I don’t know her name. I have not seen her face. But her death leaves a deep hollow in my heart. A shiver passes through my spine when I think about the horror that had faced since the fateful night of 16th December. She fought bravely to survive. If she had survived she would have fought the system and the perpetrators of rape bravely. But death brought an abrupt end to that young life. Sitting here at the desk, like most of the intellectuals in the country, I too think that we are over-concerned about the death of this girl because the molestation happened in Delhi and Delhi is the seat of power, and we don’t care about the innumerable rape cases which are much more horrible than this one. But that is not the case. She was the inevitable martyr of the savage crime called rape and through her death she has alerted the conscience of this country. As Rajdeep Sardesai rightly pointed out, it is the time for the political leaders of this country to think differently. It is high time that they come back to the people and face them. They are supposed to leave high security covering provided to them and meet people in the street when they are agitated. We need a Gandhiji today to sit with the agitating younger lot of this country, to sit with them, share with them and give them positive directions.
Moving symbolisms are always a must for social movements. As Edward Alby said, someone has to become a scapegoat when none takes responsibility to become one. In 1970s and 80s when the Indian youth were not going anywhere and were caught in the dead and stale dream of nation building through licence quota raj, we had a symbol in the guise of the angry young man portrayed by Amitabh Bacchan. When he was shooting for Manmohan Desai’s Coolie in a Bombay studio, in 1982 he was fatally injured by accident. He was admitted to the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai. The whole of India stood up in prayers and the ordeal went on for months for the actor. Finally he survived. It was for the first time after Mahatma Gandhi the whole nation stood up for one man; a huge symbol of hope and direction. Amitabh Bacchan survived his injuries. And today at the age 70 he is healthy enough to play another innings in Bollywood.
(Amitach Bacchan in Coolie)
If Amitabh Bacchan intestinal injuries moved a nation in early 80s, today a girl’s intestinal injuries move a nation which has evolved itself into a modern nation through the process of globalization. But how can we call ourselves modern when we cherish the age old ideals of a male dominated society. While Aamir Khan in his famous series ‘Satyameva Jayate’ while debating the issues pertaining to love marriages questions the Khap Panchayat members on their insistence on traditional values of the Indian society. Khan rightly asks them whether they become only alerted and vengeful when the females take a decision on their lives and become the authorities of their own bodies and minds. He prods them by asking why the same kind of vengeance does not occur amongst the Khap leaders when children are abused and young girls are raped.
To my shock I found out that many of the young people (of course they are outnumbered by the ones who had congregated at the India Gate to protest against Rape during the last few days) cherish and nourish the same values as strong and vindictive as those of the Khap Panchayats. These young people say that the girls should be wearing proper clothes then things will be good for them. This view comes from absolute blindness and ignorance. Both these entities are fuelled by the ideology of male chauvinism. Dresses are a part of one’s personality and the way one wants to present oneself to the world. It is a part of confidence building and it contains a great amount of symbolism. Of course during our aesthetic intercourse with the mainstream movies we willingly suspend our political correctness and enjoy the scantly clad heroines and item girls. There is an osmotic exchange between the popular culture as exemplified by movie and fashion industries and the way the young people dress in any country. They mutually reflect desires, aspirations and attitudes. As we are in a male dominated situation whatever the man wears becomes cool and whatever the woman wears becomes a source that beckons rapists. It is absolutely a misplaced argument. None has the right to dictate what one should wear in their daily lives.
(punks in a street)
Social customs and practices are the results of codifications that took many years to evolve. Such customs are made mainly to protect the interests of the clans and avoid assumed social embarrassments. It was applicable for a frozen society that was held within a particular time and ethos. We have forgotten that we are a changed society today. And social mobility and visibility have become more or less equal for the males and females. And the social pace is such that we are no longer able to cling to certain customs and practices for not more than a season. In that case what could be the perennial value that would rule a society for a long time? No dress code is a permanent dress code anymore. No attitude is a cool attitude forever. In that flux situation what are the kind of ideals that we are insisting that our social members whether are males or females or queer gender should follow?
In an evolving society there cannot be hard and fast rules. And if at all there could be hard and fast rules it should be on the aspects of humanism and humanitarianism. One could cherish develop values which would make one a better human being. One would be able to accept the freedom of the other person, freedom of other communities, genders, religions and ethics in such a changed scenario. It was not that we did not have such values. There was an egalitarian time but somehow in the process of our evolution we have moved farther away from there. The more we think that we are a developed country the more we succumb to the primitive thinking that woman is a material to be consumed and object to be possessed and exchanged. This should change and the change should happen in our own lives, right now.
(Gandhiji- If he was alive...)
The girl who died interestingly is a soldier in a larger battle for human rights and justice. She does not have a face (definitely she had one but we do not want to face it due to various reasons imposed by state and conscience), she does not even have a name. And the nameless martyrs are more powerful than the martyrs with names. Named martyrs will not haunt us like spirits. They haunt us only as images and ideologies. The nameless martyrs will haunt us like ghosts that are never at rest. They will be rested only when justice is brought to them as well as to the cause they have died for. In each nook and corner of our daily lives we would face their invisible presence. In the face of each woman in the street, in the face of our daughters, sisters, wives and mothers, in the faces of the destitute women, sick, working, toiling women we will see the spirit of this nameless martyr. She will remain alive till we stand up for equal rights and justice. We have got to get it for her. No RIP messages will rest her in ultimate peace.