Why is this rape different? What makes the gang-rape of a 23 year old woman in a moving bus in our national capital stand out from plenty other such cases in not just Delhi, but in every city, town and village of our country? Why does this rape warrant headlines and prime time debates?
Both Houses of Parliament were in combat mode, in a session that lasted well beyond 10 pm on Tuesday, a day after the incident came into news.
MPs and MLAs argued for ‘stringent punishment’ for such cases in (only) the national capital.
Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj advocated the need for death penalty in such cases.
Many Rajya Sabha members, as have been reported, demanded that “culprits should be hanged till death.”
Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan choked while expressing her shock over the incident.
The outrage in the House made Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde commit a special task force, at the level of the Home Secretary, to look into safety issues of women in Delhi.
Prime time debate on a prime news channel discussed what this rape meant for the women of our country. It advocated the need for a change in mindset, along with the usual recommendations of fast-track courts, more police, better police, CCTV cameras inside buses – all ideal measures that should be in-effect, ideally, immediately.
It spoke of women’s rights, the demand for a woman to be able to “walk in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night,” without fear.
The show had callers who suggested castration as punishment.
Capital punishment was suddenly suggested as the best solution to such cases.
Yes, it was a feel good debate, making viewers sit back in their couches, in their homes, feeling passively empowered by the words of an angry nation.
But, the angry nation is conspicuous in its absence when dozens of such cases happen every day, not necessarily in the national capital. The anger is missing when minors and tribal women are raped and their justice system justifies the culprit’s hunger as a side-effect of eating chow mein.
Why is there no requisition for a bill for stringent laws then? Why is there no special task force at the Home Secretary level for these victims?
No, these questions do not mean to undermine the suffering of the 23-year old woman in the Delhi hospital. It only asks why there is such superficiality in the handling of a crime that is increasing at an alarming rate all over the country?
Is this a crime that can be eradicated through fast track courts, technology and castration? Or, is it a crime to think that the solution may be that simple.
These solutions are generated at the speed of our breaking news phenomenon, they are not thought through, in fact, the basic problem itself is not thought through. Castration may be effective and humiliating, but it is also naïve and fantastical. Ours will never be a country that will advocate it.
These solutions – offered both by our leaders and our people – are triggered by the freshness of an incident and perhaps by the instigating nature of the questions that we news people put forth to our readers and viewers.
They are not however, triggered by the fact that our society and an unfortunately high number of men in it, are regressing barbarically.
No doubt that the noise we raised has at least triggered a discussion on women’s safety and her rights in society. But will it stop there, like it always has in the past?
It is not a policy question anymore. It is much more. The incident is a reflection of the degeneration of our society and the little culture that is left in it.
So, this rape is not different from the other rapes this past year or decade. This case is simply new, fresh and ‘breaking’.