JNU. Jawaharlal Nehru University. One of the oldest, most prestigious, highly-regarded universities in the country. If you mentioned the name today, at this moment in time, you’d be referring likely exclusively to the obsessively politicised issue that has seen reams and reams of newsprint and hours of airtime dedicated to it – and not necessarily productively.
The Telegraph ran a poignant cover a few days ago, but all photography and pithy headlines aside, the true worrying fact that we are ruled, and sadly, surrounded by jingoistic ‘nationalists’ persists.
That persistent rhetoric – of ‘nationalism’, ‘patriotism’ and ‘country-love’ is one best served only in the history books, which have shown us exactly how this has turned out in the past. Badly for those who stand against it.
And yet, for a country that would like to describe itself as having ‘arrived on the world stage,’ with big-money mining projects, invisible Foreign Direct Investments that our leaders are bringing in, projects that are yet to entirely materialize but come guaranteed to adversely affect the environment.
To those who are not as yet completely abreast of the situation at JNU, a group of students held a demonstration allegedly condemning the hanging of Afzal Gru, who in 2013 was hanged for the 2001 attacks on the Indian Parliament.
That case is itself shrouded in mystery, and whether one agrees or disagrees is a new can of worms entirely, and its own separate debate, one that will not be alluded to here.
This, and alleged ‘slogans’ that were chanted at the college, were described as ‘anti-national’ by politicians who have opinions on every issue that goes on in the country – barring those that actually matter and are truly consequential.
These ‘anti-national’ statements led to police action. Delhi Police, who I presume are a bit short on work considering how women are incredibly safe in the capital and need no police assistance whatsoever, that there is no gun (or other violence) in the capital, you know, the things it has become notorious for worldwide, picked up on this and promptly took a student leader into judicial custody, in the sort of speedy action perpetrators ofsome seriously heinous crimes seldom receive.
And therein lies the first problem. Whether or not one agrees with their statements, personal opinion of no kind should be able to have you imprisoned.
Being contrarian, and now labelled controversial instead has had student leader Kanhaiya Kumar arrested. The same political figures who are shockingly mute when issues need to be addressed have, in the past few days, done various things, each of them vocally.
They have cried themselves hoarse reiterating the same nationalistic, jingoistic rhetoric that had them elected in the first instance. The irony being that these very same parties, back when India was still under colonial rule – as was the case not too long ago on a historical timeline – did nothing for the freedom struggle, for the actual nation.
These parties, and the members thereof, were the ones who insisted on wanting to remain under the Raj. It is then a bit odd that they have somehow successfully (at least to their worryingly unthinking target demographic) marketed an ideal of being the one true upholder of freedom ( a concept they have completely misinterpreted, incidentally) and nationalism (a concept that really should not exist.)
Would those who fought for our nation’s freedom in the many years gone by have condoned the fact that those very freedoms, freedoms the Raj tried to quash – the ability to express oneself without the fear of legal retribution, without worrying about arrest, bodily harm and with true freedom – of expression and speech, none of which have been given to protesters.
Upholders of the law (at least on paper), in their black robes, have reduced themselves to what the bulk of our political parties have all always been – a bunch of weapon-wielding, non-cerebral goons who want to impart vigilante justice with no real understanding of the issues, but carry out what those who are playing them so conveniently mention.
In the day since student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested, he has been called ‘seditious’, a traitor, words politicians in India have used for anybody who disagrees with their views. Contrarian? Seditious. Anti-establishment? Traitor. The responses roll off forked snake-tongues like oil off a duck’s back.
(For more, see Arundhati Roy, Aseem Trivedi)
Our ministers have, in joining with the goondas, nay, being them in full force, failed us entirely in upholding what our country – and really, any democracy – should really be about.
So when a BJP MLA says he was ‘upholding his duty’, an MLA who happens to be a lawyer, that duty he refers to is not justice – it’s goondagiri and hooliganism.
