It is not that only the girl has died. A part of all of us has also died with her.

“Each man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind…”

John Donne

The outpouring of grief over the death in a Singapore hospital of the 23-year old victim of the gang rape, who had been hailed as Nirbhaya (fearless) and Amanat (treasure) in various write-ups, is just not confined to India but has enveloped the entire world, judged by the media accounts. Justly and expectedly so. It is not hard to understand why, among so many other instances of rape that seem to occur at the rate of one every 22 minutes in the country, this particular one should have received world-wide attention.

The sadist infliction of barbaric cruelties, reminding one of medieval torture, on a defenceless girl by depraved fiends on the prowl is one part of the explanation. Not only was she beaten by an iron rod on the head, and subjected to unspeakable horrors, resulting in injuries to vital organs that proved fatal, but she was thrown naked in the dead of night out of the bus which she had boarded, little knowing that vile monsters in human form were lurking, looking out for helpless preys to give vent to their beastly urges.

Echoing the anguished feelings of all civilised beings are these lines of a young woman-poet: What did you do to deserve this fate, this end — A woman of the same age as me? You lived in this strange world for a fraction of what you should have/You were only minding your business when those monsters made it theirs./They snuffed out your life for ever/It took your suffering to open a million eyes/I wish this hadn’t happened, but now that it has/We will fight for what’s ours — our respect, our dignity!

INCREDIBLE IRONY

Apart from its gruesomeness, the second reason why this particular incident impacted to this extent was that, in the context of the rampant and uncontrolled corruption having Delhi police force in its vice-like grip, it was a tragedy waiting to happen. It laid bare for all the world to see, the hafta/mamool network among road transport owners, operators, the police and even some political higher-ups in the Delhi administration.

In perhaps one of the most incredible ironies in the history of investigation of crimes, for zeroing in on the accused in this case, the police officers assigned to catch the culprits, are reported to have heavily depended on the entries in the diaries meticulously maintained by their cohorts showing the exact hafta amounts, the owners/drivers from which they were due and the periodicity governing the extortions. In other words, it is not the long arms of the law but the longer grabbing arms of graft that are apparently ruling the roost in Delhi (and in the rest of India too).

It is clear as noonday Sun, that if this abhorrent collusion continues to plague the police administration, all efforts for preventing the recurrence of similar looming tragedies will make no dent at all on the pernicious phenomenon. I did not see any reference to any measure to curb this corroding evil in all the grandiose announcements of the Government. There should have been a high-power committee set up to go into the ramifications of the widely prevalent hafta network and suggest measures to mitigate the havoc it is causing.

EMOTIONAL UPHEAVAL

Aggravating these factors was the monumental insensitivity of the political class. The common assumption made of the denizens of that conglomeration is that they have their ears to the ground and know where the shoe pinches. It lay shattered right from the moment the details of the heinous sexual crime began trickling in. The mass upsurge born out of the people’s rage which was spontaneous, genuine and apolitical was trivialised and traduced by tuppenny-ha’penny politicians shooting their mouths off to cast aspersions on the character and motives of the protesters. They barricaded themselves from the deeply stirred millions of young men and women throughout the country who felt that before their very eyes the India of their dreams was going to the dogs.

The entirely justified emotional upheaval was given the jackboots treatment, with human beings trampled upon as if they were dirt. The President and the Prime Minister, of what was often touted as the world’s largest democracy, did not think it necessary either to meet the protesters or to visit the raped girl in hospital fighting for her life.

All in all, it is not that only the girl has died. A part of all of us has also died with her.

(This article was published on December 30, 2012)
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