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We all stand accused in the Hyderabad rape-murder

We are the moral police teaching women why and how they should avoid 'danger'.

VARIETY  |   4-minute read  |   11-12-2019

On the intervening night of November 27 and November 28, while most of us were asleep and many insomniacs among us were hoping desperately for sleep to embrace them, a 26-year-old veterinary doctor was caught, dragged, gang-raped, killed and then burnt. At the break of dawn, her charred body was found under a culvert on the Hyderabad-Bengaluru national highway.

When the realisation of the barbarity meted out to the victim sank in, the nation erupted in outrage. There were posters and banners, there were slogans and candlelight marches, there were also Twitter hashtags such as #HangTheRapist — all symbolic of our frustration with a world where rape is routine.

By November 29, all four accused were in police custody. Within a week, on December 6, the four were killed by police after they allegedly tried to escape from custody. Among the rape and murder charges filed against the four lorry drivers, another case for 'attacking' police personnel has been added.

We must realise we are part of the problem. (Photo: Reuters)

The cases will go on. With the accused not alive anymore, there isn't much debate about the outcome of the cases against them. We are back to business as usual.

Before it started crawling into oblivion, the horror of the Hyderabad case reminded the country of the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case of 2012 that happened in the national capital.

The similarities in the two cases go beyond the barbarity of the violence perpetrated on the two women. In both cases, there was a delay in filing FIRs, which could have probably saved both women. In both instances, there was victim blaming. In both cases, the victim's parents would have to live a life of agony each time they think of what happened with their daughters.

In both instances, there was outrage both in the real and virtual worlds. After the Delhi gang-rape case, laws were amended and a Nirbhaya Trust was set up to ensure a safer environment for the women of the country.

On the ground, not much changed. Nirbhaya was consigned to being just a part of our collective memory that we scrape and summon after another spine-chilling rape case.

As rapes continue to happen day in, day out, some cases jolt us out of our slumber. We protest (mostly on social media), we claim to empathise with the victim's parents, Bollywood stars join protests, Parliament is disrupted as politicians get into a blame game.

As citizens, we blame the state and central governments, the police, and all law enforcement agencies, including the judiciary. And then we go back to whatever we were doing before we started to protest.

Rape after rape, this cycle of protest is followed by a deafening silence of inaction.

The problem, perhaps, lies in the fact that while we blame everyone else, little do we realise that we are part of the problem.

We, as a society, have failed our women. We remain silent spectators to everyday instances of violence against women such as mental and physical harassment, molestation, stalking and groping.

How many of us, especially men, who claim to speak for women in debates or write on social media, would care to stop and speak up if they see such an instance unfolding before them?

Many men choose to walk away even upon seeing a woman being harassed in public transport. Not many try to protect the women or give the men harassing them an earful.

As women, we forget to teach our sons, brothers, and male friends how to treat women. We never talk to them about why they must try to help women stranded on desolate roads.

We instead turn into the Moral Police, teaching women why and how they should avoid 'danger'.

Take for example the Hyderabad case. On the day the victim's body was found, Telangana home minister Mohammad Mahmood Ali asked why the "educated" doctor called her sister and not the police.

Well, Mr Minister, when you are scared or fear death, would you call your near or dear ones or dial 100?

Filmmaker Daniel Shravan went on to say that rapists are not finding a way to fulfil their sexual desires and so they think of murdering women. He suggested that women should carry condoms because evil thoughts would continue to provoke crimes.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was quick to react on the recent rape case. She said, deal with crimes against women with an iron fist, but ma'am, what about justice in the 2013 Kamduni gang rape and murder case?

That we have hit the nadir of bestiality was best reflected when the Hyderabad victim's name was found to be the top searched on porn sites.

When we say 'Beti bachao', we do not just mean stop female infanticide. It also means we create an enabling environment for our women to live, grow and prosper in, just like our men.

The shocking details of the rapes show we are a society that has become a danger for itself, turning against its own by raping women and then blaming women for their own rape. All this while standing and watching. And doing nothing.

Also read: Revive the Indian economy, don't defend it

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