The 5-year-old Delhi rape victim: The truth about what we feel
This is how we ought to feel about the rape and mutilation of a little girl: shocked, outraged, angry. But here is what we really feel.
By Lakshmi Chaudhry and Sandip Roy
A 5 year old girl was held for two days, repeatedly raped and violated. The "foreign objects" found inside her include a candle and a bottle. While the crime may seem exceptional, the police actions were not. They refused to file an FIR or examine the child.
This is how we ought to feel: shocked, outraged, angry. But this is what we really feel:
Lost: This is the little girl who was found raped and mutilated in the garbage dump, right? That's our first reaction when the news breaks. But no, this is a different little girl, a different horror story. The victim of the December 16 gang-rape was fixed in our memory because it so jolted the nation. The newspapers gave her a name. We held her fast and followed her fight, and fought for her in turn. The tragedy also turned rape into a regular media beat -- like real estate or politics or crime. But this daily parade of shame has also made us lose track of the victims. This five-year-old battling for life is lost in the shuffle of the next inevitable rape story.
Blurry: We don't just lose track of the victims, we begin to forget them. We count down the recent cases of child rapes: 6 year old in Aligarh, those three girls thrown in a well, that 4 year old in Hubli. It's only later we realise that we forgot about the 10 year old locked in a cage in Bulandshahr. Wait, didn't that happen just last week? 4, 6, 10, 12… The children turn into a nameless string of numbers, reduced to the sum of their tender years. The truth is we don't want to think too much about the child for the fear may strike too close to home. Our baby, niece, grand-daughter, the little one playing next door. It is best they remain as they are: an anonymous mass of half-forgotten waifs.
Hopeless: We want to believe that after all the anger and the outrage, after all the candlelight vigils and Take Back the Night protests, after the anguished editorials and the shocking sting operations, somewhere somehow there would be a glimmer of change. Yet the barrage continues unabated. Rapists prey with abandon and seeming impunity. The police still don’t file FIRs. Protesters are lathi-charged, be it Delhi or Aligarh. This time too we will tread the well-worn ground of recriminations. Inane comparisons will be drawn: US vs India; India vs Saudi Arabia; new vs old India. Everyone will be blamed: police, politicians, sometimes the parents, patriarchy, our "culture of rape." All we will achieve in the end is a sense of dull futility.
Numb: The doctors who examined the little girl said the case was one of the worst they had ever seen. Déjà vu? Didn’t they say the same about the victim of the Delhi gang rape? In just about four months, we have discovered that “worst” is a word that can be defined ever downwards. This is the "worst" because it’s a 5 year old as opposed to the 18-year-old in Meghalaya who was gang-raped by 16 people. Or is it the "worst" because a bottle was shoved inside a 5 year old as opposed to a metal rod in a 23 year old? The horror of these stories is not just that they happen but that they each lower the bar of what is truly unspeakable -- even as they make all those other rapes seem routine, even "normal."
Exhausted: Outrage requires energy which we've long exhausted. The relentless, monotonous viciousness of crime in our nation requires the kind of emotional stamina we no longer possess. The active rage evoked by the Delhi rape has dissipated into an enduring tiredness. The sense of futility transmuting into the need not to feel. It's Friday, after all. The weekend lies ahead promising pleasant distractions. Our eyes skim past their stories, fingers refusing to click on that ominous headline. Each time, it becomes just a little easier to surrender to the desire to not know. Buried in this denial is the sad, unspoken acknowledgement of our defeat.
Dear baby girl, we have failed you even in our sorrow.
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