Perhaps a step back would be in order for the same netas who are so proud of our nation and all things saffron (which incidentally, Iran is the world’s biggest producer of). In aggressively marketing their own brand of nationalism – waving what is simply a gigantic orange dick at the general public, some of which holds on tightly to it, they have failed the ideals we fought colonial rule in the first place for.
Of the ability to think, to speak, to exist for oneself and not as an instrument, an extension of the powers that be.
We have been told how to love, whom to love, what to eat and why, how we must behave and dress (to prevent rape, of course! If we women dress ‘provocatively’, we’re asking for it because those poor men can’t control themselves!).
We are now being told what to say, and what we cannot, and shown exactly what the consequences will be if we do.
The terrifying thing here is that it is not just political hardliners (but considering our powers, everyone is a political hardliner, now) but even our home minister and ministers of state, people who should in fact distance themselves from this, the most vocal of all against the students at JNU.
When even those who protest against this manhandling, this throttling of our freedoms are routinely beaten by police, it is more than worrying – it is the proverbial Grim Reaper come to visit, telling us to bid our liberties goodbye.
Instead of an unhappy public expressing dissent with the government, it is now the government that has expressed that dissent. In ways that should not be legal and have no place in a democratic society.
And therein, dear politicians, ministers, and those who do not stand with the students, lies the real terrorism. It is when the police see the student who was attacked identify his attacker and let the man walk out scot-free.
Not in a political rally at a college where students are encouraged to think critically – a skill it appears you will never possess.
That word, nationalism? I don’t think it means what you think it means.
If only it were just a crossword clue anymore.
‘Eve-teasing’. An all-too-popular pastime in this wonderful country we call home. It isn’t even English, really, but an Indianism, ifyou will, much like ‘prepone’, ‘reply back’, ‘do the needful’ and our Indian version of ‘propose’, which doesn’t mean what it means everywhere else.
It is commonly defined as men ogling at women on the street, whistling, singing songs, basically boorish men behaving like they own a woman they see. Or at least that is how it starts off, with men at street corners singing the cheapest Bollywood songs they can think of, with the most crass lyrics imaginable (and my goodness me, our lyric writers give them so much to choose from it’s like listening to an even less melodious version of the radio). There are catcalls, whistles, remarks like ‘item’ and ‘wah’, and then there’s outright groping.
I have been fortunate enough not to ever have been groped or had anyone attempt to do so, but for your average Indian woman, tapori ‘seeti’ and catcalls have become a way of life, something that’s in the background, like annoying white noise you cannot get rid of.
As we all are FULLY aware, rape has nothing to do with sex, or titillation, or whether my clothes are too tight or too short or too something-or-the-other. It’s to do with a moron (or an entirely stupid, backwards society) SO steeped in patriarchy that he is convinced he absolutely must show his masculinity, or as they like to say here, ‘mardaangi’. What better way to show you are a MAN than by subjugating a woman, no? Of course! What better way to subjugate a woman than to violate her?
Of course, with this comes the wonderful label of a woman’s ‘modesty’. My sexuality. My ‘modesty’. Her modesty was violated. The farmer committed suicide because his daughter’s modesty was outraged. Modesty in India is a wonderful umbrella term that covers virginity (only for a woman, though, let it be remembered), female sexuality, anything that could possibly even indicate that the woman has her own independent thought processes, makes, nay, even wants to make her own decisions – and god forbid they are sex-related – or just wants to be considered a human being like any other, and the way to show what I shall subsequently call ‘penis-power’, you grab this ‘modesty’.
Recently, an acquaintance of mine I met through mutual friends when I studied abroad, and a Facebook friend, did this, and it was amazing.
He was crossing the street in Bangalore with two female friends, when two uncouth hooligans on a bike began to ‘eve-tease’ them. Akshay Kingar, instead of bowing his head and walking on like most of us (myself included) do, he took a photograph of them and posted it to the internet. Our two lovely idiots may not have been aware of the power of social media when they so wonderfully flipped Akshay the bird. They’re likely more than aware now.
In addition to garnering immense Internet traffic, the post was brought to the attention of the Bengaluru Police. Members of Parliament, news channels, publicists and even average Joes working in the field of the media latched onto the story and brought it to the attention of the entire country.
