The demons of Delhi
The more things change, the more they remain the same. It was 2012 and Delhi was in the midst of a round of massive protests. The gang rape of the young woman Nirbhaya, who came to be remembered as the fearless one, in a moving bus, finally got the jaded citizens of the city on to the streets, as women demanded their basic right, safety.
Soon after, legislations were amended, new laws were brought in, and politicians finally seemed to have heard the pulse of a frustrated nation. Yet in the last one week alone, a tourist was gang raped as well as a 14-year-old girl; she was reportedly raped by the same man twice in a span of six months, and then passed away. The alleged rapist forced his victim to drink a corrosive substance that completely destroyed her internal organs.
Delhi has been ground zero for such violence against women; several tourists spots scattered across the country have had their own story of shame. A few days ago, a woman from Israel made the mistake of taking a ride from some unknown men in a car, she too, was gang raped.
But this is not the first of such incidents in the scenic hill town of Manali, which is known for tourists who come to visit and end up setting their roots here. At least two other women have been sexually assaulted here in the last three years. Such is the onslaught of violence against women in the country, where kids as young as three to four-years-old, who should only be scared of dragons and ghosts, are instead dealing with physical brutality.
It is now widely believed that rape is one of the most rampant crimes against women in India. Yet barring very few cases that are fast tracked after being highlighted by the media, justice is abysmally slow. Punishing a rapist ten years after he committed the crime loses the impact and intensity of the offence. The teenager who died a few days ago was sexually assaulted in December, yet our system allowed the same man to allegedly rape her again in May.
Earlier this year, a national daily reported that six acts of rape occur daily in Delhi alone, yet this is only from the data that is available. Countless or rather the majority of cases in rural India go unreported, as families would rather live with the pain than make what they think shameful, public. The absence of support systems and a local police force, which is known to deride and embarrass victims, only helps alienate them further. It is extremely rare for a poor and illiterate woman to speak out.
Those who want to defend the system will claim that every big city in the world has its own share of crime and they are right. Developed countries like France, England and the US are amongst the biggest offenders and in fact, per capita rape in India is far lesser than in any of these countries but two wrongs never did make a right or hide the grave reality. There is a reason why Delhi is now called the rape capital.
The psyche of every country is always different. In India, illiteracy, poverty, and unemployment are all contributing factors in creating a specific mind-set. Perhaps the finger will first point to the lack of emancipation of women for generations, which is now changing and leading to different conflicts. But when a man gets to eat while his sister starves in front of him for years, that sense of entitlement can breed monsters. And it has.
When it comes to women’s safety, there is no sense of normalcy in the country. It is not normal to walk in the park after dark and it is certainly not normal to hitch a ride from strangers. It was not meant to be like this, but unfortunately, this is what we teach the girls in our country today. Sadly, the onus is on them for their own safety.
The independent feminists will argue about giving in. Call it the temerity of youth, I have been there, done that. Driving from work alone after finishing a shift in the middle of the night or going to that party that didn’t end at a respectable time. In hindsight, I was nothing but foolish, I was tempting fate. When everything else fails, candle light can only take you that far.
My last two years have been spent in Abu Dhabi and it was a refreshing and fearless change. I did things I had long given up on, walks after sunset, taxi rides home alone after a dinner. But reality never gives an inch and good times are never endless. I am now back in Delhi, where the looming shadows are long and sinister.
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