, and a person has been mutilated and brutally killed. We need to recognise the fault with the system, draft policies to ensure women’s safety, and deliver swift and strict punishment to the culprits.
Six other terrifying cases of rape were reported in the same week. Similar outrage was seen on the Nirbhaya gang-rape case of 2012 and several other cases of sexual violence. But these seven years have neither made any difference nor has it taught us anything.
The only aspect which changed is the intensity with which we respond to such incidents.