Those two upstanding pillars of modern society have, I hear, since been arrested by the Bengaluru police.
Unfortunately, there are many like them that roam the streets unfettered, feckless pieces of filth that live with no fear of the law (which, of course, inspires no fear in anybody because it might as well not exist), and only two days ago, in spite of ALL the lip-service the public received post Nirbhaya, THIS was a headline: “Woman gang-raped on bus in Indore”.
Clearly a LOT has changed since Nirbhaya, then.
Lip service, lip service, and more lip service. Changing the law may be one thing, but changing people’s mindsets is another.
A wonderful guy left this nugget of wisdom on the photo Akshay shared on Facebook [and I’ve left his name in because he deserves to be shamed publicly in every way possible].
“Venu Krish Reddy first over girls must wre the proper dress’s den y the hell da guys ll teas them, so guys plz think of t also k..,”
That comment was ‘liked’ by 3 different people, one of them, sadly, a woman.
In our country, it doesn’t really take much for something to escalate into violence. It could start off as vile jeering and creepy leers, but with no legal regulation, anybody can pick up a bottleful of acid at a corner store for a nominal amount, and, should his lecherous advances be spurned, use this to prove his might. (I am penis, hear me roar?)
Everybody now, Delhi police included, seems to be telling women how to ‘take precautions’ so that they are not attacked. That in itself is ridiculous, in that the police is obligated to make people abide by the law, the same law that should punish them if they do NOT. Unfortunately, that is not the way it works here.
No, instead of that, let’s tell women what ‘modesty’ is. Modesty is not showing your shoulders/arms/legs/cleavage/neck/ANY skin whatsoever, because otherwise you’re just asking to be raped. How DARE you show skin? And if you do, how do you expect the man to control his sexual urges?? Poor diddums!
Then, we shall make ‘historical’ reference points to outline what exactly we define as modesty. Draupadi, Sita, Parvati, Sati, whatever mythological woman was the most subservient is automatically the most modest.
Indian men (and again, I do not mean educated Indian men – I mean the ones who lean on their bicycles/motorcycles by the side of the street, wearing their ‘Dabang’ glasses, thinking they have all the swagger in the world) seem to consider ogling a birthright, something that they just do. Then you have this man proving it’s not just your average cheapo who does it. And he’s wonderfully shameless about it, too.
Tie this in with our leftover white supremacist ideals and our obsession with whiteness in general, which have seeped so far into the cracks of our broken society that they have become part of its very foundation (and are proved, time and time again, by the staggering sales of fairness creams and bleach, or even the sheer volume of advertisements you see about them on the television), and you get an increasing spate of crimes against foreign tourists, who from what I gather are looked upon as ‘itummm’. While I was writing the article, this happened and it is terrifying. I think I might have done much the same.
Victim-blaming is a lovely, lovely pastime of (in increasing order of the gravity of how stupid this is) the people, the law and the upholders of the law. First you have idiots like Mr. Venu on Facebook, blaming the girls and asking them to ‘look at what dress ur wearin’, an idiot I saw on the Times of India comment board implying Nirbhaya deserved to be raped because ‘what did she expect travelling so late wid boyfrnd’, the Swiss tourists who were told by Madhya Pradesh police ‘not to be wandering around so late’, and the Suryanelli rape case, where her tormentors, among them Rajya Sabha MP P.J Kurien, said she was ‘of age’ and the sex was consensual. In addition, THIS:
The Court order described the alleged rapes as a “willing journey of a misguided girl”, and claimed that the male accused were “guilty only of the immorality of going to a woman, who they thought was a prostitute.
Of course, this is entirely logical, because if she’s a prostitute, it’s totally okay to rape her, right? It’s not like she is providing business that SHE should conduct at her OWN discretion, right? (However, considering the level to which trafficking goes on in this country, this is an article I would like to save for later.)
The JUDGE in that case, a man named Mr. R. Basant had said “The girl is not normal, she is deviant. All these are there in the judgment”.
