Tribute to Braveheart. By Shobha Shukla

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As her violent demise stuns us into silence, and as we hang our head in shame, it also awakens our dead instincts into a quiet but determined uprising, demanding what should have been rightfully ours—a respectable place in society where the dignity of women is not violated day in and day out. We do not want lip sympathy from our impotent leaders, but concrete actions. What happened with the doughty woman (and continues to happen to scores of women every day in some part of the country or the other) must end once for all.
The death of Braveheart (or Nirbhaya or Damini or whatever we may call her indomitable spirit) has spurred us to demand justice for ourselves. Yes things cannot change overnight, but can we at least make a beginning? Just shedding crocodile tears and offering lip sympathy will not do. Can our leaders go beyond political rhetoric (which they are so fond of using) and do something concrete? Rather than talking in the air, our leaders should spell out their immediate and long term action plans to nip the rot that has set in--be it the police, the judiciary or the bureaucracy. To start with, as a mark of respect for the departed soul, can all those elected members of central and state governments, against whom rape and/or criminal cases are pending, resign immediately on their own or be forced to do so by their bosses? This is one of the several immediate steps that would restore public confidence and pave the way for more reforms for good governance. Merely hanging or castrating the rapists is not going to solve the problem, but speedy and just disposing of all pending cases will. It is time our dumb Prime Minister spells out clearly the steps his non performing government will take to make the law enforcers more accountable and ensure safety of women and all the common citizens. It is time the police is made to shed its dirty image of a predator than protector. Simply having good laws on paper that are more often than not circumvented is useless. Not only do we need more stringent laws to stop gender violence, but also more importantly, stricter implementation of them.
The flames from her pyre should not turn to ashes, but kept burning through the efforts of likeminded people, including a responsible media, till all women can hold their heads high in society and walk freely without fears of repression and violence—mental or physical. Citizen News Service – CNS and partners believe that starting from the administration and law enforcers down to the family level, all of us will have to work for an environment that does not support subjugation and humiliation of women in its various existing avatars—be it aborting the female foetus, or giving away the daughter in charity with dowry, or denying her property rights, or imposing different moralities on boys and girls. This would be the real condolence we can offer to the soul of the woman who has instilled the spark of life in us by being with us no more.
(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: shobha@citizen-news.org, website: http://www.citizen-news.org)

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