Many people refrained from expressing their horror and shock at the murder of a two and a half year-old in Aligarh recently. The sheer degree of barbarity involved could have stopped some of them. Irrespective of what might be the motivation behind this silence, especially on the part of the placard-flashing brigade that often takes it upon themselves to point out what is wrong and shameful about India, the silence itself is far from inconspicuous.
One of the reasons why you would not see impassioned appeals on social media has undoubtedly had to do with ‘political correctness’.
The main accused in the murder — Zahid and Aslam — belong to the minority community. Details emerging from the investigation of the murder of the infant have shed light on two more people — Zahid’s brother Mehandi and his wife Shagufta. According to reports, the couple has also been arrested for allegedly kidnapping the child after her father apparently failed to pay back Rs 10,000 that he had borrowed from them. A post-mortem report is believed to have reportedly confirmed that the men brutally assaulted the child before killing her.
Beyond dismal: The Aligrah victim's family mourns the loss of the little one. Do they not have a right to get justice? (Photo: PTI)
Ideally, any civilised society would not spare the perpetrators of such gruesome crimes and the common man, too, would not dictate terms that could alter the course of the law of the land. Despite the secular fabric of our Constitution, there is a group that unfailing mentions the names and the religious identity of perpetrators of heinous crimes such as rape and murder of children when they happen to belong to the majority community. This is also done under the garb that such criminality was centered in religious motivations, and therefore, needs to be called out — the manner in which justice was demanded in the Kathua rape case, for instance, saw celebrities, social media personalities et al feeling ashamed at being ‘Hindus’ and ‘Indians’ — but the same bunch needs to be called out repeatedly over its ringing silence when the alleged perpetrator of a similar crime happens to be anyone but a Hindu.
Selective outrage is divisive from the word go.
More so, when it’s on the lines of religion or caste.
In fact, to pretend that it was never intended to be divisive holds no water, as peddling any narrative nearly always is polarising, and disguised ‘moral one-upmanship’ can only go so far after which it will get called out — for it continues to remain only about shaming the majority. It is a backlash to such posturing which makes people call out this hypocrisy by digging out details about the caste and religion of the perpetrators. When coupled with political correctness, the result is a potent cocktail of everything that could go wrong for humanity.
Take the instance of the infamous Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal where at least 1,400 children were subjected to appalling sexual exploitation between 1997 and 2013. Children as young as 11 were raped by multiple perpetrators, abducted, trafficked to other cities in England, beaten and intimidated, as well as groomed for sex. Despite evidence of the abuse that emerged in the early 1990s, and despite knowing the identity of many of the perpetrators, the local authorities such as the city council and police refused to take action — due to the ethnic origins of those behind such activities.
The fear of being thought of as racist allowed the gangs of Rotherham's sex abuse, mostly men of British Pakistani heritage, to get away with it for years.
Choosing to name and shame one section of people who commit deplorable crimes but hiding the name or identity of the other kind only increases polarisation.
Rather than point-proving, more effort needs to be put into getting involved in doing one’s bit to stop crimes against humanity. There should be no debate around whether society is going to take some onus and partake in character building to stop crimes against children or inform the authorities in case they see a crime in progress or even help your fellow human being in a dire situation.
We live in a world where the obvious tends to be unclear for some. Things have gotten to a point where the police in Noida recently came out with a ruling to book onlookers who shoot videos and take selfies with victims of accidents instead of rushing them to hospital. Last year in July, three accident victims bled to death in Rajasthan’s Barmer district as bystanders clicked selfies.
In December 2012, India had witnessed a massive outpouring of emotion after the Delhi gang rape where many of us tried to contribute to making the national capital safer for women. I had written to the Justice JS Verma panel that had been set up after the Delhi gang rape incident with recommendations on reforms and strengthening laws to curb crimes against women, suggesting chemical castration for convicted rapists and sexual offenders.
Childhoods damaged — beyond repair? How long will we sacrifice children on the altar of political correctness? (Photo: Reuters)
This was in the hope that stringent and effective punishment would offer deterrence to ever-increasing crimes against children. I also think it's imperative that leniency is not offered to perpetrators, and more so, on sociological arguments on the identity of the criminal, centered on their caste, minority status or economic background, i.e. 'sole bread earner' et al.
It is not complicated to comprehend that crimes against children, the most vulnerable of us, are unpardonable.
Those who file mercy petitions for the perpetrators of heinous crimes or push the human rights rhetoric of lesser punishment for some of them should take a backseat.
A society that cannot safeguard children has no right to talk about the rights of the perpetrators — and especially under the garb of a political correctness which could very well doom us.