By Nilofar Suhrawardy
WITHOUT doubt, one is compelled to salute the manner in which thousands across the country have protested against gang rape of a 23-year-old woman, earlier this month in India’s capital city. At the same time, one cannot but speculate on whether this actually spells an end to heinous crimes of this nature. Sadly, even demonstrations at Delhi’s India Gate have not been tension-free. Attempts made by some factions to politicize the issue and perpetuate violence have led to clashes between the police and demonstrators. And this brings us to square one. Demonstrations can attract media attention and create some political pressure but cannot be expected to end such crimes. Rather, they can also provoke tension, social as well as political.
Besides, how can it be forgotten that this is not the first time that women in India have been victimized in such a brutal manner. During Gujarat carnage, hundreds of Muslim women faced sexual assaults, murders of their family members, including that of unborn children carried by pregnant ones. The surviving ones have yet to recover from that trauma.
Criminals in only a handful of these cases have been imprisoned. Capital punishment has not been announced for any of the accused, even though many were guilty of committing crimes such as rape, murder, causing injury, damaging property and riotous behavior repeatedly over a considerable stretch of time. It would be fair if the respected protesters move beyond demanding justice for the victim and capital punishment for criminals only in case of this 23-year-old girl.
It is shameful that the girl was subjected to this heinous crime in a public transport. No less shameful is the fact that criminals, during Gujarat carnage, attacked women in their places of residence. Why there is no demand for similar punishments for crimes of the same nature?
Assuring punishment, however, does not guarantee that crimes of this nature will cease occurring in India. The heinous manner in which the 23-year-old girl was gang-raped and wounded reflects the degree to which the country’s polity, society and administration is afflicted by several evils. It is a tragedy that the country which till date has been hailed for its cultural values and norms is now being looked down upon by its own citizens because of the shameful act.
And this demands introspection into what has really wrong. The incident may not have taken place if even one or two of the gang had objected and prevented others from moving ahead. True, the local police cannot be absolved of their responsibility of not being on patrol in the area. Yet, simply passing on the blame onto the police, government and other officials does not remove the malaise from where it really begins. Even capital punishment for criminals does not guarantee this.
The malaise is increasing frenzy with which people, particularly new generations, have become callous toward what was once viewed as their social and cultural duty as well as obligation. They have started giving more importance to abusing the same. This appears to be trend, among those for whom values such as respect for women and elders carry no importance. What has led men in Indian society to this stage? What is responsible for a certain number of them turning to crime?
Here, it may be noted, urban areas have in recent years reflected an increase in criminal activities such as murder, drunken-driving and also rapes. Should neo-rich culture be to a degree blamed for this? Or does the actual fault lie in certain basic values being absolutely ignored by new generation, particularly males? There is no denying that tendency prevails among males of poorer sections to start earning as soon as possible. The earning is needed to partly supplement the family income. With the additional earning, the new generation of males also have tendency to adopt fast track, “fashionable” habits. Apart from dress, the latter include cell phones, having a good time and being with “girl friends.”
Superficially, nothing seems wrong with this trend. Yet, this also marks a break in this generation’s desire to spend more time at home with their family members thus abandoning socio-cultural values literally for the lust to be the “modern,” “fast-moving” type.
One may note here, little importance is given in several Indian sections to ensure that male children imbibe strong values. Their being money-earners is assumed to be enough.
A male child is still given greater preference than a female. While the former is viewed as two extra hands to earn, the latter is regarded as an extra mouth to feed and also a dowry burden. Despite dowry being illegal, the trend continues. The dowry is now linked with fashion and socioeconomic stature of involved parties. The male, in comparison with female, has the right and authority to lead his life as he wants to, with the latter viewed as a secondary citizen, submissive to desires of the former. True, there is no denying that there is nothing surprising or new about this trend in India. This needs to be linked with increasing aggressiveness in new generations of males to care little about rules and laws when it comes to fulfilling their desires.
What else explains the increase in murder of elderly citizens in Delhi accompanied by robbery?
Let us accept it, the Indian society is afflicted by a deep-rooted malaise which needs to be checked. The 23-year-old medical intern was not simply a victim of gang rapists, but of a deep-rooted ailment that led the latter view and use her as nothing more than a sex commodity. Of course, it is great that young ones across the country have risen in protest against this incident. But till substantial efforts are undertaken to change the mindset of Indian males, females cannot be assured absolute security in India.
The age-old belief, education begins at home, needs to be given greater importance. Education is not confined to simply learning how to read and write but also includes adhering to basic socio-cultural values, being mannered with respect for all, particularly elderly and women!
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