“A nation shamed” is the headline screaming from every conceivable media platform. The horrendous attack on a young medical student and her friend last Sunday by six drunken louts in the National Capital has left the entire country shocked and seething in anger. Spontaneous protests are being carried out across the length and breadth of the nation and the authorities are scrambling to put their respective houses in order – from the police force to the Judiciary to politicians of all hues.
The remarkable resilience shown by the girl as she battles the traumatic injuries and infections, has turned her into what sections of the media are calling “daughter of the nation”. Her simple yet heart-rending note to her mother, saying “Maa main zinda rehna chahti hoon” (Mother, I want to live) has rattled the nation’s conscience.
The outpouring of collective outrage is forcing the powers that be to bring about changes in the law as well as their own functioning. More police patrolling has been ordered, but that’s not enough. Unless and until the law is strengthened, it will hardly serve as a deterrent. The police needs to be gender sensitised, when a victim approaches the police to file an FIR for sexual assault, it shouldn’t be brushed off just to keep the “crime rate figure” within acceptable limits. In this particular case, there are growing calls for hanging the rapists or chemical castration – something that has very rarely been seen in India.
The national outrage reminds one of the Jessica Lall murder case. In that instance, the court had to review the case and punish the culprits, who were earlier let off. One remembers Neelam Katara, whose son was killed by one of the accused involved in Jessica’s murder. The gutsy lady took on a powerful politician to get justice for her slain son. It is another matter of course that that politician’s son has been flouting the law and getting in and out of prison at will. It is this very attitude to bend the law with impunity that needs to be wiped out. Why should there be different set of rules for the crème-de-la-crème and the commoners?
The media has been relentless in following up with this case – generating debates and discussions, asking uncomfortable questions to the authorities, creating awareness and also asking the nation to introspect. Sexual predators come from amid us and not from some other world. Somewhere we too have become very desensitised to such crimes. There are many avenues to blame – films and television, the so-called “provocative” dressing of the victim, girls being out of home till late, lack of proper parenting, the patriarchal mindset, and most infuriating “boys will be boys”. But we also need to remember, every time we point a finger at others, there are three that point towards us.
Somewhere in lavishing all our attention to the male child we have failed our daughters, for the assault on girls starts in the womb itself.