First off – even if she was a prostitute (which I sincerely doubt), that gives nobody the right to rape.
Second, considering legalese is supposed to be extremely accurate, with no room for any ambiguity whatsoever, I wonder if there is any way for Judge Basant to explain the word ‘deviant’. Perhaps he means what the collective Indian male I mentioned earlier believes. ‘Immodest’.
There can be all sorts of banter about laws being changed, anti-rape law this, anti-rape law that, anti-rape anything. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to this. We have to, as a society, bring up men that do not think of themselves as a superior being or species, but just a homo sapien that happens to have a penis. It is a fleshy, vascular appendage. Not a Golden Excalibur between your legs that you draw out to proclaim your kingship.
We need to stop calling the cheap morons by the street Roadside Romeos, although I quite approve of the name if it involves them ingesting poison of some sort.
Dear 19-year-old guy at my gym, this means that when you ask my friend “Why do you cook your own dinner, aren’t you married? Doesn’t your wife cook for you?”, or “You change your daughter’s diapers??”, you are part of the problem. The very, very big problem. The law may precipitate the problem, but the problem is your mindset, and that of a billion others, not all of them men. The problem is that these people need to be taught something that most of the civilised world has been aware of for a long, long, long time.
It’s something I’ve said before, and it’s something I will say again. New Delhi needs to be rechristened Rape Delhi or something to that effect. In Uganda, rape is a war crime. In New Delhi, I wonder if it is even a crime anymore. If you’re Indian/living in India, sipping your morning coffee and reading the paper, and you see ‘Rape in New Delhi’, more than likely you will be angry but not particularly surprised. Saying somebody was raped in New Delhi is like saying it snowed in the Arctic. It’s something that never goes away. It isn’t just the rape capital of India, it might as well be the rape capital of the world.
India is still, sadly, largely patriarchal. We’re at the end of 2012 and still attempting to break stereotypes that belonged in the Middle Ages, that everywhere else in the world disappeared at the turn of, I don’t know, the 19th century. And we’re not even doing a very good job. Browse any online newspaper and the comment boards will be chock-full of misogynistic rubbish that somehow blame the victim, for reasons made up by the commenters, reasons that make rational sense to them and them alone. Reasons like, the rapist ‘lost control’, the girl was ‘skimpily dressed’, or a lot of other comments that somehow imply the victim had it coming. The kind of comments that make you want to throw these morons against a wall and beat the living daylights out of them. (And I’m not even a violent person.)
For those of you who are as yet unfamiliar with what happened – a 23- year old girl caught a Dwarka-Delhi bus with a friend after watching a film. The people on that bus beat her up, gangraped her in the bus driver’s cabin, nearly pulverised her, then her friend for attempting to protect her, and then threw the girl out of the moving bus. In spite of the fact that the bus passed FIVE police checkpoints, nobody stopped it or even bothered to look.
It’s something that sends chills down your spine wherever in the world you are, chills and utter shame when it happens in your own backyard.
I’ve written time and time and time again about my absolute lack of faith in the Indian judicial system in general, and that continues. But New Delhi/NCR policemen are a whole new level of foul, disgusting, bottom-feeding dirt that do not even deserve to live, let alone have any power.
If a girl is raped, their first thought is not, oddly, “How do we catch these men and what do we do to them?” It is “What was the time when the girl was raped?” If it was nighttime, that is their rationale for justifying said rape, because ‘what is a woman doing out so late at night?’. “What was she wearing?” Because if she was skimpily dressed, of course she’s to blame, she might as well be holding a sign that says ‘do me now, I want you inside me, violate me completely’. Or that it ‘was consensual, but these guys just get violent halfway through so the girls call it rape’. Because that’s completely logical, obviously.
