Suzette Jordan's death: When will our netas get rape right?
She refused to be called the Park Street rape victim, revealed her identity, and brought upon herself and her daughters an avalanche of stigma, humiliation, and hypocrisy.
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As the news of Suzette Jordan's death spread on Friday, three years after she was raped on Kolkata's Park Street, social media started talking about her.
She was, after all, no ordinary woman. She refused to be called the Park Street rape victim, revealed her identity, and brought upon herself and her daughters an avalanche of stigma, humiliation, contempt and hypocrisy.Actor Aamir Khan, who had featured Suzette in an episode of Satyamev Jayate, tweeted: "In the brief time that I spent with Suzette, I was overwhelmed by her positive spirit, her sense of self, her dignity, her self-respect, her humility, and her courage to stand up against all odds."
The News Minute, Scroll and others came up with excellent obituaries, and surprisingly, regressive voices were almost absent.
But what was more strikingly absent was politicians talking about the irrepressible Suzette. None of the Twitter-savvy netas like Shashi Tharoor or Omar Abdullah said a word about her.
The loudest silence was of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee - a newbie on Twitter but veteran on Facebook - and her party spokespersons.
And that is not surprising. The Park Street gang rape was one of Mamata's first 'epic blunder', as the popular hyperbole on social media goes. When the media exploded with outrage over the February 5, 2012 rape in front of a Park Street nightclub, the CM incredulously called it "shajano ghotona" or a staged incident.
Her statement virtually paralysed investigation into the case. The main accused, Qadir Khan, is still roaming free.
Mamata had started seeing Leftist and Maoist conspiracies all around her, and she shunted out then joint commissioner of police Damayanti Sen who had single-mindedly pursued and cracked the case.
It was painfully evident that having a woman politician as a minister is no guarantee that women's issues will be sensitively handled. Just months after the Park Street rape, another woman chief minister was lavishly mishandling the December 16 gang rape case in Delhi.
Apart from unleashing police canes, water cannons and teargas on young protesters, a woman minister was seen trying to bully her way to the dying victim in the hospital. "What will I tell the press if I do not meet her," she was heard saying.
The victim was flown to Singapore on the pretext of treatment to avoid a domestic backlash in case she died in a Delhi smouldering with protests. That evening, a very senior minister and the Capital's guardian angel at that time - another woman - allegedly told a few journalists in private: "Achha hua woh chalee gayee." In other words, good riddance.
It was the same story after the Bantala gang rape of 1990 in which three health officers - two from West Bengal health department and one from Unicef - were raped by a mob near the local CPI(M) office. One of the women died. The discovery of a metallic torch in her vagina made one of the doctors faint.
How did then CM and Left patriarch Jyoti Basu respond? Again, predictably by trying to underplay the incident which had shocked the nation. He even said the mob may have mistaken the health officers for child-lifters.
Our politicians simply lack the moral courage and conviction to go against the rot of a society which votes them to power. Feudalism and patriarchy suit them fine. The culture of silence around rapes perpetuates the social order they have become masters at manipulating.
Which is why Suzette Jordan is so special, so disturbing, so absolutely crucial in breaking the idea that rapists, not the rape survivor, are ones who should be ashamed of being named.