It is good for the people to come to the street and raise their voice in solidarity with an affected person and therefore the protest to make our public places safer for women must have support from all. The political system in India has become so much corrupted that the best thing the politicians have become expert in are to look these issues through an identity prism and therefore discredit the entire issue which concern us all. It is true that the middle class upper caste citizenry of the country is reacting on this issue because it is the target at the moment but it is also a reality that our public places are highly unsafe for women and that is the duty of the government to ensure that she can use that space without feeling insecure and unsafe.
I do not believe that these protests are unwarranted but media definitely over reacted on the issue and inflamed the passion. After a big failure of Anna's movement, media is again trying to create chaos by legitimizing everything in the name of 'sentiments' and 'feelings' of the people. Street protests are essential to wake the political class as well as to clean the conscience of the society but that would not be possible without a formidable ideological understanding of our social system which has justified rape and violence against women from time immemorial. In the absence of the ideological clarity, these street protests against 'rapists' is the result of a feeling that the 'criminal' do not come from us. India lives in communitarian society where family and blood relations are focused on and therefore right and wrongs are always based on 'politics' of our society and which community are from.
There are numerous celebrity 'rapists' in Delhi's Tihar Jail and they are honorable citizens there. Their families have defended them. Many of them are former senior police officers and interestingly their wives publically defended them and fought their cases. We can assume that a village woman is helpless and hence do not dare to speak against her husband as the social pressure is tremendous and at the end it is the woman who is blamed for everything. Every rapist or molester of a woman is definitely a son, a brother, a husband, a father and a father in law too. How many times do we see a public rebuking of such people by their sisters, daughters, wives and daughter in laws? Can these female relatives of 'rapist' ever disown them and demand public trial? That is the most important aspect in India where we have failed. Secondly, it is also important that street trial will brutalize the already brutal society and only strengthen the moralists like Shri Ram Sene, Bajrang Dal, Shivsena or their Muslim counterparts and the result would be an absolute control over private space of the individuals.
Many of the film stars as well as politicians have jumped in the bandwagon of this 'leaderless' protest suggesting the 'rapists' must be hanged, publically butchered and what not. The direction of the entire debate would only gladden the heart of the Taliban mindset among us who want women to be 'protected' and advise her to understand her 'limits'. While in a civilized society, we do not need policing at all the level as more police only mean less security and more fear. Do we want policing at every nook and corner when even a brother and sister or two lovers are blackmailed by the beat constable? Do we want to be poked and questioned everything about our personal lives? Yes, such debate on violence against women actually reinforces the parochial belief that a woman is not safe and must accompany her family persons. This will always make the lives of millions of those youngsters who travel together and stay at one place. The moralists would then blackmail them whether they are 'married' or not. Such situation already exist in different parts of the country where hotel have turned into blackmailing youths particularly young couples who run away from their homes and want to get married. Every hotel would then turn a khapist and extort as much money as possible as the fear of 'getting exposed' make them succumb to such blackmailing or leads to violence and even suicide.
There is a need to have sensible debate on the issue which does not confine to rape as it is just one of the forms of violence against women. It would make mockery of freedom of individual and their choices as even consensual sex between two adults might be termed as 'rape' by the moralists as man-woman relationship would be under the constant scrutiny of these 'street' moralists who would not treat 'honored' killing as equal to rape? Have our moralist demanded same treatment for all those who kill their wives, sisters, daughters in the name of honor? Why do the honored killings in Harayana or even near Delhi does not attract that much of passion and anger among our citizens in the country? Why does a girl goes into depression when feel betrayed by her boyfriend or when the relationship is broken? It is the fear of being isolated with prospectus of marriages getting dim afterwards and that is the 'sexual' 'purity' of woman which has been legitimized by social norms and religious texts.
The parents of the girls and boys who decide to live on their own try to thwart their marriage all the way. In most of the cases, if a girl 'disappear' with her 'lover', the parents file complaint of 'abduction' and rape against the boy? All these acts have potential to be misused very similarly like dowry laws if there is no clarity and proper discussion on the issue. In the absence of a sensible trial every male lover would potentially be treated as a 'rapist' and might face either life imprisonment or death penalty. It would come handy for all those particularly the right wingers who are against inter-caste marriages and particularly on the issue where the two lovers hail from different religions. At the moment, all are crying loudly as most of the 'rapists' are not our neighbors or not among 'us'. In the din of street hanging, a certain Madhur Bhandarkar would not have got justice from the Supreme Court when he faced charges of 'rape'.