It’s not just them though, lots of people somehow seem to think if a woman dresses as she wishes, drinks, parties, or basically has any will of her own, she is a ‘loose’ ‘slut’, and I don’t know what either of those two terms mean. Basically, according to them, said woman is trying to be a man, which is unacceptable, women to them are supposed to be beings that are there to stay around till you feel like marrying one, then mop your floors and make you food and tea, show off to your wife, and put your penis in as and when you feel like, following which, if and only if you deign to choose, she will carry your seed, which is hopefully a male. (This is exactly how the brain of your average misogynistic MCP Indian man functions.) Women are not meant to be just regular human beings with different genitalia from men, they are not supposed to have their own desires, wants and needs, unless aforementioned needs include ‘staying a virgin for marriage’, ‘looking for a boy’, and, oh, ‘marriage’. And whatever they think marriage entails, which they think, for the most part, is access to sex as and when you want it.
Why am I talking about these people? Because it is precisely this sort of mindset that gives rise to hordes of utter idiots who do not respect women, or even other human beings, which is another thing New Delhi is notorious for (like this guy, who shot a toll booth attendant because he didn’t want to pay).
The moment you believe men are the only acceptable species of human, the species that should hold power, and women are not homo sapiens, but just some sort of instrument that is there , you have morons like these. This sort of backward ideal of the woman being unequal, a sad little being that depends on a man for everything, including to give her life meaning, (which of course it has none of otherwise), is not something I see changing any time soon, simply because there are both women and men out there who believe in it and are watching it propagated through pathetic TV shows that are on Indian television all the livelong day. [An aside: One of said TV shows includes, to my knowledge, a woman whose husband cheated on her, left her for another woman whom he later married, and she still keeps a photograph of him on the mantelpiece and gazes at it lovingly. (Saw all that in a promo.)]
That, to me, is one of the root causes of stuff like this. The simple fact that we’re not moving forward from patriarchy, misogyny, from the idea that the man (and not man, but the homo sapien with a penis and testicles) is an ultimate being and all else is his kingdom to do with as he pleases. Instead of TV shows (which are a prime way of reaching out to the bulk of our population across every socio-economic level, because watching TV is something everybody does) that are about women being married off, looking for a husband, looking for marriage, and only that sort of thing, maybe there could be shows about women looking for careers, looking to make their own choices, doing something with their lives. Sadly, as I type this, I see a promo for a new show about a girl looking to have a “Karan Johar-style ‘sasural'” to marry into. It cuts to a shot of the girl serving a boyand his family tea, and the boy then saying “Oh, nothing beats mum’s tea”. Incidentally, the girl in said promo looks to be about 15, 16 years old at the time of her pining for a ‘fancy sasural’.
I have made no secret of my absolute hatred towards arranged marriage, which is a term that makes me go into Hulk Smash mode. Really. It brings up bile and vomit and possibly stomach acid, because the ideas behind it are disgusting and outdated. I have also written about my feelings regarding arranged marriage at length before. That ad highlights a few of these reasons. The whole idea of marrying not a person, but a family. The idea that you need marriage to be a ‘complete person’, whatever the hell that is. The idea that you have to serve someone tea (if you want tea, you better get it yourself), the idea that a girl must serve tea to a groom-to-be, and the idiot groom, whose mother’s apron strings might as well be his damn umbilical cord, has to comment.
Nearly EVERY socio-economic stratum and sector in Indian society has access to television. And not just television – satellite television. How do I know this? Drive past a chawl (for non-Indian readers, that’s an Indian ghetto), slum, makeshift set of homes, even a construction labourer’s tinfoil-and-asbestos home and you will find a satellite dish hoisted atop it.
Clearly, we have data that will prove how much of our population has access to TV. More people nationwide have access to (and by access, I also imply an understanding of) television, more so than newspapers because a large chunk of our population is also completely illiterate.
Can we not then use a tool we know is at our disposal to disseminate messages that we also know will be useful and will make an impact? Instead of using primetime cable network time to broadcast archaic TV shows that are little more than period Victorian dramas masquerading in 20 layers of makeup and Indian clothing, we could use it to get people OUT of a mental rut instead of digging them deeper into it.
But we can’t seem to.
