Farooqui's conviction a victory for rape victims, but does it taste all sweet?

We see multiple hues of silence emerging from this high-profile case and not all are flattering.

 |  5-minute read |   31-07-2016
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At least one rape victim can repose her trust in the legal procedures of this country. That American scholar raped by Mahmood Farooqui.

A Delhi court finds Farooqui guilty and thus comes closure for the woman. It is heart-warming to see that justice was neither delayed nor denied. Yes, the convict will approach higher courts but this judgment is a remarkable confidence-building measure, as they say in conflict zones.

But why does this victory not taste sweet? Despite a positive outcome, why does this case not fill us with joy? The answer lies in the deep caverns of silence. We see multiple hues of silence emerging from this high-profile case and not all are flattering.

During the processes of investigation and trial, it was brought up many a time that the victim, an American research scholar in her 30s, did not resist enough and thus her allegations ring untrue.

Also read - Gang-rape of 4-year-old: Does India not care?

Her texts to Danish Husain, a common friend who introduced her to Farooqui, were not vocal enough about the deed. This silence is bad silence.

The victim should have displayed necessary symptoms to be taken seriously. The defence counsel said in court this January that the texts exchanged merely "suggest irritation rather than trauma". Irritation is a mild emotion. It can be conveniently shrugged off by others.

faroo-moss_073116063303.jpg Lady Justice is blind, not deaf. She hears silences as well.

Is this why, perhaps, the coterie around Farooqui and his former journalist-cum-filmmaker wife, Anusha Rizvi, contented itself with irritation? At best.

Mind you, the annoyance has only been at what Farooqui, not his victim, had to suffer. Facebook posts, tweets and soiree conversations after the chargesheet was filed were dripping with how poor Farooqui did not deserve such irritation in his life.

An interesting game was being played here. Since the deed could neither be undone nor swept under the carpet, it was the responses that were being carefully crafted.

The victim was blamed, as evident in the statements issued by Rizvi and the defence counsel, but fortunately it rang hollow.

Also read: Are there two kinds of rapists in India?

That is when the narrative shifted to first irritation, later silence.

In the past one year, rarely have we seen an unequivocal decrying of Farooqui's crime. Even after the verdict there is an uncomfortable silence. People baying for Tarun Tejpal's blood have been conspicuous by their absence from this particular scene. Their silence is good silence.

This silence operates on the principle of quid pro quo. It serves self-interest first and foremost.

This silence protects self-worth and strengthens the yarns that we weave with our righteousness. For, when we come out and say that one of us has erred and must be punished, we render ourselves vulnerable too.

We leave the security blanket of collectivism behind. We expose ourselves to relentless scrutiny and even unfounded jibes. It is best to be silent.

Farooqui is a man of impeccable education credentials from best of the institutions across the world, a custodian of cultural heritage, a proponent of meaningful cinema, in short, a blue-eyed boy in the intellectual circuit.

He may have erred in a moment of weakness but he surely does not deserve such ignominy. Let us be silent. His conviction will lead to smear campaign against liberals.

Let us be silent.

Also read: Sex means rape for most men

Muslims are already facing persecution under the current political leadership. Let us be silent. He is one of us, how can we let him down? Let us be silent.

The woman was obviously smitten, what if she encouraged him first and changed her mind later? Let us be silent. He displayed a toxic sense of entitlement and demolished an emancipated woman's sense of being. Still, let us be silent.

This sense of entitlement is not limited to those like Farooqui who rape; it also extends to those not condemning him for his deeds. Some choose to be silent because they are secure in the knowledge that their words and actions, or lack thereof, are beyond scrutiny.

After all, they are the ones designing the discourse of dissent, a vital element of democratic and liberal values, in the society.

Danish Husain, a witness in this case, also practised silence but of a different kind. He chose to be silent about all the insinuations and conspiracy theories after standing up for what was right.

His deposition strengthened the case against Farooqui but cost him friends and Dastangoi. Farooqui and Husain were together on the Dastangoi platform for a long time before this case tore their association asunder.

Was it a conspiracy to dislodge Farooqui? Was Husain trying to usurp his throne? The victim was Husain's friend, so maybe she was planted for sabotage, no? After all, it was him introducing her to Farooqui.

All this because Husain chose to be vocal while others remained silent. He stuck to facts and ignored the slander. He denied the convict a victim card.

This explains the ominous silence around the case. The breach of omerta is being mourned where fireworks of victory should have been. Only two prominent public jubilations have been recorded so far: Sanjukta Basu's article and tweets of Kavita Krishnan.

Lady Justice is blind, not deaf. She hears silences as well.

Writer

Nishtha Gautam Nishtha Gautam @tedhilakeer

The writer is a gender specialist and assistant professor in Delhi University.

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