August 26, 2013 § 2 Comments
It’s been almost 3 years since I left India but even today when I read the atrocities committed against women back home creates a sense of insecurity and fear even though I live thousands of miles away. I believe that every girl born in India will definitely have a story – a story of a man stalking, starring, masturbating, groping, rape and death. A few days back I got a text from a friend asking if I had read about the 23 yr old photographer who was raped in Mumbai and my reaction to it. My thoughts immediately shifted to the day when I read Nirbhaya’s news. That day I was engulfed in anger and frustration, I was happy to see the protests and the attention the story was getting among the press- every paper I read online, twitter , Facebook was buzzing with this story and the need to change laws. That day I truly believed that a change is going to take place that the anger is definitely going to yield results. But here we are months later facing similar questions and experiencing the same emotions but today I’m not angry, I feel helpless like the millions in my country.
I was raised in a family that believes in the system; from a very young age I believed that the government in my country is there to protect its people. I was named ‘Priyadarshini’ by my dad because he believed that women like ‘Indira Gandhi’ changed the world. He is a believer in empowering women. Today I sit in my couch flipping through pages of reports and articles of how India is one of the most dangerous countries to live and a sense of fear is taking over me.
From a young age I was the daring one in the family. My two sisters are known to be calm and cautious . I was someone who grabbed life by the scruff of its neck; I was studying in 8th grade when I experienced my first dose of what lay ahead in life. I was travelling from school back home on a government bus which was extremely crowded. In a crowded bus people are usually standing very close to each other and that day a man was standing so close to be that at one point I realized what he was attempting to do. I’m someone who is known to not tolerate unwanted advances from anyone . I also knew that if I’m going to ask someone to help me chances are I might be questioned and asked if I provoked the man to behave that way. Without hesitation I reached out to my bag and took out a ‘safety’ pin (irony ) and without hesitation I inserted it into the man’s thigh. Today if I think about it I don’t know if what I did was right or wrong but that day it definitely saved me. Since then I look at anyone standing close to me in public with a sense of fear. It might be an insignificant incident but it has definitely had an effect on me. I still remember being glued to my television when the Jessica Lal case was unfolding and today the same way I’m watching this young girl’s horrific experience.
On Friday I was watching the news and I heard an MP say that we need to let people take the law in their hands and another MP comparing India with Saudi Arabia. Even though I’m extremely disappointed with the laws in my country I would never compare it to Saudi Arabia nor would I urge the public to take law into their own hands. Is this what our nation has become into? The Home Minister of the State says that women journalists need extra protection. We don’t need your paternalism; we need the freedom we deserve. We have today become a society that says ‘Oh thank God the guy just brushed against you, it could’ve been worse’. How have we come to this state where a guy touching or stalking is OK? Are we then at some point going to say‘ Oh it’s good that it just ended with rape, you could’ve been killed’. I fear that as a society we have become desensitized.
Another prominent New Channel tweeted an Interactive graph on the most unsafe cities in India. ‘Statistics from National Crime Records Bureau’s Crime in India 2012 report plotted on a graph to highlight which Indian cities have the highest rate of reported crime against women’ (http://ibnlive.in.com/news/interactive-graph-the-most-unsafe-cities-for-women-in-india/417366-53.html)
My only issue with this data is that this is based on the ‘rate of reported crimes’. Our ineffective system has resulted in women losing faith in the process mainly due to the manner in which they are treated during the inquiry and the delay in the punishment of the guilty. Thousands of cases are not reported. I was also reading that the men accused in this particular Mumbai rape crime have previously indulged in raping rag pickers and the crime was not reported. We are failing as a system. Today there are vigils, never-ending news coverage and protests but how long is this going to go on? Are we going to be a nation with very short term memory or are we going to stay together until there is change in the system? All of us forgot what happened a few months ago to Nirbhaya and went on with our lives until this Mumbai case came along and jolted us.
I have always wanted to go back to India and work on issues relating to domestic violence but today the fear is so strong that I’m petrified to go back. I do not know if I should go back to a country where women are merely looked upon as sexual objects, treated worse than animals, a country where nothing can happen without paying a bribe, a country where the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.
I believe that my country is capable of change and that nothing is greater that the power of people. I believe that just like how we fought for our freedom in 1947, today we need to fight for freedom for women. Justice delayed is justice denied. My heart still longs for the day I’ll be able to walk without fear in my beautiful country.