Sunday, 6 January 2013

I am Jyoti Singh Pandey

I was born in this country, the world's most populous democracy. I studied textbooks where I read about our constitution and proudly recited the lines "WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY, of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

Foolishly, I assumed I was also a citizen of this Nation. more than three decades later, I see this assumption crumbling down around me like never before.

Let us face it. Even the most progressive countries of this world discriminated against women and maybe they are still not perfect. But they are atleast on a trajectory that is progressive. In my nation, that trajectory seems to be following an inverse path.

How else do I explain the increased violence against women? And violence of the worst kind as the whole world witnessed in the recent brutal rape of the woman on a moving bus in Delhi. This young woman was training to be a physiotherapist, from a regular middle class family with aspirations for their children, she liked doing things I like to do too. Like watch a movie on a winter evening with a friend. And yet that journey ended in a horrific ordeal, the details of which make me want to vomit everytime I think about it. I think why this incident captured the imagination of a nation where a woman is raped every 22 minutes, is because most of us felt this could have been me. Infact this is me.

A lot of legitimate issues have been highlighted by this case. The need for judicial and police reform, the need for public safety measures, the need for policies and laws that will not make reporting or trying a case of abuse or violence against women so difficult. Helplines, women police forces, CCTV cameras....all important no doubt, but simply not enough.

Because the fact is that as a society we have failed our women not only in recent times but from ages. The heritage and past that our friends in the RSS are so proud of, let us examine that a little closely. And since I am familiar with Hinduism, let me stick to that. So we worship a God and contest elections in the name of the same God who threw out his pregnant wife because some random fellow accused her of adultery. And we venerate another set of god like characters who decided it was ok to gamble their wife in a game of poker and then fight a war that killed thousands to uphold the honour of that same wife. What warped sense of dignity is this exactly? Also the same heritage that burnt wives at the pyres of their husbands and then made them goddesses in some convoluted sense of devotion. The same tradition that makes women fast and pray for husbands, brothers, sons who then go on to beat, rape, abuse and illtreat them.

In case you are lifting your eyebrows at that last comment, please go over the statistics. 80% of the rape cases reported have been committed by people who were known to the victims - either friends, family or neighbours.

So there, change and make laws as you will. Achieve the UN standards of policing numbers. Establish a thousand fast track courts. Chemically castrate and hang the accused. But the fact remains, that till you are willing to share this country with 50% of its rightful citizens, nothing will change. And Jyoti Singh Pandeys will continue to be born, live and then be brutally raped and killed. Because the odds were always against her. She was lucky she survived the odds of being a female foetus that was not snuffed out, the odds of being the elder sibling who had to take care of household work while her brothers went to school, of the odds of not being able to continue to study beyond primary or secondary levels. But she could not in the end beat the odds of being a women in a nation that is no country for women.

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