Even as the Delhi gang rape victim—a 23-year-old paramedical student--who was gang raped, tortured and thrown out from inside a moving bus on the night of 18th December, 2012--- lies in a critical condition on a ventilator support system and battles for her life at the Safdarjung hospital:
- TV channels vie with each other in crying hoarse over the condemnable incident;
- Member of Parliament Jaya Bachchan sheds tears in the Rajya Sabha for the girl;
- Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit says that the permit of the bus has been cancelled by the transport department, even though the police are yet to identify the bus in which the crime was committed;
- Congress President Sonia Gandhi calls it a "shame for all of us who are responsible for security of our cities", and writes to the country's Home Minister and Delhi Chief Minister asking for strict punishment for the guilty and demanding better protection for women in the capital;
- BJP leader Sushma Swaraj retorts back-- 'Sonia should act, not demand action';
- Delhi police officials tighten up security in certain crime prone stretches in Delhi;
- Women parliamentarians stage a protest inside the Parliament to raise the issue of safety of women in the national capital;
- UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, demands strict action against the culprits, and announces his Samajwadi Party government will bear all expenses of the treatment of the victim and her friend as also give them government jobs;
- Protest demonstrations are held in different cities demanding death sentence for the culprits;
- … the list goes on!
A lot of emotional blame game and anger indeed, but is there any shame, or acceptance of the system’s failure in protecting the common citizens of our country? Have the sympathisers not themselves been condoning or overlooking several such dastardly acts of brazen impunity (that keep on occurring with envious regularity), waiting for them to shred the social fabric till none is left? Why else have the likes of Sonia Gandhi, Sheila Dikshit, Sushma Swaraj, Jaya Bachchan (just to name a few) been sitting back comfortably till now even as a woman is raped every 22 minutes in one or the other part of India? Mr Akhilesh Yadav needs a polite reminder (lest he has forgotten) about just a few of similar acts committed on his own turf in his regime (November 29, 2012 Minor girl raped in Uttar Pradesh, November 10, 2012 17-year-old girl allegedly gangraped by BSP legislator's son, two others, October 21, 2012 17-year-old allegedly gang-raped by 15 of her relatives; September 8, 2012 Four-year-old raped by teenager in Uttar Pradesh; August 10, 2012 Widow charged with killing father-in-law who allegedly tried to rape her; July 12, 2012 Man arrested for allegedly raping daughter-in-law; April 30, 2012 Teen alleges she was raped at gunpoint in BSP MP's house in Uttar Pradesh; April 26, 2012 12-year-old allegedly raped, then set on fire in Uttar Pradesh; April 9, 2012 Four rapes in Uttar Pradesh, victims include three-year-old girl).
The malaise of such nonchalant sadistic behaviour and vandalism is not confined to Delhi but is widespread across the country. We, including all political parties and their leaders, are collectively responsible for bringing ourselves to this low level of moral depravity where there is no place for respecting human dignity-- be it a deep rooted contemptuous bias against women and other oppressed classes, or the brutal and nonchalant wielding of power and position in day to day dealings. Instead of being ashamed and outraged at taking things lying low, we pat our backs for having infinite endurance capacities. No political leadership has had the guts to ban criminals from fighting and winning elections. Apart from moral policing and issuing diktats curbing the freedom of women, nothing sensible is done to make them live with dignity and respect.
But enough should be enough now. If this recent crime looks like to be the last straw for our drugged conscience, it could well augur for a new start. Let this media and civil society uproar not end in a whimper, as is wont to. There has been enough of complacency on the total absence of law and order in our cities. The feeling of being able to get away with anything and everything, provided one has the right connections, has infiltrated deep in the psyche of our society and made the oppressors blind and drunk with power. The careless brashness with which a handful of people can take the law in their hands, as we look the other way, must end.
Emotional outrage alone will not help in treating women and fellow human beings with dignity and neither will the clamping of dictatorial restrictions on them or simply doing away with them altogether. Citizen News Service – CNS and Vote For Health campaign believe that political leaders, civil servants and our elders will have to set examples by respecting, and not circumventing, the law of the land and be not allowed to shield themselves or their kin from being prosecuted for any violations, irrespective of their social and political status or affiliations. Also our law enforcers must remember that justice delayed is justice denied, and that too little punishment, and even that coming too late, amounts to encouraging criminal activities. Instead of trying to use this incident as a tool to snub the ruling party or to increase the TRP of the news channel, let us atone for our sins of apathy by demanding and getting a governance which genuinely curbs such scary happenings. There is no need to shed tears, but there is every reason for all of us to shed our indifference.
This doughty girl should inspire us to cut off the infectious and rotting wounds of our conscience (just as the doctors cut her intestines) to begin afresh right now and save ourselves from eternal damnation. Else it may be too late to rise from the ashes.
(The author is the Managing Editor of Citizen News Service - CNS. She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She received her editing training in Singapore, has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP and taught physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. She also authored a book on childhood TB, co-authored a book (translated in three languages) "Voices from the field on childhood pneumonia", reports on Hepatitis C and HIV treatment access issues, and MDR-TB roll-out. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: http://www.citizen-news.org)