I was getting ready for college when the news flashed on TV: “A 20-year-old tribal girl gang-raped by 10 members of a Kangaroo court as a punishment for loving a boy from another tribe in West Bengal.” What I felt was neither disgust nor anger. It wasn’t even a chill down my spine. What I felt can be vaguely described as — fear.
This incident brought back a stream of memories of similar incidents in the past. The Nirbhaya gang rape, the incident when a woman hanged herself to death in full public view, and the innumerable victims of road accidents who die due to delayed or no medical attention. Not to mention the people who have died in bomb blasts. All of this has ceased to shock us anymore. We have grown callous. And this scares me.
I am not scared of any potential rapist lurking in the dark alley I walk down while coming back home. What scares me are those innumerable people who will hear my screams and walk pass by me without coming to my aid. The people shouting “Justice for Nirbhaya” had very comfortably forgotten the fact that they had passed by her naked body lying on the road and did nothing to help her. The ease with which this city managed to veil its insensitivity behind the placards of “Hang the Rapist” scares me.
Rape is not the issue, the problem is the way it is has been institutionalized by society.
First, the family raises a boy by telling him that he is the master of every person with a vagina. Then, popular culture tells him, women are a sex object to have fun with. Next, the government provides them space with long, dark stretches of roads without any police presence. And then it gives them a legal code with many loopholes to take advantage of and a judicial process that takes a lifetime to reach its end. But society provides the most important things for such crimes to take place; it lends a deaf ear and an unsympathetic heart, with a pinch of victim blaming.
Just the thought that people in the village panchayat ordered a girl to be gang-raped the whole night, and then went home to sleep peacefully in the safety of their homes, evokes terror in me. It’s disgusting how some men were excited at the idea of having power over a girl. But what is more disturbing is that a whole village was silent on this matter and let it happen. A whole goddamn village! And don’t even get me started on how an emotion as pure as love was considered to be a crime, while an actual crime as heinous as rape was used as a “corrective measure.”
When a person commits a crime, you can point him out, arrest him, and enforce some corrective measures, or punish them. But what do you do when a woman commits suicide by hanging herself from a pole and thousands of people pass by her, without a second glance? Who will you hold responsible then? Who will you convict?
Every year, thousands of victims of road accident die due to delayed or no medical attention. Reason? Because we are too busy to spare a few moments to call an ambulance; because we are running late for work and our meetings are more important than lives; or because we were driving too fast to notice a person in need of help. I remember a hair-raising account of a boy who died this way. His mother, a doctor, was left wondering how many of those who owed their lives to her had passed by her bleeding son in need of saving.
Tell someone that there was a blast at so and so place, and so many people died, and trust me, all you will get in response is: Oh, Okay. At the most, if they have friends or family in living in that place, they will call and confirm if they are safe. That’s it.
I think scientists need to revise their theories on humans a bit. I feel we are no longer “warm blooded” animals as we are told. As Darwin’s theory of evolution dictates, we have adapted to our environment and have evolved into “cold blooded” animals. We have trained ourselves to go into hibernation when we feel uncomfortable by our surrounding.
This column is my feeble attempt at waking us up from this hibernation.