Delhi, MP horror stories: When it's rape, does it matter why?

This is a news item with which our country, unfortunately, is becoming far too familiar. Depending on the magnitude of the crime - how many men, how grievous, which city and how many body parts of the victim need to be sewn up and bandaged - rape grabs headlines along with scams, terror attacks and political hate-games.

The news that a five-year-old girl was raped repeatedly and subjected to atrocities we shudder to think of, is the latest bit of breaking news. Understandably, it throws up that familiar bunch of uncomfortable questions that surface every time a gruesome incident of rape is reported in the national media - the 'how's which baffle beyond reason, the 'who's that have several contenders and finally, the 'why's, for which (strangely enough) everyone has answers.

Say for example, Firstpost editors Sandip Roy and Lakshmi Chaudhry's article on Firstpost today. Except for a handful who seem to be at a loss for words, most other commentators seem to have their finger on why rapes happen.

Protests against the incident of rape in Delhi. AFP.

Protests against the incident of rape in Delhi. AFP.

One commenter points out it is the Congress who is to blame. "Congress and Chaos are synonymous. If there is Congress, we can find loot, rape, murders, brazenness. Kick the Congress out of India and save country." While there is little reason to contest the fact that the Congress does spell chaos in the country, it is extremely hard to divine how kicking any political party out of power would make us all safer. Would the perverse monsters hiding in all corners of the country suddenly find a Pandora's box in which they can be trapped? Would they be decimated en masse by divine lightning from heaven? Or would libidos of these twisted men suddenly cease to exist overnight in the course of a week, which is the time it takes for a new government to assume power?

Another commenter points at the scapegoat closest at hand: Bollywood. "Rapes like these will keep happening in India as long as songs like ' Main toh tandoori murgi hoon yaar Gatkaale sayiaan yaar alcohol se ' are no.1 on all charts." And more than handful tend to agree. Now, I have argued this previously too: how exactly does a man with the cunning to stalk, abduct and violate a woman and then take cover,  get 'swayed' by a song? To the argument that only the 'educated' can tell the reel from the real would be simplifying what is a complex psychological makeup.

The intelligence of a criminal like a rapist - one who can corner a woman in a place and at a time where he can't be overpowered and fought - doesn't get 'carried away'. He rapes because he can and there is no logic than can explain or help understand a perverse behavioral pattern like that.

Suggestions about why rapes happen and how they can be stopped, that follow in the copy, are diverse: "Beat the police men as soon as you see them. No matter what they will be in less numbers anyway." Castrate all men in Delhi, chop a few others' balls etc etc. Because we all know how effective mindless violence is when you want justice and security.

This brings to mind the debate on rape and sexual assault that came up in the Parliament, when the anti-rape Bill was being discussed. Our idea of a constructive debate included an MP arguing that condom commercials on TV vitiate the minds of the young and goad them to immoral acts. Another just stopped short of blaming the clothes worn by women as instigators of sexual violence. The answers that India gives itself as to why rapes happen are mostly big, fat, comforting and reassuring lies. Just a shade better than Khap leaders who would blame anything from chowmein to mosquitoes if they could - but not their sons - for rape.

Rapists don't belong to some devious cult. They don't grow into the society from one root, which if felled by a single chop would totally erase the problem from the face of the world. And finding a scapegoat won't keep us safe on a auto ride back home at night.

What is similar to a bus driver who takes advantage of a woman travelling alone and say the familiar, friendly uncle in the family who gropes his young niece or rapes his nephew? They don't possibly watch the same movies, they don't vote for the same party, they don't figure out their modus operandi while having chai together and watching TV. They are in different places, different times with same criminal compulsions.

We can never understand why people rape, kill or torture. That is what sets most of us apart from those who commit such crimes. But we must realise that the danger is right here, lurking round the corner.

There is much to feel proud of in this country, but it is also one that will fume over a rape but will not stop to help someone dying on the roadside. Those criminals, they know that too well. And they know how easy it is to get away.

The Delhi rape victim lay on the road for an hour and no one helped. Recently, we saw how 20 vehicles whizzed past a woman and her young daughter lying dead on the road after an accident in Jaipur while the father desperately begged for help. In Ludhiana, five men beat up a woman with rods and people looked on and walked past. In October 2011, Reuben Fernandes and Keenan Santos were stabbed to death by a group of goons in a busy Mumbai locality. Their fault? Reuben and Keenan protested against the harassment of their women friends by the group of men.

This is what gives criminals a go-ahead; it is not TV, short skirts and or a political party. It is the knowledge that we are a country of bystanders who will stand back and watch. And perhaps later, we'll show some remorse.

Updated Date: Apr 21, 2013 12:26 PM

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