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New Delhi Rape Victim

New Delhi Rape victimThe girl’s name was never released but that didn’t stop people from providing inspiring names to her like Damini (after the thought provoking Raj Kumar Santoshi’s movie on rape), Darshini (one who shows the path) or Amanat (legacy).  Yes, I am talking about the Delhi rape victim. The heinous and the barbaric nature of the assault is distressing as we try to shield ourselves from trying to think what the girl went through and forces us for some soul searching. Every girl in India, who has ever lived alone or used the public transportation, has at least one incident in her life where she knows she was so lucky that the situation did not turn as bad as this one, but it could have! You thank your lucky stars and every God you know that you were saved; but girls and ladies, we need more protection than a prayer.

A patriarchal society as ours has strict codes of conduct which doesn’t mean they are followed but that it merely sweeps away a lot of these difficult conversations under the rug. There have been violent and barbaric incidents against women that have shocked the nation before, but most of them have taken place in villages and did not bring out the media attention and mobilized the cosmopolitan crowds of cities. As the men from the villages have migrated to the cities and the behavior that they got away with in villages, comes to the cities, it shocks our sensibilities. Now I am not categorizing all the villagers into these monsters but my point is if one gets away with a certain behavior it only emboldens to try the next limit.  Growing up, my hostel was next to the beach but we rarely went to the beach because of the crowd of ogling boys right by the hostel gate and on the beach. Then came a new Commissioner of Police in town and banned such “boy crowding”. It was a breath of fresh air for us that we could go out the gates without fear of listening to lewd whistling and the name calling. The first step to prevent similar future incidents probably lies in nipping bad behavior in the bud.

The harder battle lies in changing our attitudes. Look at our scriptures the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. I believe that Sage Valmiki’s original Ramayan ended with Ayodhya Kand or when Rama returned to Ayodhya. The uttara - kand  about Rama banishing his pregnant wife Sita to the forest was added much later that tells the story about our society’s  changing attitudes towards women. In Mahabharat, which was written much later than Ramayan, the two points made by the Draupadi “Chir haran” incident is the complete humiliation of Pandavas and the glory of Lord Krishna. If the Pandavas could not save Draupadi then what we need is the eradication of Duryodhan from within us.

India is country of paradoxes in every sphere, the tall luxury skyscraper rises next to a slum, a Mercedes car is surrounded by young begging urchins and a religion that elevates women to the stature of Goddess, who is in no way less than a God; has female infanticides. We will pray to Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth) but cry on our misfortune when Lakshmi ( a newborn baby girl is often referred to as Lakshmi) is born. This isn’t just about punishing the guilty and having laws that are a deterrent, but it is about changing our mindset and about our attitude. This is harder challenge that has more to do with each one of us changing our personal beliefs than law and order.

 As the legal proceedings dance out in the court of law I am hopeful the guilty will be given exemplary punishment, I am hopeful the changes in law will be comprehensive and don’t just focus on the last mile and above all I am hopeful it will sparks real meaningful conversations about our attitudes to bring long lasting change.

Long Live Damini aka Darshini aka Amanat, may your sacrifice not go in vain!

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New Delhi Rape Victim