It is important that to demarcate two issues rape and women's freedom about her body from each other. Yes, the government must ensure that public places must be made safer for women and public transport system must be secured fully and completely. But then unless the society changes its attitude which comes from the religious texts and traditions which worship women's 'virginity' must change. There is a need to demystify the whole issue of 'sex' due to which there is so much of 'passion'. Kiran Bedi would not be able to answer why 'policemen' rape women in Police Thanas and that women still feel unsafe and insecure in lodging police complains because of the tremendous social pressure. It is the social pressure which forces a woman to live her life in ignominy after being violated and no government can help in that unless voices are raised. We must understand that women leaders in India have not challenge the notion of brahmanical patriarchy of which they are the product. Very few of them actually came from the struggle which women are engaged in it and most of them are 'daughters, daughter in laws, wives, etc. of political families in India and have rarely raised any issue women's right in our parliament and assemblies. This is the biggest tragedy that Indian subcontinents where we had women leaders as prime ministers, leader of opposition but have not dared to challenge the patriarchical customs in our society as most of them piously followed the religious norms. Most of these women leaders followed strict social norms covering their heads with duppatta and using all the symbols of women in our religious society. They reinforce the value that a woman is not complete without man. Sushma Swaraj may address to the galleries of the street protest most of those who hail from the upper caste Hindu background but she has always reinforced those patriarchical values which resulted in the degradation of our women and made them just depended on their men. How many of our women leaders are ready to speak against organized violence against women? Will Sushmaji speak against Devdasi system which is a divinely organized prostitution used by a particular caste against another caste? Will we ask for public hanging of those Brahmins who even today practice Devdasi system? Will we ask for public hanging of all those culprits who violated Muslim women in the name of religion in various communal riots including in the aftermath of Babari demolition, and in 2002 Gujarat massacre. Will we ask for hanging of the Khap Panchayat leaders who openly ask for killing of young lovers? Will we ever ask for hanging of police officers who have raped Aadivasi women in Baster just because they were asking for their right? Is rape justified when the police and army do on women who are raising voice for their rights in different tribal regions, north East, Kashmir and elsewhere? Will we stand up that a crime is a crime and must be condemned? Indian state is primarily a Manuwadi state, a great counterpart of their Islamic state where women are just symbols and have to work with in their limit and have to work for strengthening the patriarchy and that is the reason why our women leaders are more patriarchical and brahmanical then their male counterparts. After-all, women too have castes; they too have prejudices and their heart to melt according to their caste and identity. Let us acknowledge this fact.
If we have to hang the people for violence against women then we will not have enough hangmen to do that. South Delhi's own record in female feticide is well known which has the lowest sex ratio in the country. The domestic violence cases do not come out for the fear of exposing the family. We are still protecting the family inside whose four walls a huge number of women are not safe, not just physically but sexually too. That is why, I said we need a renaissance to change the mindset more than merely changing a few laws and hanging some of them who we feel are wrong. A large number of moralists would get hanged if we are on rush to hang people for 'rape'. Let there be a sincere and sensible discussion including fast tracking these issues, formation of special courts in the entire country. Delhi is the reflection of our society and my hype the cases here but ignored the huge number of cases elsewhere. The good point is that whatever negativity these protests have, they have actually forced people to come to the street and raise their voice. The government will have to be on toes in future with these unorganized and leaderless people's protests in future which may sometime be used by rightwing political forces.
A fight for women's right will never succeed unless we strive for a secular democratic society. It is this very reason that Dr Ambedkar on 25th December 1927, with thousands of his supporters burnt Manu Smriti which he termed as the constitution of caste Hindus which violate basic principle of equality, liberty and fraternity. He argued that it justified violence against women and Dalits. It had different sets of punishment for one kind of crime. The people who violated the hapless girl and brutally assaulted her in the moving bus are the children of Manusmriti and look down upon every woman as object. They would not allow a woman to keep her head high and would repress them violently when they realize they cannot argue. The children of Manu do not argue but suppress all the argument, free voices with extreme violence and justify their acts in the name of traditions and customs. A 21st century India cannot progress on these repressive ideals of Manu and hence it is time we burnt the same Manusmriti from our heart and minds which Ambedkar did so many years ago in his effort to make India a humanist society. It is time to humanize India.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
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