After the horrific Delhi gangrape incident which shook the nation to its foundation, people for the first time in one voice said 'No to crimes against women'. Experts even called the protests a real breakthrough in human consciousness, in terms of people waking up and understanding the centrality of the issue of ending violence against women.
The protests were so intense that the government was forced to intervene and set up a fast-track court for a speedy trial. The government also promised the nation that measures will be taken to curb crimes against women. But after more than one month of the incident - have the rapes and crimes against the women stopped, or even decreased a little bit? The answer, ironically, is no. Everyday, there are reports of rapes and sexual harassment from all over the country.
Delhi alone witnessed 45 rapes (three in a day on an average) and 75 cases of molestation (five in a day on an average) in the last 15 days of 2012.
But is it only the responsibility of the government to curb such kinds of incidents or do we have a role to play in it? There are various social, economical, fundamental issues, which we need to address if we really need to change our society for the better.
Even as thousands of people protested in the national capital, while travelling in the Delhi Metro, I heard people making such shocking remarks as 'Raping her was fine. But what was the need to beat her up?'
This statement in itself says a lot about the mentality of the people. Feudal India has a history of violence and crimes against women, and until and unless we the men change our mentality, the situation in the country is not going to improve.
What happened in Delhi should be condemned and the accused should be punished. However, the only reason the gangrape created a lot of outrage was because it played into the idea of the whole incident being a clash between the criminal poor - the accused included a vegetable vendor, a gym instructor and a bus driver - and the middle class - as represented by the girl and her male friend who had a good time at a cinema hall and were returning home late evening, fuelled by the 24/7 coverage by the media. However, when rape is used as a means of domination by upper castes, state institutions like the Army or the police it is not even reported.
It is ironic that when it comes to issues related to religion and caste people become defensive. We have divided the nation in the name of states, languages, and then further disintegrated it into smaller sub regions in the name of religion, caste, colour etc.
Being a nationalist is okay, and one should love his/her nation but the kind of ideology that 'you are either with me or against me', is very dangerous. If someone talks about the human rights violations done by paramilitary forces, Army in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast, or any part of the country, he/she is straightaway dubbed as a traitor, without even bothering to evaluate the facts.
A couple of days back I saw a comment on Facebook. This guy in his comment referred to a mass-rape allegedly done by the Army in the remote northern district of Kupwara, Kunan Poshpora, Kashmir, where around 60 women (irrespective of their age: 16 to 80) from one village were raped on February 23, 1991.
The comment was, "Hahaha. Lagta hain sadmein se pagal ho gaya, Kashmiri. Forgot Kunan Poshpora and Shopian. Heck, these are only the famous ones." I'm sure this guy would have been at India Gate pretending to protest against crime against women.
When I shared this comment with a friend, he said, "YAAR THAT HAPPENS." And unfortunately this is not the first such comment I have heard. Until and unless we change our 'chalta hai' attitude nothing will change. Shouldn't the people of the largest democracy in the world, in one voice demand strict action against anyone who is responsible for such heinous crime, irrespective of who did it. Why do we become defensive when the crime is committed by someone from the Army, paramilitary? Are they bigger than our country, the people, or the constitution?
The most prominent divide which the country faces right now is between India and Bharat. And if we really want to achieve success in curbing crime against women, both India and Bharat have to come to common grounds, if not join hands.
An honest interrogation of the role of tradition in our rapidly changing lives is the need of the hour. Has superstition, blind faith and hocus pocus replaced the true spirit of religiosity?
Just as we need to introspect about the traditions we also need to analyse the new fashionable markers about 'empowerment'. When all top Bollywood actors compete with each other to do item numbers, are they pursuing empowerment? Are sex surveys in magazines promoting women's rights?
Modernity is not about miniskirts, and at the same time tradition is not about opposing miniskirts. Modernity is about constantly questioning traditions and interpreting them in accordance with the current need of the hour, and not just wearing skimpy clothes and calling yourself modern. Similarly, using an imagined 'Indian tradition' to curtail fundamental democratic rights, such as the right of any citizen to dress however she wants, whenever she wants to go out, is a horrible misinterpretation of tradition.