Thursday, 24 January 2013

Delhi Gang Rape Verdict - ‘Change or Quit’

Some call it a national shame, many say it’s a cultural problem and few others say it’s time to think whether it’s worth visiting India. Whatever be the form of reaction, the Delhi Gang rape episode has generated an angry wave, both nationally and internationally.

On the fateful December day in 2012, the 23-year old victim was gang raped by six men in a moving bus in Delhi. She and her friend were savagely tortured and thrown out of the moving bus. For over 40 minutes the poor, wounded duo was left naked in the streets as the passers-by did not bother to offer help. To top all these, the police and hospital staff had shown absolute nonchalance, taking their own sweet time to discharge their respective duties. And Delhi streets have seen unprecedented protests since.

Comments in the social media have unanimously condemned the ghastly attack and criticised the concerned authorities for their snail-paced work ethics. Conservative camps have lectured on how ladies should conduct themselves to steer clear of such accidents.

In order to analyse all of the above a series of questions in form of soul-searching would do a world of good.

1.    Should the victim or ladies in general be held responsible for such incidents?

It’s a sporadic joke in a tragic movie. It can happen to anyone. Any such backward sentiments that try to find fault with the victims, in form of conservatism or even tradition, should be shunned. In fact, the brave heart and her companion should be saluted for the fight they had put on.

2.    Rapes seem to be commonplace in India. Do we spot a pattern here, especially in Delhi?

Unfortunately, the answer has to be a ‘yes’ given that two more such reprehensible incidents have occurred since then.

3.    Can it be said that the pent-up passion created in youngsters by the restrictive family culture found in India finds manifestation in such rape incidents?

The UN rape statistics which is general in nature and includes only reported rape cases, declares that the US [84,767] has the highest number of rapes in the world. India [22,972] comes next, though as a distant second, followed by UK [15,934]. If a rate per 100,000 populations is taken, the rates for these countries for the year 2010 are:

US - 27.3; India - 1.8; and UK - 28.8.

The number of rapes in India is indeed high even though the rate per 100000 falls down greatly. Even though one has to account for unreported rapes, especially in case of Indian societies, the rate seems to be relatively low given that the population of India is in excess of 1.2 billion.

There is no evidence to say that countries such as the US and the UK wherein relatively freer cultures operate are any different either. In fact the rape count is much higher in the US. Hence views associating incidents like these with the culture of a nation is often ill-founded and superficial. Culprits are culprits irrespective of where they come from. What matters is the punishment dished out to them and how effectively it is done.

4.    Is there anything else that is wrong in Indian culture that leads to such callous accidents?

Culture is nothing but shared values, habits, sentiments and thought processes of a nation. There is absolutely nothing wrong in Indian culture if it is followed thoroughly. What can create chaos is when those aspects of western culture that does not blend well with Indian culture are slavishly aped unnaturally in cinemas, shows and in life.  

The case of paedophile, serial sex offender Jimmy Savile in UK has greatly affected the public’s psyche. This case, in fact, is more disturbing given that the victims of this vile person have ranged from dying patients to children, over 6 decades. It is strange to note that no charges were made against him despite being reported during his living days. If culture has to be blamed for such incidents, is the Savile episode a reflection of British culture? It would be superficial to declare so.

One should take a holistic view and apply systems thinking in order to paint the big picture. That will obviously include all those protestors in Delhi streets and the media / public who voice opinions against Jimmy Savile in UK, in the respective cases. If it is a cultural problem or something of a routine in these nations, they would probably not be shocked or react in such fashions.

5.    Ok, but is it not true that women are not respected enough in India?

Yes it’s true. It has to change. Period.

6.    What is to be done now?

a.      Excuses on culture should not divert the focus of this wave. Instead an enduring, common sense approach should be exercised in tightening the policing and legal systems of India.

b.      Public will feel free to help, if police is friendly. Police should start thinking ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Had they done that they would have been more responsive to the victims on the fateful night.

c.      People should stop idolising under-performing or useless politicians. PM or CM is a public servant and that’s the way it should be – nothing more nothing less.

d.      Create more fast track courts and judges. It is said that there are not enough funds to do this. Why not stop freebies and expenses made for election campaigns and use those funds to clear the mess?

e.      More training for police with simulated case scenarios. Training should be world class, periodic and not just at the beginning of a career. Clearly, discussing jurisdiction on the spot for ages when the victim is dying is abysmally sub-standard service.

f.       Stricter actions on police officers who fail in discharging their duties

g.    The formalities required in hospitals need re-visiting and should be made people-friendly 

It’s all about change - the beginning of a long change. Whatever might be the final verdict of this case in the court – death sentence or otherwise – the real verdict from the nation is Change or Quit.

It is a verdict handed out by the Indian public to the police, office bearers of law, government and to all such. It says Change thy attitude or Quit thy position.

It’s as simple as that. This mantra can be spread out in normal conversations, social media and during elections etc.

Having come thus far, may I ask the reader [for brave hearts only!] to use a bit of imagination?

Visualise yourself sitting in that bus as a mere passenger and think through the incident. Take a mind tour for 5 minutes. If you have braved through those 5 minutes - and did so honestly - you will then have no qualms in chanting with me – ‘Change or Quit’.