Why do Delhiites turn beastly when they see women?

Somebody wrote on a satire Facebook page that by 2050 women in Delhi will be able to walk 50 feet from their homes without being groped, raped, lusted after or assaulted.

The post arguably drew more comments — serious and flippant — than the best Rajnikant one-liner has ever got. The reputation of the Capital, sandwiched between Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, has taken a few knocks of late to become the last place a woman would want to live even if the Earth was facing doomsday. This sounds like exaggeration, but try telling a woman taking a men-filled Metro on a hot summer day or jostling for space on a DTC bus after work that her fear is overstated, chances are you will walk home nursing a black eye.

Last month a girl’s father swallowed poison when he came to know that his daughter had been keeping quiet after four youth had raped her. They reportedly made an MMS of the act and circulated it in their village in Haryana.

Hardly a week later a married woman was gang-raped at gun-point in front of her kids at a village not very far from where the man consumed poison. Some days later while Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda was telling journalists in Chandigarh that law and order situation was under control, a girl was gang-raped by a shopkeeper and his friends in a storehouse, reportedly at the same time as the press conference.

But why would Haryana matter in a discussion of the crime graph in Delhi? The state’s proximity to Delhi influences how the latter views its women, and Haryana’s views on women are well-known. Delhi also shares its eastern border with UP, and with the honey in Noida — power, money, malls, pubs, fun — killer bees from interior UP swarm there and cross into Delhi as well.

The other honey pot is Gurgaon, where men who got rich overnight after selling their land to realty sharks suddenly find themselves unable to fit in a world they thought they can sneak into. They become insecure and perceive a threat to their manhood, whatever it is, and get through the other world with their money. Then they try to take by force what they cannot buy -- respect, manners and upbringing.

To keep the conscience clear, the ‘upmarkets’ quote what the police say, that it’s easy for migrants with criminal history to enter the city for a ‘quick job’ and exit, that it’s impossible to stop the flow of hundreds of criminal wannabes setting foot into the Capital. But nobody dares debate the ‘mentality’ within that has enveloped the city like fog. 

The argument that Delhi is unsafe for women sits on a delicate balance between fact and stereotype (slowly turning into fact). The National Crime Records Bureau data can’t for sure say that Delhi's crime rate is higher than Mumbai or Bangalore, but there exists a perception among people, especially women—which matters a lot -- that the probability of a woman getting robbed or raped is much higher in the city where the President and the Prime Minister live.

Most vulnerable

It is not about any one city sitting on top of the high-crime rate list. Even if by virtue of statistics some other city than Delhi is unsafe for women, no amount of data-waving can hide the fact that women in the Capital feel the most vulnerable.

A programme officer of a Karnataka-based NGO said she often takes a KSRTC bus to go to remote villages in the state due to the nature of her work. Not even once have stray men misbehaved with her, she said. A city woman can comfortably travel on a public bus to go to interior Karnataka, complete her work and return home without paying too much attention about possible stalkers. Thereby hangs a tale. Can a woman travel like her in the National Capital Region, alone, day after day, on a public inter-state bus?

Then there is the contentious issue of a ‘flawed’ cultural worldview that is prevalent in a society dominated by men. Mothers cut vegetables in the kitchen and wash clothes for a lifetime, while fathers have everything else, including some fun. Sons born in the typical family ape their dads. By the time they reach adulthood they conveniently come to the conclusion that they were born to command and women obey by default. When this situation happens to boys who grow up in the underprivileged section and who get no guidance —thousands of them in the country—you get an army of men who don’t respect women.

Add to that the illiterate’s mentality that sons bring goodies and daughters drain wealth. Even the educated are known to whisper the D word. Such is the level of hopelessness this country is in.

Yet, there are people who know that education is not only a means to earn a livelihood, but the only reliable tool to learn how to think and live like a human being. No amount of punishment can reduce crime against women. There won’t be enough jails to accommodate all the offenders.

The solution lies in cleaning the house. Men must teach their sons to respect women early on by not ridiculing the role of mothers. The society must let go of cultural baggage that treats women unfairly. It must be imprinted in the psyche that women are not goods to be used, sold, exchanged or bought irrespective of the geographical factor – Haryana, Delhi, Ghaziabad or Timbuktu. Is it too hard to achieve this?

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