We have lunatics getting space for their “boys will be boys” utterances whenever a rape is reported. There are those who believe the woman asked for it. Why was she provocatively dressed? Out at night? Drinking in a pub? Dancing with boys?
How do these wise ones explain what happened to an eight-year-old child? After the horrific sexual attack on Jyoti Pandey Singh, that came to be known as the Nirbhaya rape case, and brought India out on the streets to protest, there were other equally savage rape cases, but the country was probably suffering from outrage fatigue. However, no matter what social, political, religious stand a person takes, how can the monstrosity of what happened to Asifa be excused or explained away? How can anyone in their right mind even come out in support of men like Sanji Ram and the cop Deepak Khajuria, whose duty it is to protect, not to rape a child one last time before they kill her and dump her body? Still, a group called Hindu Ekta Manch, with politicians like Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga tried to defend the eight accused.
What kind of fiend kidnaps a child, invites his son and minor nephew to participate in the assault and then get others to “satisfy their lust” as if the living child was an inanimate toy? Even if she was drugged, she must have screamed, wept, bled—and not one heart among the men in the group melted? Then they bribe local cops to hush it up, and not one of them has a conscience that condemns him for helping those barbaric men? If and when the case goes to court, can anyone in this country plead against the death penalty for this group of depraved males—both adult and minor?
How has it happened that on one hand, girls are achieving in all possible fields, and on the other, they are not even treated like human beings, but as symbols of a particular religion/caste/tribe, that can be desecrated like a monument? For these men, hate against the ‘other’ is so powerful that they can use the sacred precincts of a temple to torture and kill a child?
When a young boy commits a heinous crime, we often ask in bafflement and rage, “What kind of parents does he have?” Obviously, fathers like Sanji Ram. In that macho culture, women are perhaps like the mother of one of Asifa’s juvenile rapist-murderers, who reportedly carried the bribe amount to the cops; like Sangeeta Singh Sengar, wife, of the Unnao rapist MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, coming out in defence of her husband, claiming that he is innocent and victim of a political conspiracy. This, after the father of the girl was found dead in police custody, his supposed criminal record bandied about. This only exposes the kind of system that justifies custodial death. If the case had not been splashed in the media, the girl could have been similarly silenced, her family threatened or bribed. At least the clubbing of this case with the Kathua rape and murder of Asifa will ensure intense media scrutiny and a reduced likelihood of the perpetrators getting away.
Once again it is time to examine our value system, reset out moral compass, think of a solution for bringing up the sons right. Just talk of empowering women does not help, unless the men are sensitised too, We also need to stop giving media attention to men who make sexist speeches, like the botany professor from Kerala who stated that women who wear jeans give birth to transgenders. He deserves to be sent to the nearest mental asylum, not quoted on national media. Protests are being planned all over the country, demanding justice for Asifa. Let not this anger die down, just because there is just so much violence against women that it seems pointless to go on protest marches.
But, in the midst of this gloom comes news of Indian women (and men too) gathering gold, silver and bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games. PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, Ashwini Ponnappa are already star, but names like Mirabai Chan, Sanjita Chanu, Punam Yadav, Heena Sidhu, Shreyasi Singh, Apurvi Chandela, Tejaswini Sawant, Manu Bhaker, Babita Phogat, Seema Punia, Mehuli Ghosh, Navjeet Dhillon, Kiran, Seema Antil, Anjum Moudgil, Pooja Dhanda, Divya Kakran, Manika Batra, Madhurika Patkar and Mouma Das should be celebrated and turned into role models for Indian girls.
Sports is one area in which girls are working hard and winning, in spite of getting inadequate support. It cannot be emphasised enough that the march for victory begins at home, when a parent does not stop a girl child from playing a sport, or pursuing brilliance in any field because it’s manly or nobody will marry an overachiever.
Deepa Gahlot is a Mumbai based columnist, critic and author.