In the government’s eyes, people were angry because of this single incident of rape and by promising to hang the rapists, put cameras in the buses and run more PCR vans on the roads were the answers to their outrage.
It was not surprising to see our senior politicians, ranging from Sushilkumar Shinde to Sheila Dixit, refusing to see the larger picture, the pervasive culture of violence against women and how there was no attempt to reform it. Their solutions were related to this single incident of rape that happened in a bus, which perhaps could have been intercepted by the police. They were simplistic, bureaucratic quick-fixes which might work in parts for a few days.
This is exactly how they tricked Anna Hazare. Instead of addressing the larger socio-political context to reduce corruption, Anna Hazare’s prescription of a single piece of legislation was very easy for the government to scuttle. They promised him what he wanted and people happily went home. Their proxies meanwhile unleashed their patented tricks of character assassination and media plants to slander the leaders, and even used their agencies to raid, name and shame.
The legislation never happened and will not happen in the near future, because that is what make our politicians what they are. On one side they will unleash Oxonian leaders to confuse us with legal logic while on the other, they will dump it down with parliamentary buffoonery.
The initial signs of the tricks that killed the Anna movement are all too evident here too: even as the leaders spoke in deceit, their agents reportedly booked cases against protestors and even took girls to police stations. Some went to the extreme of character assassination. One high-brow minister was even creative enough to obliquely compare the protestors to flash-mobs and suggested the need for ground-rules.
The politicians and the police will certainly try to get away by addressing this anger as the anger against rapes. And they might succeed too. Not just because that is their tried and tested way to obfuscate and escape attempts of social change, but also because of the unimaginative media and public outrage. When everyone is after what is expedient and what is popular, the response also will be expedient and popular.
The real issue is not the rape, not even the larger context of the violence against women; but the terrifying lawlessness of our country, the scant respect for women and human rights, and the unquestioned brutality of the State. At the core of the rot is our criminal politicians, criminal police, caste-lords and feudal social order.
How does a woman feel safe in a country where political parties had no qualms in giving assembly seat tickets to 260 people who faced criminal charges such as rape and other forms of violence against women? How do people feel safe when about a third of their MPs and MLAs have criminal charges against them— with 141 facing murder charges?
Will we let them come home? Certainly not, but we let them govern and legislate. Not to mention, those who swindle tens of thousands of crores of public money even when a vigilant CAG is watching.
It’s so depressing to stomach this reality. But that is the truth. And where do we begin?
Corruption, that Anna Hazare and Kejriwal are trying to fight; and violence against women and rape that the youth of Delhi are trying fight are in fact the two sides of the same coin: the lawless world of criminal politicians and their cronies and our archaic social order. Unless we somehow crack it, nothing will change.
If it doesn’t change, it will ruin our simple lives.
We will continue to indulge in symbolism, whether it is the Congress top brass receiving the girl’s body at the airport while the party continues to be silent against its criminal and rapist partymen or inefficient governments; or Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan indulging in emotional theatrics while their colleagues sell women on screen as body-parts.
This is not to disprove the wisdom of crowds, but to reinstate the fact that it’s our only hope. As New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki noted in his best-seller, The Wisdom of crowds, “large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant–better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future.”
It’s time to overcome reductionism and symbolism and tip the system. Social transformation, and not issue-based anger, is the absolute necessity for us to survive.