Winds of change
The uproar has been great – the tempestuous swirl of emotions have overtaken men and women alike after a 23 year-old-girl was brutalised by six men – not one or two, but six human beings who decided to “kill her for their sport”. Even though the girl did not die immediately, she did after 13 days of intense trauma, so murder it was.
It seems as though there is nothing positive about this – no silver lining. After all, a young woman, in the prime of her youth has been unceremoniously dispatched from the earth by a few hoodlums – little had she known what awaited her when she went to watch a movie with her boyfriend.
Or is there? Hope is a driving force in our lives – without hope, we are nothing. And amidst the churning, murky waters that society has sunk into, hope seems to be shining faintly, trying it’s best to glimmer through the darkness.
Nirbhaya, Amanat or Damini’s plight has united the nation in an unbelievable fashion. People argue that many women have suffered the plight she did and no one raised their voices. That many will continue to do so – indeed, there were reports of rape and molestation immediately after the incident. But the story does not stop there. There are positives here – and if we must overhaul the system we must cling to whatever beacons of hope we can find – and as they say – drops make an ocean – similarly, one day these positives will unite to cancel out the darkness that seems to be enveloping the people around us.
Two recent news articles stand out. Amidst all the hullaballoo about politicians making derogatory remarks about women and how they deserve it and how they should not cross the ranks of modesty if they don’t want to be raped, a report in the Economic Times engenders some positivity.
The Supreme Court has berated a lower court judgement for saying that wife beating is a normal aspect of married life and bemoaned the insensitivity of a judge in said lower court who refused to see the plight of a married woman who eventually sought respite from abuse in suicide.
The senior judges who passed this order – Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai, said that they usually refrain from deprecating lower courts as this affects their morale, however, in this case they are bound to speak up because the tone of the ruling meted out was not right. A learned Sessions judge had apparently indicated that one or two slaps was not tantamount to abuse.
This might not be much, but the fact that those in authority are speaking up against unjust ruling against their own colleagues is heartening.
In a separate incident in Assam, a leading politician was brought to task after raping a woman. It is reported in the Daily Mail, with reports from the Deccan Chronicle that congressman Bikram Singh Brahma allegedly raped a woman in the village of Santipur which he was visiting. This man apparently entered the woman’s house at 2 am and raped her, after which she raised an alarm. Angry and outraged villagers – both men and women - caught him, beat him up and tore off his shirt. After that he was handed over to the police who arrested him. If he is found guilty, senior members have said that he will be expelled from his political party.
A person with political clout being arrested for raping a woman in a small village in the sleepy state of Assam is a big deal. Big enough to add to the numerous little stories, both personal and those communicated over the media. Little drops in a vast ocean they may be, but it’s a start.
Another news report gives rise to mixed feelings. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s chief Mohan Bhagwat recently made a controversial remark – that rapes do not happen in “Bharat” but in “India” (We did not realise the two were different Mr Bhagwat). Bhagwat said that women exposed to Western culture and values and who live in urban areas are more susceptible to rape and suicide because of their demolished Indian values. Apparently, according to him, villages and forested areas of India are free from sex crimes. While this is indicative that this man is evidently living in a self created bubble, the faint glimmer of hope lies in his statement that regardless of the fact that Westernised women are to blame for the crimes against them, he wants stringent laws against rape and favours capital punishment for rapists and sex abusers. So - lets cling to the positive in his statement shall we? At least he did not say the men aren't at fault and should not be persecuted.
Why are these reports hopeful? Because they speak of changes, however minor, in the so called upper echelons of society where those in power are pulling up their socks and getting ready to rectify what is wrong in society’s rules and laws. Hopefully, the agitation sparked by Nirbhaya’s cruel fate will be far reaching and many more stories will shine through the darkness that threatens India’s women and people today.