June 08, 2014
Calendar of Shame: Rapes Every Day & Every Where

G Mamatha

HUMANITY'S collective conscience is raped. Of course, if we have one. Strong feelings? Feeling disgusted and sad that could not express in more stronger terms. If December 16 was not enough, what else would? Experience of each passing day teaches that sadism can get even more sadistic, brutality even more brutal and violence, even more violent. If December 16 was a red letter in the calendar, there are no more blue letters on it. Every day is getting a new coat of red, as it recedes into history. A paint of red. A stain of blood. Chroniclers are getting exasperated recording the tears behind each stain. A political map of the world will lose all its diversity, if all the spots wherein women are attacked are marked with red. There might be occasional white spots, oasis in the parched patriarchal desert, where women are treated on par. Remember the kidnapping of over 200 girls in Nigeria by the Boko Haram whose fate is not yet known – a blot on humanity. US, whom many of our leaders, corporate honchos, celebrity artists want to ape, is certainly not one of those pretty white spots. If it is so mapped, the US will be smeared with red, north to south, east to west. Reading some of the blogs after a recent shooting incident in California, where a spurned boy flashed out his gun and recklessly shot down many dead, sends shivers down the spine. A college going girl reflecting on the incident and sharing experiences writes: “We live in a culture where men feel entitled to women and it's so engrained in us, that women, like me, fall victim to the system every day”. With lots of agony, she continues: “Every time we tell women it's their fault that they were assaulted or raped, we are to blame. Every time we let another rapist go free, we are to blame. Every time we let cases of domestic violence get swept under the rug, we are to blame. Every time a person stands by as a woman is harassed on the street, or not taken seriously as a human being, we are to blame. And every time we do not put women or victims first, we are to blame. We should ask how instead of why. How can we help them. What can we do as a culture to make them...me.. you...feel safer”. And the 'we' here is a collective noun used for the society. It is this 'culture' – where men feel entitled to women – that we are seriously trying to perpetuate. What else explains the remark, “boys will be boys, they make mistakes”, made by one of the senior most politician, who also wanted to be the prime minister of our country? Should we be thanking our fate that Mulayam Singh did not become the prime minister, or ruing over the fact that a much greater fanatic had become one? Modi, for one, proudly represents the ideology that treats women as second-rate citizens, ever dependent on the macho-man. Incidentally, Modi doesn't shy away from projecting himself as a macho-man, with a 56-inch chest. One should not forget that Modi's RSS (or RSS’ Modi) was of the considered opinion that 'rapes happen in India, they don’t happen in Bharat'. Let's not split our brains in hazarding a guess if Badaun falls under India or Bharat. Rapes are happening everywhere in India. One eminent scholar had correctly opined “patriarchies provide potentially hospitable space where racism, casteism, communalism can meet”. This is what Gujarat model represents and is on wings for an all India replication. Rewind a little and revisit our recent history. Gujarat 2002 – women who had hoped to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, professionals, full of zest for life, young girls, older women, daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, many had been raped, mutilated and murdered; women whose children had been killed before their very own eyes. Indeed the number of rapes were far more than those reported – simply because many of the victims did not survive to report and those who did, were so deeply traumatised and humiliated that they were forced not to report. Now relate this with the statement made by Amit Shah, the trusted man of Narendra Modi. Both of them share similar traits and revere the same ideology. Speaking in one of the just concluded election meetings, he said: “This election is about voting out the government that protects and gives compensation to those who killed Jats. It is about badla (revenge) and protecting izzat (honour)”. The politics of badla and izzat as expounded by these bigots, experience teaches is always detrimental to the women as they are targetted and become the first victims in this display of machismo. For those who did not follow the 'story' of Bhagana, here is a recap. Bhagana is some 170 km from New Delhi, where four young girls aged between 13 and 18 years, belonging to the landless Dhanuk sub-caste, were forcibly abducted in a taxi and gang-raped, by five youth belonging to the dominant caste in that village. A popular saying among the landowning Jats it seems is, “You have not really experienced the land until you have experienced the Dalit women”. The girls were 'taught' a lesson for coming from those families that were challenging the claims over the village common land made by the dominant caste and landlords. As the girls and their families committed the 'mistake' of reporting the crime, contrary to the dictates of the accused, 90 families were forced to flee the village. Social boycott was imposed on the victims and their families, while the culprits, happily enjoy the roti and high tea! Certainly all pointers sing the tune 'bure din aane wale hain'. The post script for this 'story' is written by the BJP controlled Delhi police – they had evicted all of these families who had moved to Jantar Mantar, the iconic protest site in Delhi, since they were banished from their villages two months back, in a fond of hope of making their voices heard. What Delhi presented them was – strangulation of their already feeble voices. If you are silent till now, let us join and sing paeans to the newly crowned 'badshah' of Delhi. The corporates are dying in their wait for us! Talking of the corporates, the media houses should be really applauded for bringing to light the various incidents of crime committed on women in our country. But for their courage and social consciousness, we would have been blinded by our inherent belief in the goodness of the people and society around us. It is they who had instilled a 'dress sense' among us, taught us to discuss about the attires of politicians and celebrities, not policies and work. It is they who had taught us that life is not just black and white, it has its shades of grey – fifty shades or more – there is gossip, which is both hot and cool and it is completely different from truth and lies; women can be a 'cheez' (a commodity) to desire, own and exploit. This is the 'culture' of development, we are told, the very culture that the girl we had quoted at the beginning had deplored. All this is around us in the media – both visual and print, along with their commitment to fight crime against women, denouncements of rape and other forms of violence against women. Hail the media, which in turn hails the badshah! In the midst of the media orchestrated cacophony of celebrations, are buried the howls of despair and protest. Protests against discrimination, oppression and violence perpetrated on the 'others' in the society. The composition of the others varies depending on the time and space. It might be women, dalits, minorities or anyone who doesn't toe the official line. At times, even these identities might super-impose – like dalit-women or minority-women, but the way they are treated is the same. Others have to fall in line. They should not question authority, they should not ask for more, they should be satisfied with what they have and bow down unquestioningly and unhesitatingly. This is the social order that the ruling classes in India want – whether they are represented by the BJP or the Congress or the SP or the TMC or the AIADMK, simply doesn't matter. That is the reason for rapes across the country, in all states, irrespective of the fact who is in the government. Can the situation not be changed, particularly in the aftermath of the December 16th incident, the mass indignation, protests, the committee reports and the legislations that followed? Yes, it can be changed. By challenging the concept of the 'other' in the society; by challenging the existing social order; by fighting the patriarchal and other feudal prejudices; by resisting the commodification of women and by standing up to the belief that 'the people united shall always be victorious'. If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? PS: There was an attempt to rape a woman judicial officer in Aligarh, which is less than 150 kms from New Delhi. Who is safe? Better join the fight.