The recent rape case in Delhi has created a national outrage. As much as I thought I will stick to the enormous work on my table and not ‘distract’, I find myself putting down a few quick thoughts. Almost everybody is discussing it and I saw a teary eyed Jaya Bachhan, giving her two bits about where the solution lay. She could stop associating with a lousy political party for starts. There are loud demands for a death sentence for rapists, chemical castration, no bail and faster prosecution.
All of this is good but it is important to remind some points to a lot of those who are agitated about the rape and are active on social media and other forums. A lot of these people are other wise silent and can be seen on the same social social media engaging in the most banal of conversations and never active on any matters regarding public policy governing any of our important social issues. It is important that these people – a number of them teenagers and youth – realise the larger social context, which could be shaping why people like the accused Ram Singh and his accomplices engage in the kind of brutality they did.
The rapes cannot be looked at in isolation of other pertinent social issues and indeed do not happen in isolation of these issues.
When the poor get thrown out of the city and dumped into areas outside the city, which have poor connectivity to areas where people have their livelihoods, in homes and neighbourhoods which are poorly planned and cramped, how many get alarmed? I am not saying it is only the poor which engage in rapes and socially undesirable behaviour, but the tendency to be brazen and have a nothing to loose attitude can certainly be developed in this section when they find the rest of the society and especially the elite and the educated not concerned about policies which impact their very existence. Delhi has followed the motto of – Remove the poor not poverty – to the hilt in the past decade.
When did the social elite who are now discussing this rape, question the kind of horrible conditions in which a large majority of the lower socio-economic bracket live in? When did the same elite discuss humane and affordable housing for those who do not earn as much? Read the conditions of Ravidas Camp and that should cause outrage. Why in 6 decades of Independence are we not able to provide decent housing, which provides spaces and privacy to our people? While the rich and investors invest in multiple penthouses even as they live in only one. The poor cramped conditions, the bad ventilation and absence of sewage facilities in the dwelling units for a large segment of the population does not outrage a lot of these people who have the best of material comforts.
How many in Mumbai have been vocal on the conditions in slums like Bandra(E) and Kherwadi, Dharavi, Malwani and the other slum areas in Malad. How many challenge the brazenness with which politicians have made poor people and affordable housing for them into such a convenient and fail proof mechanism for staying in political power?
A lot of these petty and major criminals find convenient shelter in these slums and find patronage by politicians and business to take care of inconvenient matters.
It was well established in the 90’s that there are is strong correlation between air pollution and criminal tendencies and activities. When did people come out in support of better air quality legislation?
Everybody hate’s hawkers on busy arterial roads, around schools and colleges, railway stations, bus stops and almost everywhere else. Those who speak for them continuously are pointing out about how they help in keeping streets safe and how it would be counter productive to keep evicting them as some would definitely take to crime to make two ends meet. I hardly find any new person getting involved in the discussion in the past decade beyond the usual.
Should not the pretty and very fashionable girls (and guys) – and very dumb at times as well – in St. Xaviers and Mithibai and other elite colleges in Mumbai be finding time for such discussions and activities rather than the usual very happening get togethers, parties, Calvin Klein perfumes, LV bags and exotic holidays and the like? What about bullshit shows like MTV Roadies on TV? When did we last show outrage on the way impoliteness and being rude and demeaning to women is celebrated and encouraged on these shows?
When did we discuss better counselling facilities for those who are going through trauma, stress or disturbances in mental condition?
A lot of criminals and rapists have become fearless because the political system itself is made up of criminals. When did members of our middle class pull up their local councillors?
The time to get angry and thinking is when a female President of the country pardons sentences of heinous criminals involved in murder and rape. The issue to get interested in – and which media should – investigate is what lives these people lead after their pardon?
When NGOs and civic activists keep public talks and events how many of these mango people ever turn up?
It has been my constant grouse that a lot of the educated elite have abundant time and money for IPL and malls and movies at multiplex and many other banal activities which they like to justify as well earned and relevant but have absolutely no time be involved with the transport policy, housing policy, solid waste management policy, budget of the municipal corporation, state of the health and education system, oversight on political representatives and a host of other big and small issues.
When did you last see those in candle light marches and street marches after the recent rape coming out and question their elected representatives on various policy matters or make a donation to an NGO which is doing it? Almost never.
Let us stop living in a false sense of superiority over our civilisations past glory. Incidents like the recent rape should be a call for action for those who are only worshipping Devi’s and organise Durga Pooja and Mata ki Chowki and visit Vaishneodevi and a thousand other rituals which have lost all meaning in the light of the poor respect – almost institutionalised – we have for women in the country. Somebody just recently donated 3kg gold at Tirupati and was till 3 months back informing the world on social media about how he was partying and enjoying the company of bikini clad women while his employees were not paid salaries and were finding it difficult to make two ends meet. Time to junk these practices and start getting involved with governance and policy. Stop doing religious rituals and start participating with civic activists.
The sooner social, civic and environmental issues stop becoming something with which only activists and advocacy groups are involved and become an area where the mainstream regularly participates the sooner we will have a solution to the kind of rapes which keep happening in Dehi.