Nothing in recent history has gripped India as the gang-rapeby Saeed Naqvi
ANONYMITY of the New Delhi gang-rape victim must be counted as a factor which has helped sustain remarkable youth mobilisation to this day. If names were revealed at the very outset of the gruesome incident, it is just possible that caste differences would have come in the way of the unprecedented upsurge. Anonymity enabled Braveheart to transcend the limitations of caste and creed and be transformed into an icon, an idea.
The ‘idea’ cannot be erased. But, as the case goes through the fast-track court in Saket, it will become increasingly difficult to shield the name. It will reveal itself in the course of the trial, the usual leaks which, let us face it, are already in limited circulation. This evolution from total anonymity should be kept in mind while taking up Shashi Tharoor’s suggestion that the new law should be named after the victim whose tragedy compelled the nation’s attention in an extraordinary way. It was rape accompanied by unspeakable brutality, amplified by the media, that has, in the popular imagination, imparted a new meaning to the word rape itself — it is a terrifyingly grisly and gory act.
Anger across urban India, spearheaded by the youth, has been directed against the government, more specifically the law-and-order machinery, the police. The scale of mass mobilisation has already resulted in a fast-track court to be set up.
In the momentum of some good that has been initiated, there would be no harm making some more gains in all the states. Of course, politicians, at all tiers, with any criminal record of which rape is one, should be run through speed courts. Those with convictions who are already in panchayats, assemblies and parliament should, under new, stringent laws, be asked by the Election Commission to vacate their seats which will be filled up in by-elections.
The police have been criticised, on occasion excessively, and I have only one or two observations to make. In September 2011 when the police shot dead six Meo worshippers, at the mosque in Gopalgarh, two hour’s drive from Delhi, all the policemen at the police station were Gujjars. Gopalgarh is in a Meo majority area. Supposing there were two women constables and two Meos in the police station, wouldn’t the incident have been averted?
People, including rape victims, in need of police help would approach a police station with a greater sense of confidence if the ‘thana’ were something of a microcosm of the society where it is located.
In their anger, the youth have targeted policing as the only reasons for the ghoulish incident overlooking the reality that it is primarily a social issue.
In the 1960s, driving around Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, I visited villages where it was proudly proclaimed that ‘we have never set up a “mandap” in our village’. Which means ‘we’ have never had to arrange a daughter’s marriage because no daughters were allowed to survive. They were given a dot of opium and buried in the sand at birth.
Studies show that a negative female-male ratio in parts of rural areas of neighbouring states is sometimes 6 girls to 10 boys. Societies in the past made a virtue of their regularised cruelties. But imagine the problems of adjustment boys and girls, reared in this outlandish supply and demand circumstance, face in the cauldron of the big, bad city.
Delhi is settled on countless villages where land value has in recent decades shot up astronomically. Young men from these villages which are now posh residential areas, have enough money to buy BMWs, join expensive nightclubs but they come across as brash and incapable of the sort of chemistry which would enable them to make contact with women who are city-bred for a generation or two.
In the 1969 classic, Midnight Cowboy, Joe Buck comes to New York to fulfil his dream of taking city-bred women to bed. A third rate pimp, Enrico Ratzo (Dustin Hoffman), plays on Joe’s failures and leads him into a fetid life of pornographic stench. Enrico could be the bus driver of the current narrative.
I often suggest to my friends from the city’s fancy addresses, to occasionally visit the old city of Jama Masjid to experience a parallel lifestyle, as a sociological study. Women will not be leered at nor greeted with lewd remarks. This is true for all areas where people are settled for generations.
This is Delhi’s biggest problem. It is surrounded by socially backward states of UP, Haryana, Rajasthan and beyond, attracting migrations. The youth in the migratory populations occasionally suffer from the Midnight Cowboy syndrome. More prone to emotional maladjustment is a large population which transit through New Delhi’s razzle-dazzle.
The agitation is led by the educated youth, which has grown up in an era of the market economy boom. Is it not ironical that this youth is so angry with a government which authored this era?
The vehicle for this economy is advertising. Carefully watch the ads between overs in any primetime cricket match. A girl in a see-through lingerie sits on a commode, which is what the ad is promoting. Virat Kohli, the cricketer, says ‘main ladki pataane ke do tareeqe janta hoon’ (I know two tricks to seduce girls). He is promoting a mobile phone. A young hostess is so violently turned on by the perfume wafting from her elderly guest that she tears his suite off, leaving him in his underwear. A girl in black bras and panties, swoons on a particular condom even as she approaches a man in bed... and so on.
Should someone not be agitating outside the ad giants and media houses which vend this ware? Is it wrong to assume that a surfeit of this stuff titillates hundreds of thousands cast in the image of the six in that ill-fated bus and who must repeatedly be brought into focus as bleak and shoddy villains of history?
Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a distinguished fellow at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.
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