Updated: Jun 19, 2020
On 2 December 2019, a prominent member of the Rajya Sabha, while referring to the rape incident that took place in Hyderabad on 28 November 2019 stated, "These types of people (the rape accused in the Telangana case) need to be brought out in public and lynched." The statement was applauded across social media. Twitter and other social media platforms are witnessing scores of people seeking to burn the culprits without mercy. At the time of writing this article, hashtags seeking to kill and burn the culprits were massively trending. The image below shows that two out of the top three trending hashtags were about seeking death for the culprits, and one out of those was to simply burn them alive.
There is something that is deeply disturbing about such a reaction from the public, and more so when a sitting Rajya Sabha MP proposes to lynch while speaking in the upper house. This doesn’t emanate out of sympathy for the culprits nor is this an argument against capital punishment. In this essay, an attempt will be made to understand the psychology of our society, which is briskly treading on the path of breakdown, and the manner in which we have reacted since the tragic incident only stands as a testament to the rot in our society that we are covering up with misdirected outrage.
Firstly, the tragic incident of rape and subsequent murder of a veterinary doctor in Hyderabad has put the entire nation to shame. It is quite telling about our society where women face such atrocities because they simply dare to step out of their homes. From time immemorial, women are seen more as an object of use than a person, and there is not much difference in today’s times as well, in spite of the masquerade of “modern society” that we put on from time to time, as per convenience. To the culprits in this case, like in most such cases, the woman was nothing but a game they had to hunt for the sake of adventure and to quench their libido. While these vile anti-social creatures must face consequences to the fullest extent as dictated by law, the call to burn them, however, is outright psychotic and is indicative of a society that is moving backward.
Moreover, the common citizenry of this country is also responsible for such unfortunate occurrences. One of the reasons that rape is rampant in India is because we have normalized abuse on women to disgusting levels, and have made it her responsibility to tolerate such abuses. Rape is one of the gazillion other abuses women face on a daily bases. Rape is considered as the expression of power by the uncouth who believes that a woman can be physically overpowered and be bent to his will and wish, and the civilized members of the society indulge in the same activity, and the only difference is that they do not explicitly take the sexual route. It simply goes on to show that we, as a society, have never really respected women- we have glorified her, deified her, but never really respected her. Instead, we have shown a constant need to control women, in one way or another.
One may argue that every society may face such challenges, and India too is no exception, and that the existing challenges must not deter people from raising their voice against such crimes and culprits. People must always raise their voices against injustice, and they must agitate to establish the rule of law. In this case, however, neither are we raising our voice against injustice nor are agitating to establish the rule of law. Our outrage towards the incidents of rape has only become a matter of vanity.
We find solace and forget the matter as soon as the culprits are dealt with, and before we could blink our eyes, another woman falls victim to a similar crime. The reason for this is, we do not really care if justice is actually meted out because if we did, we would make efforts to identify the real culprit, and the real culprit lies not anywhere else but in the reflection of our mirrors.
We have nurtured a society that has totally normalized the abuse of women. In India, as per the National Family Health Survey, at least 30 percent of women in the age group of 15-49 have faced have experienced physical violence from the age of fifteen, and 31 percent of married women have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their spouses. The matter that is more staggering here is, these cases are only among the ones that are reported, and that most cases simply go unreported. These vile creatures who rape women are brought up in this reality. Our reality. It is, therefore, no surprise that such incidents happen. It will continue to happen, in spite of harsh punishments, because there is a glaring lack of respect towards women. Burning a hundred rapists will not fix this because those holding the fire are also carved out of the same clay. Our agitation in this fight is not to establish the rule of law or to truly fix the problem, it is simply to use the excuse of outrage to switch the blame on a select few.
Speaking of the mentality of people in the country, not a week has passed since the unfortunate incident that took place in Hyderabad, and there are reports stating that more than 8 million searches of the victim’s name were made in adult websites. Now, let that sink in! If this filthy display of shamelessness is not sufficient to hold a mirror for the kind of society we have nurtured, the country offers more case studies that can put any well-meaning person to an irrecoverable amount of shame. In 2016, a sting operation by Al Jazira in the city of Meerut exposed a facet of the city that would shake your conscience. The media house reported that rape videos were brazenly sold in the nearby villages. As per the locals, these videos were sold like “wildfire” and people bought it for anywhere between Rs.20 to Rs.200. It is reportedly bought by some to gain “peace of mind”. As disturbing as this already is, the sting operation further digs out that, these videos were sourced locally by the perpetrators of rape, who in turn made these videos to, “blackmail the victims [of rape] ... so that they don't go and file a complaint in the nearest police station," This shows the deep stench of the rot in our society has reached levels that are unimaginable. In such a scenario, we as a society, have the gall to don the hat of righteousness and pass judgments on others who are simply emerging from our very own ranks.
Lastly, coming back to the statement made by the member of the Rajya Sabha, which, in a single line discredited any sort of credibility left with the institutions of law and order in the country. The reason such a statement from a sitting MP is disturbing is that people in responsible positions stating such opinions not only justifies mob violence but it is also promoting it as a viable option. To a society that already stuck in rot till neck deep, the last thing we need is to embolden bigots with an antediluvian mindset, who themselves are responsible for the creation of such a society.
The only way we can tackle this is by acknowledging that there is a problem in the manner in which we treat women. We need to acknowledge that we have little regard for her rights, opinions, or her on the whole, as a person. Thereafter, we must teach young boys what “respect” means and how to respect women - not to be her protector or her knight in shining armor, but simply respect without any biases such as what she wears or who she goes out with or when she goes out. Just respect her like how all human beings must be respected. Until this happens, we have no right to burn anybody or call for anybody’s death, and every time another woman falls victim, we must simply hang our heads in shame and let the law take its course. If in case we happen to change for good, then there will be no need to call for anybody’s death, because we will truly be civilized.
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