What has changed since December 2012?
The over all situation on matters concerning safety and security of the common man, especially women and children, remain unchanged. Even our reactions to the reported crimes remain the same. One sensational incident and we sizzle, the media goes on an overdrive, the political opponents skin each other, those who claim responsibility for the crime watch the drama on their TV sets and have the last laugh. In a few days, things are back to normal.
The only visible difference, if any, is that Nirbhaya rape case has set a precedence for all subsequent offenders to threaten their victims with similar dire consequences.
The lax response of our governments to the ‘Rape Epidemic’ is also corroborated by the fact that the Indian definition of rape is ‘Mistake’. This point is evident from the three casual statements. First, by Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of the Samajwadi Party in UP who declared at a public rally, “Boys are boys. mistakes happen sometimes.” The second statement by an unrepentant Uber cab driver, “I made a mistake. What do I do?” And the third, by Ravindra Jhunjhunwala, an NRI, a Harvard educated senior company executive and most recently a molester on flight, “I am sorry, it was a mistake”.
Sexual offence is not restricted to the ruthless villager working as a laborer in a city. The criminals belong to varying social and professional strata – political leaders, senior government officials, bureaucrats, MNC executives, teachers, peons, drivers, delivery boys, uncles, fathers, brothers, businessmen, even godmen. The list is endless. They lurk in all corners of our lives and age is no barrier in choosing their victim.
However, I am writing this page with a differing perspective. I present three cases below of sexual offenders belonging to different classes, occupations and states. The sentencing in all three cases is different, though, the crime remains the same.
A security guard from Kuludihi in West Bengal, Dhananjoy Chatterjee rapes a 14 year old girl in Kolkata in March 1990. Executed by hanging on 4th August 2004, in Alipore Jail, Kolkata.
Inspector General of Police – Haryana, S.P.S. Rathore molests 14 year old Ruchika Girhotra in his office in 1990. Young Ruchika commits suicide due to illegal police excesses. December 2009 – 19 years, 40 adjournments, over 400 hearings later, Rathore pronounced guilty, sentenced upto two years imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1000. Supreme Court of India grants him bail in November 2010.
May 2014. Two teenaged girls in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, gang raped by the upper caste influential men with political clout and hanged on a tree, while still alive. The girls, belonging to the lowest strata of society, had ventured out at night for their daily ablutions in the nearby fields. “The CBI announced on 27 November 2014 that they have concluded that the two cousins were not sexually assaulted and murdered as police initially said, but took their own lives.”
Reasons for the differing treatment of the three cases presented above are evident. Those who did not not hold any significant social political or official position were handed severest punishment, whereas those in superior social standing got away with lenient or no charges.
Sanjeev Nanda, Vikas Yadav, Manu Sharma, Santosh Kumar Singh, Biti Mohanty – these are only some of the high profile names involved in murder, rape and hit-and-run cases where the offenders have walked away with lenient charges.
Kasab, a small time suicide squad terrorist, was hanged to death, though strategically, to suit political timing, whereas Maulana Masood Azhar, much high above the terrorist cadres was allowed to go scott free and continues to plot terrorist attacks against India. The differential treatment here is also evident. The former was a common soldier of the suicide squad and his presence or absence wouldn’t affect any Jihadi outfit, whereas Azhar has strong hold among his masses. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the Indian government developed cold feet and couldn’t send him to the gallows, even after apprehending him on serious charges of terrorism.
Similarly, in the recent New Delhi rape case involving the cab driver, it will not be difficult to pass an early judgment as no one benefits from a seasoned, unrepentant, socially backward rapist. His existence or the lack of it will not make any difference to anyone.
This is not to say that serial offenders from humble backgrounds should be treated leniently. Definitely Not.
The point in this case is that as long as judicial judgments differ due to the biases of social status of the offenders, it will be impossible to bring about any significant change to our rotting-at-the-roots law and order systems.
The twenty first century Indian government has to introduce revolutionary changes to judiciary and law & order, one that is free from all and any external influences. Single common law across the country for crimes against humanity must be enforced. The government has to put in unprecedented efforts to eradicate this disease. Deal with it the way we guard our national borders.
After the Nirbhaya incident, why has there been this inveterate delay in levying checks and restrictions on all private transport operators, buses or cabs?
What are they waiting for? How many more Damini’s and Nirbhaya’s do we sacrifice before the noose is tightened around the criminal necks?
On the other hand, it is important for women in India to accept the fact that ‘Rape’ is endemic to India and we have no other option but to exercise caution and precautions, at all times. Laws, Ministers or the Police can not stop rapes or any sexual assault, because respecting women and acknowledging that they have rights was never included in any textbook, moral stories or parental upbringing. Even women have been submissive for centuries.
Rape, Sexual Assault, Molestation; these are not a disease that has suddenly turned into an epidemic. This ailment, like termites, has been eating away into our social systems for centuries. Countless widows, young unmarried women and children from the bygone era would have fallen prey to predatory men, but maintained silence due to lack of support systems that would throw spot light on their plight.
This issue is out in the open and discussed widely only because of the growth, extent and influence of all forms of Media and of course, because women of the millenia refuse to bow down anymore to the vulgarities of menfolk.
The seed is sown. Women have spoken out against this evil. However, we have to understand that change will not come about in a day. It will take several generations to bring about any social changes to the existing mindsets of the supposedly superior gender, Man. Until then, women of all ages have to take a warrior stance to fight off this evil. Be socially aware and speak out early. Create such an atmosphere in our society, home, work places, everywhere, that no woman fears or hesitates to speak out against these sick offenders. The January 2015 flight molestation case is a good point where the woman refused to remain silent about even a poking from Jhunjhunwala, she recorded his statement and posted the video widely on social media.
Educating has to start early with the young men and women, and has to begin at home.
I quote my mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist leader, “Education should not be based on or limited by a nationalist agenda. Education must cultivate the wisdom to reject and resist violence in all its forms. It must foster people who intuitively understand and know in their mind, in their heart, with their entire being – the irreplaceable value of human beings and the natural world.”
(Also published on https://www.saddahaq.com/defining-rape)