The second big issue is the fact that there is absolutely no fear of retribution among these people. They know that with money and connections, or either one of those two, they will get off scot-free, untouched, and free to roam the streets like the pathetic sewer-rat vermin they are and commit as many crimes as they please. Nobody will touch them, if they know the right minister, cop, have a rich uncle, aunt, mum or dad, or are rolling in money themselves.
Actually, scratch that. No matter what socio-economic background you come from, rape is part of a completely messed up, life-sized game of Monopoly that seems to come with a ‘get out of Jail free’ card. Which is exactly what they do, if they even find themselves in prison to begin with.
Our legal system is absolutely pathetic. It takes at least four years to even BEGIN to deliver a verdict, and any verdict made in that time or less is looked upon as something wondrous, and ‘wow’. More than half the cases out there have probably been lying in files since they were registered, the only things that have seen them being silverfish, for whom it is their next meal.
Rape or divorce, who cares? It is all ALWAYS made out to be the woman’s fault. Here you can read about a Bangalore judge who asked a woman looking to divorce her husband on the grounds of domestic violence to ‘adjust’, because her husband puts food on the table. Why are abject morons like this given any power whatsoever?
People actually have lists and pointers for steps they think women should and should not take so they can ‘avoid being raped or eve-teased’. Don’t stay out at night, don’t dress in ‘skimpy clothes’, inhabit crowded areas.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rape is not about sex. It is not about so called ‘horny feelings’ or these men’s ‘lack of access to sex’. It is not about cellphones, chowmein, interaction, or the age of marriage. It is about disgusting, feckless criminal assholes who think they can have their way, and in New Delhi, end up doing so.
I also abhor the nomenclature of rape by the news media. Why must rape be described as ‘VIOLATING MODESTY’? Is a girl’s virginity her so-called modesty? I am well aware we live in a disgusting, completely backward society that in Twenty-blooming-twelve (and now thirteen) that seems to prize a girl’s virginity, look to it as an indicator of her virtue, grace, her purity, her brilliance, and of course that all-important criterion, her success as a wife and human being, which of course are not mutually exclusive. India is one of the few countries where you still hear of rape victims being married off to their rapists. Why? Because the rapist ‘deflowered’ them, and since he has already taken her, er, ‘modesty’, he might as well KEEP it.
But must so called modern media, media looking to erase this sort of retrograde ideal, promote it, on whatever level? Rape is not a ‘theft’ of anything. It is not a violation of a woman’s modesty. It is, however, a violation of her as a human being, which is the same as it would be if it were a man. It is a violation of her right to exist peacefully. It is a violation of justice to allow scum like this to roam the earth unfettered, swaggering around without any fear of punishment.
Violence has never been something I have condoned, but every time I read about a rape case in New Delhi (which is to say, every day), I keep thinking taking some sort of harsh, yes, violent action against these lowlifes, these sorry excuses for human beings might be effective, at least at instilling some sort of fear within them, something that seems insofar to be nonexistent. Considering that these same men seem to think rape proves their ‘masculinity’, I suggest doing away with their genitals, which would have the added benefit of ensuring trash like that never reproduces, ever. We won’t also have commenters like this guy I saw on the Times of India online comment board, pity I can’t find a permalink anymore:
” zahoor ahmed (bambayi) 1 min ago
why so much hype on this gang rape?the girl was roaming around in late night with a boy…what else one can expect? ”
We don’t need to be leaving women tips about how to take care of themselves, we need to be weeding out crappy human beings from functioning society (if you can even call it that, really).
And to all those morons, everywhere, talking about people’s ‘mothers’ and ‘sisters’ and ‘how would the rapists like it if it were their mother or sister’, or ‘rape the rapists’ mothers and sisters’, WHY all the “mother-sister” talk? Are you not supposed to respect a woman otherwise? I suppose it’s telling that the two most insulting words in hindi have to do with screwing somebody’s mother or sister. Because if they aren’t, you’re free to do what you’d like, right?
We need to change the way we think (and by we, I mean a nation). We can all sit and wonder from what rat-infested corner of hell people like those rapists are born. And you know where? Right here.They’re all born right here. Right under our noses.