I have often raised voice against sexual violence on women and children, more so recently. If you are a regular at this blog, you would know the kind of emotional turmoil I have been going through the past few months, again because of this same issue. But the current news on the Delhi gang rape left me totally speechless.
Yesterday, I was at my usual evening classes with S. I came straight for the class from the hospital where I spend Sunday night and I haven't had a peek at the newspaper. While S was working on a comprehension passage, I took a twitter break where I came across feeds on the gang rape. What was more chilling about the news was the details. The incident happened just on my 'neighborhood' on a bus route I often took. And the victim had a male friend with her when they were attacked. I could not help but be slapped on the face with the reality and the close vicinity of the incident. It could have been me!! So many times have I tread that same route with but mostly without male friends.
I'm not proud to say it, but what can I do, I live in India's Rape Capital. I travel alone most of the time and I am also in research where sometimes I have to stay out late or return to campus late. I often talked about the difficulty of living in a city like Delhi with this 'alien' face. I always make sure I am appropriately dressed; I don't venture out in certain places at certain hours; I only keep close company of people I know well; I do not party, I do not drink and I always make sure I do not mix with 'certain' people at certain hours. If I have to travel alone after dark, I always pick the busiest street and I go out of my way to stay away from big burly autowallahs and pick the puniest ones no matter how much they charge me. All the while I know with all my heart that such precautions are not going to work for long, if rapists run rampant in the city I live in; Delhi Police looks for reasons to blame the victims and law and order turns its head the other way.
Do I feel safe in Delhi? No. Have I ever felt safe in Delhi? Never. I always tense up when I travel alone in a lonely stretch of road even during daytime. And this evening, I panicked, screamed and ran when a huge van with dark windows slowed down next to me. The driver looked puzzled. It turns out he was asking for directions. Though it was a good hour before sunset, can you really blame me for being jumpy when such news haunts the city? But when I looked at the statistics, I was nauseated. According to the National Crime Records Bureau figures, which document only cases registered with the police, the national capital had 453 cases of rape in 2011. Mumbai, the city with the next highest incidence, had only half this number.
And all that talk about dress code, Bullshhhhh!! During my first semester in Delhi, I was 'grabbed' at the supposedly 'safe' environment of the the Library an hour after lunch. And I was clad in a full salwar suit, complete with the dupatta. When the campus security reached me, I was already a jumble of nerves and tears. Luckily they nabbed the culprit without asking me weird questions. I vaguely remembered filing an FIR before he was dragged away. I went a couple of times to Patiala House for hearing. I wasn't about to let it go easily. It doesn't matter to me if that person barely grazed my shoulders or tore my salwar, if he can do it in a campus library in daylight, he will do worse in a dark alley at midnight. And that was also my argument to the judge. I hope his stint at Tihar Jail intimidated him to some extent.
So many times have I taken part in protests against rape and sexual violence against women in the city I lived for the past six years. Had I known, I would have taken part in the protest organised by the JNUSU today. The NDTV crew came, interviewing students on a dhaba in the campus while I went out for evening tea. I was glad to hear that the issue was debated in the Parliament today and that Jaya Bachchan had a breakdown asking the government if it had apologized to the victim's family and the country. Good question Mrs. Bachchan. Respect!
But what can mere mortals like us do on such grounds. I'm an extremist and God forgive me if the next sentence denotes scant respect for human life. I say send the rapists straight to the gallows (I would love to say 'guillotines'!). My roommate strongly disagrees. She says castration is a better option. Let the rapists live out their life, forced to reflect on their deed every single day of their shameful existence. A few months ago I applauded when the MHIP ( the largest women's organisation in our Christian state) issued a statement saying that child rapists should be forcefully made impotent by castration. Many of my male friends disagreed saying that the MHIP should think again and are too extreme. I say, what is more extreme than rape?? You murder a woman's soul without taking her life.
I am just too disgusted and angry that so many times have I deleted certain paragraphs from this post because I can't level with my emotions yet. I would love to end this post in a positive note. But forgive me I just can't. Rather I'd end this post with an excerpt from this brilliant article.
...being a rape victim in India is so much fun. First, you’re humiliated by the cops, then your personal life is put on trial by the media. After a couple of years being ground down by the judicial process, you get your moment in court where you’re expected to recount every detail – and I mean, every detail – in open court. All this only to find that in the great majority of cases, it’s all been for naught because the original investigation was shoddy and flawed. Your assailants go scot-free while you are tarnished for life as “damaged goods” in our enlightened society.
Good going, Delhi!! A city who boasts of its political, intellectual and feudal elites! It's a shame you will be known as 'India's Rape Capital' and rightly so!
Praying for the victim (who continues fighting for her life as I write), her injured friend and her family!!