Before the cure, how sick will we get?

There is no end to the variety of discourses that centre round Kali or Durga, Sita or Saraswati, Radha or Parvati, but we will never learn to respect the woman next door or in our own house.

I thought that after Nirbhaya, we would live in a different India. But no, we live in a far worse country. We pretend to celebrate the dignity of woman so much, in particular, the Hindu rashtra is never tired of talking of the respect and dignity we bestow on women.

There is no end to the variety of discourses that centre round Kali or Durga, Sita or Saraswati, Radha or Parvati, but we will never learn to respect the woman next door or in our own house. It’s below an Indian male’s dignity to treat a woman with respect and as an equal.

She remains an object: as a daughter, a wife or a mother or as a prop to advertisements in which she is forced to objectify herself most.

If we were really concerned as a community, we’d get millions of people, for instance, those who visit Vaishno Devi every year (and claim their devotion to the godess), along with thousands of young people in universities and colleges, to build a momentum to compel the government, executive and judiciary to ensure that there is no rape in this country. But this is neither possible, nor will it help.

As we look at the Kathua, Unnao and Surat cases, and hundreds of places where similar horrors took place, we feel we are becoming sicker by the day, almost beyond  redemption.

It is possible that atrocities against women have been happening since time immemorial and now, the media has helped us see it closely.

Let’s thank the media. There is no hype here. No sensationalism. It’s an eight-year-old girl who was raped multiple times by a group, some by invitation, treated with unheard of brutality and then murdered (rewind to Nirbhaya’s bus ride). She was kidnapped, drugged, raped by several people, and finally killed. A police officer, allegedly wanted to rape her one more time before bashing her head with a stone.

A BJP lawmaker allegedly rapes a 16-year-old in Unnao in UP; the girl tried to commit suicide outside the chief minister’s house (we should be ashamed of ourselves). Before we have a moment of respite, a nine-year-old was found dead with over 80 wounds, in Surat.

There is another world out there with millions of blind, irrational followers. Those who worship the likes of Bapu Asarams or Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singhs, who excel in the art of travelling from satsangs to sex, actually to rapes and murders, as ruthless and brutal as the ones above. What’s the limit of our sickness and depravity?

We are told the nation is shaken, but is it? There were demonstrations across the nation. What happened to them? Why did they stop? Why does our anger subside so easily? Why do we so easily become accustomed to rapes, murders and brutal acts, all of which speak so loudly against being human in any rational sense? Swati Maliwal, the chief of Delhi Women’s Commission, sits on a hunger strike. There are loud voices in the “Not in my name” protests. The rapists may be given death penalty within six months. Will this solve the problem?

Let’s thank all Bollywood stars (though many are a part of casting couch), all political leaders and civil servants, all those who protested saying “Not in my name,” all those who wrote and spoke in the media of various kinds and all those who tweeted and took to the Facebook, we thank them all.

But this is not enough. We know this will not work. This is not enough to civilise the beasts among men. In fact, our voices of protest go quiet so quickly and so effortlessly that we are forced to feel that these incidents have made us numb to their violence and barbarity.

We need to have a long-term plan. Begin with the primary sources of socialisation including, family, school, neighbourhood and the media.

Are there ways in which we can raise the bar for peer-group discourse? It is important to understand that it is a problem that concerns focusing on half the population — men.

Women are helpless victims here. Yes, they should be trained as much as possible for self-defence. Yet, what can a young girl do when attacked by several young and brutal men? This week, in the Nuh district of Haryana, a 17-year-old girl hanged herself after being gang-raped by seven men. Let’s act before we get sicker beyond hope.

(The writer is retired Prof, University of Delhi, Linguistics, currently working with Vidya Bhawan Society, Udaipur)

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