The last few days have been emotionally overwhelming. With the passing of the 23 year old in Singapore, the country rose up in collective prayers. But when my eyes closed for that moment, I realized that she does not need our prayers. She is blessed. Let’s not shirk responsibility for her death by saying we are “praying” for her. It is ourselves we need to pray for.
I’m glad the government has not responded to the calls of “HANG THEM” yet. Won’t that be the ideal solution? Becoming Pontius Pilot, washing your hands off of them? Handing the culprits over to Colors for a 1 season run of “Public ka Badla” where in the season finale they are hanged, complete with posters of Zatak deodorant on the gallows (Just Zattack Her, yougaise) while Barkha Dutt spells out in clichés, the very thing that the camera is showing? (Also see, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani).
Unwittingly Damini/Nirbhaya/Patient X has become the symbol of what sexual assault has done to the county then shouldn’t the perpetrators become symbols of what its consequences can be? She did not ask for martyrdom, you made her one. Now—your turn. You violated another person in their most personal space. Be prepared to have the same done to you. And let’s just say things would have been much messier if one of them was politically connected.
I think, let the bastards have a fair trial. Let them see the rage they are inducing. Let them cower in a jail cell imaging their own death by the bare hands of thousands of angry people. Let future rapists know that they wont go down into a blaze of glory, in front of T.V cameras. They will be scorned, hated and rot in a jail cell till no one gives a shit about them including their own family members. Let them die alone and be buried in unmarked graves. Even that kind of a death will be more dignified than the miserable lives they led. But we will not be the animals they are.
Bollywood of course, as usual refuses to take responsibility for anything. But from my common knowledge, what is the best way to take revenge from the hero cop for raiding your drugs ka godown? Why you rape his sister! Sarre aam, pure gaaon ke saamne jo chup chaap tamasha dekhenge, who after the act, much to the Delhi police’s chagrin—disperse quietly. Ho gaya tamasha. Please leave your names and contact information at the door. We will call you in case we schedule any sexual assaults in the near future.
Mithun didn’t have an unviolated sister through most of the 1980’s. It was shown to be a horrific crime, yes, but there were NEVER any consequences. There was some general yelling, if Sunny Deol was involved a shirt or two came off. But that was the extent of it. Today, Salman Khan, our bhai, who makes 100 crore rupee fart jokes called Dabaang is deified in spite of physically abusing Aishwarya Rai. As it turns out, she’s not really worth it.
I went to the Azad Maidan protest. A 100 pissed off looking people–demanding everything from, hanging of the perpetrators, safety for women, legal changes in sexual assault convictions and prayers for the 23 year old. But what were we protesting? Sexual assault? Who declares Dec 29th Anti-Rape day? Is there a pro-rape day that we need it to counteract the efforts of? The thought makes the hair on the back of my neck prickle.
The messages have been there subliminally, pro-rape in blaming the victim. From our politicians to our very own parents. Tehelka’s expose in the past year has blown the top off the mentality we harbour towards sexual assault as a nation. Someone on national television will say women are “painted and dented” while our mothers will advise on how to keep our eyes lowered and our school bag slung in front of our chest while we traverse local trains. Because a kurta and a dupatta is not enough. You need to have a bagful of your 9th Std text books on top of your breasts so that you don’t incite the lust of these cherubic, innocent men.
We all have some version of “Arre and then he just pulled it out of his pants and started masturbating.” Or the crowded bus symptomatic-“when I stepped out, I realized that he had left a wet patch on my back.”
When my mother did not allow a 13-year-old me to take a bus to see my friends for a movie, I asked her why my brother could do it when he was 13 and I could not.
She sighed, and said-“Because you are a girl Aditi.”
“So?” I asked.
“Go play with Rashi on the 1st floor.”
And one cannot blame our parents for this. Our parents cannot help it. They want you to be safe. Every day at 6 o’clock they call to ask what time you are getting home. And as you grow older, they forget to call, but you remember to go home by 7 anyway because you don’t want them to worry about you. There it is. So deeply embedded in us that it has become a basic truth.
I don’t want to look in the eyes of my daughter with that same resigned expression and tell them they are NOT allowed to do things because they are a girl. I will not.
Not enough can be said about how bizzare the government’s reaction to this incident has been. I might be naive but I don’t know ANY government in the world that WANTS its people to feel unsafe. There is no larger imagined corporate agenda when it comes to citizen’s safety. The association of Soup lobby isn’t saying, “Hey keep the eve teasing up—it’ll sell us more soup.” Then WHY is it being handled so badly? From the misreported death of Constable Subhash Tomar to lobbing tear gas grenades at protesters. Tear Gas? May I point out the irony of beating crowds of your own people who are there asking you for safety? For that brief period the media worked hand in glove with the government. First Sachin retired (Well, only from One Day Internationals. I didn’t know it was possible to retire in instalments), more misreporting on the death of Constable Subhash Tomar, and of course, —everything was flying off of our teleprompters and into our homes before anyone had any time to verify facts.
We want to talk. Please. Even though you have turned on your water cannons we still don’t want to fight—we want to talk. Come out. Talk to us in anything other than clichés. “I have three daughters..” really? Then since you’re doing nothing about their safety either, their voice is with us today. “Maintain calm.” As mentioned, you’ve been the one to bring violence to the table. We are scared and angry. Help us.
The Justice Verma Committee is inviting “recommendations on amending laws to provide speedier justice and enhanced punishment in sexual assault cases. The comments can be sent at firstname.lastname@example.org or through FAX at 011-23092675.”
This is a chance to get out of the quagmire of politics and be a part of the solution instead of exacerbating the problem with empty debate. Kickass litigation veteran @MumbaiCentral will be writing an e-mail along with her sister. Please do follow her for updates.
As I write this the Delhi Police, RAF, CRPF and the CISF are on high alert against people that want nothing but their own safety. You don’t trust us and we don’t trust you. The best line of defense for the 9th Std girl being molested on a crowded railway platform will continue to be the fat Civics text book in her school bag slung on top of her chest.
And to you–I am so sorry. I am so, so fucking sorry. And I promise from now on, that I will do EVERYTHING in my power to make sure that it does not happen to anyone around me. I’m sorry it had to come to this. I promise to be more mindful when speaking and in my attitudes to be the change I want to see. I promise to see beyond the inherent female misogyny of our own women politicians. I am your sister. I am your brother. I will be responsible for you when we are together, not because I’m worried, but because we’re both human beings and we have this ability to be empathetic for a reason. I will help you when I find you injured on the road, I will take you to the hospital. I will make sure that NO ONE ever makes you feel unaccepted if you have suffered. I never got a chance to exchange a fleeting smile with you on the road or be your friend, or to meet you. But I am here for you and I’m so sorry.