Mumbai gangrape: It's time to think beyond ritualistic protests

One more girl has been raped. Let’s start the ritual. By now, we know it by heart.

Bring out the candles. Get ready for rallies, human chains. Flood the social media space with scorn. If you are in the media cry a bucket in your articles over the sorry state of women in India. If you want petition the government of India, the President. Demand death for the rapists or their castration. If possible, park yourself among habitual protesters on a public ground. If a television camera is around don’t forget to show your grief and frustration before it.

And yes, don’t forget to blame the politicians for all the problems we face. If they weren’t there we would be a in a blissful state of nature where everything would be hunky-dory. Here’s a word of caution. Don’t exhaust yourself too much. There might be another rape tomorrow or the day after and you would be required to follow the ritual again. You need energy for that. Moreover, you have your own things to do.

But before you hit the bed, make it a point to look at the mirror, meet your reflection in the eye and ask these questions: is this all I can do for a girl raped? Isn’t repeating the ritual a proof my helplessness? Has India changed for the better for women after all of that? Be honest to yourself while answering these, probably you would get closer to finding the real solution to the problem. You might find that your sympathy for the victims is nothing more than tokenism.

 Mumbai gangrape: Its time to think beyond ritualistic protests

Journalists hold placards as they participate in a protest march against the rape of a photojournalist. Reuters

Now, let’s face this question as a nation. Is our collective capacity as citizens of the country good enough to change anything around us? The answer is a loud no. The proof is around us — in the form of the daylight rape of the young photojournalist in Mumbai and so many other similar cases. And we are too dumb or uncaring to notice that we are destined to go on like this?

We should be clear by now that framing harsh laws hardly changes anything on the ground. Our insistence on holding the governments in power accountable for rapes is taking us nowhere. Protesting against the police is proving to be a futile exercise too. The intervention of courts has not helped beyond a point. And it’s not the problem with cases of rape or molestation only; it is true of corruption and other issue too. For example, potholes in Mumbai won’t get fixed no matter how much you cry. Beyond a point the ordinary citizen is simply helpless.

When changing things around himself is not in the citizen’s control, it does not speak well of the democracy. It means it has failed in its fundamental reason for existence: protecting individuals. So what’s wrong with the country exactly? The architecture of institutions that define a democracy — the elected government, the courts, the police, the civil society and political parties — is collapsing. The institutions, both singularly and collectively, have either gone defunct or have failed to grow to cope with the changes in the social landscape. The situation calls for a fresh social compact involving several elements in the society.

How do we go about that? In earlier days, revolutions and massive popular protests caused a rewrite of the social compact. Citizens came together to wrangle more from the authorities. The closest we came to that was Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement two years ago. It carried great potential for change, but it remained unrealised. It is difficult to predict whether a similar movement would be possible anytime soon.

Till we wait for that to happen, why not try to look for simple solutions? Behind every rape case, in fact every criminal case, there is lack of fear among the criminals for the police and the policing system. The perpetrators know they can get away with the crime. Why not focus on the police alone, instead of making random pointless accusations against the politicians? The most practical solution to the current problem is the maximum visibility of police on the streets and alleys. This has enough potential to keep criminals in check. And it is always a good idea to hold local political representatives accountable for incidents of crime. They have a responsibility to the people they represent.

Let’s face it. The ritualistic response is not taking us anywhere. Let’s try to think different.

Updated Date: Aug 23, 2013 19:05:39 IST