by Babita Baruah
Sometimes, when something we are proud of and cherish is dashed to the ground, we feel scared. We lose confidence. We lose faith. In the system. In the surroundings.
But most importantly, in ourselves.
I have been reading and watching re-runs of the video clip of the young girl molested by 20 men outside a pub in Guwahati. Disbelief and horror follow. This cannot be happening in the place where women have always lived in an exalted and envied liberated status. Where no dowry or other feminine evils ever set foot. Where a girl child is welcomed into the house with sweets being distributed by proud parents.
Yesterday I held a guest lecture in a management institute where I shared a way of thinking I coined called “SCRATCH!”. Which simply put, means, that unless we scratch our thinking till the skin bleeds, we will never reveal the new, fresh skin of the truth hidden beneath what we think is the truth.
So, why did the boys dare to do the act? And why did people ignore the cry for help?
Is it because the influx of bars and pubs in cities where curfew (enforced by the military once and now social) at 8 pm every evening for years meant no one were out drinking on the streets? Are we geared up to control social elements, who maybe even feel they have a moral right to judge and pass verdict on young girls who go “drinking” in pubs?
We come from a culture where matrimonial ads pride themselves in bold print by saying….”( boy)does not smoke and drink”- but in this case we are talking about a young girl here. Class 11. Still in school skirts. A teenager.
So while the men have always respected women and their freedom and still do, some of them, like the ones in the incident, in my view, are grappling with this new found freedom of girls -- late nights, fashion and lifestyle, drinking etc – which, to my mind, is being misconstrued as labeling the women and young girls almost in a certain anti-social manner.
Which brings me to the steps being taken.
Arrest the boys smiling gleefully at the camera lens as they tore off the dignity of the young girl. Control the pubs.
Will it be enough? Of course. As a short term measure, definitely.
But how does one change old, judgemental values of a nation that believes that a woman out in a pub is someone who is “available”? Who has “loose morals” and therefore is meat for prey?
In a way, it is also a cry for help. Help in casting off old beliefs. Throwing social conditioning to the winds.
Media, entertainment, public opinion, even advertisement can help re-creating such perceptions. Like we did for the other evils in society.
It’s time we understood what is the real cry for help. That’s when we can find the solutions.