“Bahut shukriya bhaiyya”.
She must have said that when they gave her and her friend a lift in the cold of the December night in the foggy capital of India. She might not have said the exact same words; she may have said “Thank You” instead of Shukriya. But being a woman, she must have politely expressed her gratitude to those men who promised her a safe transit from the dark and the chill to some place secure and warm, perhaps her home.
We all know the rest. Know about the trust that they broke and the resurrection of medieval barbarism in this century in a country’s capital city. The media is doing a splendid job keeping the shame of the incident alive in our hearts, so I shall skip to penning down some thoughts that have been nagging me since yesterday afternoon, when I heard of the girl’s death.
Once, I had seen a pack of dogs mobbing a bitch and the alpha trying to copulate with her forcibly, while the bitch kept howling and trying to shield her pelvis by pressing it hard on the ground. I haven’t been able to erase that image from my mind, even though, being a student of Zoology, I know that that is the norm in the animal world. The news of this incident did bring that image to my mind once more, but this time, perhaps because I am highly impressionable, I visualized the image with human faces on the dogs’ bodies. And, if the original image was disturbing, try imagining how hard I am fighting now to erase this new-formed modified image from my mind.
Is that how I want to see the people around me when I go out? I am a daily commuter and I often return home late. In suburbs, like the one where I live, 8 o’clock in the evening is quite late and the streets become deserted, especially in the winter. I usually tend to believe in the innate decency that makes humans better than animals. But incidents like this one severely shake up my faith in humanity and I have, since the past two weeks, become very skeptical of the kind words and smiling gestures of the auto and bus drivers, known to me from my daily commute.
Yesterday, at a jeweler’s, my mother was called into the backroom to be present while the goldsmith took out the filler lac from a bangle, which my mother wanted refashioned. She was gone for almost an hour, while I waited in the front shop, growing increasingly restless and scared of her safety; the news of the girl’s death couple of hours back, fresh in my mind. Once out of the shop, instead of soothing me, my mother rebuked me for being a mistrusting misanthrope. I say, can I be blamed for my present state of paranoia?
Incidents like the Delhi gangrape go on to break the trust man should have in fellow men. It encourages xenophobia. Try imagining a society where nobody trusts anybody. And it depresses me greatly on realizing that most of our state policies are aimed at encouraging this xenophobia. It is a ‘divide-and-rule’ scenario all over again, except that the divider this time is not a foreign power; it is the power we painstakingly elect to our nation’s commanding throne.
Feeling bewildered yet, by my seemingly improbable conclusion? Let’s try and reason then.
At this moment, there exist three different Indias within the same geographical co-ordinates. These are the India with money and education, primarily constituted of the college and university going, Facebook and Twitter hugging youth and their upper and upper-middle class families who encourage them to think big, socially progress and aspire-for-higher. Next is the India with no money and no education, the impoverished, steadily-sliding-even-more-backwards lower middle and lower class India, for whom procuring two square meals a day is an admirable feat, an accomplishment. And finally there is the India with money but no education, the rich, money hoarding feudal bourgeois with medieval mindset and no intention for enlightenment. The gap between these social sections of the country is steadily widening and our national policies are aiding the ever widening rift.
I am not a social scientist, nor am I an economist, so such proclamations on my part may sound presumptive. But I write it as I see it. And I see these distinct classes carving a separate India for themselves with distinct aims and aspirations, with conflicts and crimes raising their ugly heads wherever and whenever these separate sections are forced to cohabit.
The policies made in our country’s seats of power, have, in all these years, encouraged numerous vices, in all the three sections of the society. Greed, indifference, want, temptation, disrespect, neglect, unaccountability, ignorance and profligacy come instantly to mind. The list is in no way exhaustive. These vices have gnawed at the delicate bond of humanity that our founding fathers hoped would hold us together into a nation, deepening the divide and driving us apart further away. The consequence is the easy exploitation of a ‘house divided against itself’.
Too long has the vote-bank politics hindered real progress of our nation. Sixty five years is a long time, almost an entire lifetime. Technological advances and constructional developments are incomplete indicators of national progress. I personally am a great believer in the Gross National Happiness indicator propounded by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck and judging by that index, I am pretty certain, India’s score is very poor. A quarter of the nation and half of the country’s demographics fuming over the treatment of the country’s women is testament to the long pent rage and grievance that we have been nurturing, probably since we woke up from the dream that was independence.
So, in what way, exactly, has independence helped us? At least we could blame the foreign powers for our miseries back then. We can’t even do that now. Once, in school, a junior had said, in response to my domineering, overbearing, finger pointing behavior, “Your index finger points at me, but three others point at you”. Today, pointing finger at our country’s elected leaders reminds me of this wise quip of that boy and I feel ashamed, at the three times greater crime we the citizens of India commit every electoral year. The irony is, the people who understand that and feel enraged like me, can boycott the elections all they want, but that will not change the political scenario. Our political leaders have not been nurturing illiteracy, ignorance and want, without any reason. It gives them a secure insurance in the form an immense vote-bank of easily manipulated, gullible, suggestible, human-like creatures capable of pressing the tutored button in the EVM. If the light of judgment and logic touches them, they may wake up from the spell and rationalize, which shall make our leaders lose control over them. Hence, the deliberate attempt at curbing the desired and deserved progresses, hence the hindering of implementation of laws that would restore balance and bridge the gap between these social classes.
So who exactly did rape that poor girl and murder her? Who actually is responsible for turning a “Bhaiyya” into a brutal assaulter? I believe every Indian to have ever blackened their hand with the electoral ink is responsible. The xenophobia that will slowly engulf us all is our own creation. The constant abuse we have subjected ourselves to is a demon of our own design; because we demand too less, because we question too little. There’s this advertisement on television these days encouraging buyers to test the quality of their purchase before buying it. I ask, why not do the same with the leaders we choose? If the rising social xenophobia is directed at the people at the seats of power, perhaps the mistrust of a fellow common man will be lessened to good end.
The age of a man and a woman from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, bonding over a piece of Rakhi and an oath of protection written on a piece of parchment is long gone. Thanks to the devious designs of our corrupt leaders, no Humayun respects any Karnavati’s honour these days, even when she is standing and pleading in front of him, begging for mercy. Independence has freed us from foreign bondage only to enslave us in the living nightmare of a cannibalistic realm. We, the citizens of India are proud to present Purgatory.
Image courtesy: http://storiesbyindigoheart.blogspot.in/2012/12/sorrow.html