Monday, August 26, 2013

Mumbai Gang Rape and Our Selective Awakening

Last Friday, we in India woke up to another horror.

A young female photojournalist, who was out on an assignment to take pictures of one of the once-lively-but-now-dead-and-deserted textile mill complexes in Mumbai, was raped by a group of five men; her male colleague was bound and left helpless just a few feet away! It was a ghastly crime, one that reminded us all of an equally brutal crime that had happened in New Delhi not many months ago.

Just like "last time," Indian media has a "story" again! A gang rape--that too of a young woman from the journalism fraternity! It's definitely time to shout their lungs out, spill anger through their pens, and demand "strict punishment (read "death penalty)."

Just like, "last time" Women young and not-so-young are outraged. They are scared once again ("tomorrow, it can be me!"), but they don't like this feeling of being scared... and they are furious. They are out on the streets in protest--some with their mouths covered with black bands, others shouting slogans--demanding safety for women and justice for the victim (or should we call her the survivor?).

Yes, we in Mumbai are all shaken by this horrific incident, and it seems that everyone is woken up to the crimes committed against women.

But is it really so? What we choose to not see is that between the Delhi gang rape and the Mumbai gang rape, there have been many more rapes and there have been many even before "last time." Pick up any of our daily newspapers any day, and somewhere on the inner pages, tucked inside those tiny "crime" columns, you can find news of rape--coming from small towns and villages and slums of big cities. But no one comes out in solidarity of these victims (survivors?), no one seeks justice, no one feels the anger, no one wants the perpetrators to be hanged. We don't see such agitation in media or the public.

In a shocking development lately, the main accused of the Mumbai gang rape case has confessed of having raped four other women at the same place... only those were the poorest of the poor--rag-pickers--of whom no one takes any notice.

These are the most vulnerable group of women... no one bothers about them, and definitely not the police! They don't have the courage to walk up to a police station and file a complaint because chances are high that they will be abused even by the police.

The truth, though hard to face, is that even the citizen of Mumbai, who are all out in solidarity with the young photo-journalist--shouting slogans, asking the accused to be hanged, venting their anger--won't bat an eyelid for these other victims.

It is this selective awakening that makes me hang my head in shame. It is this bitter truth that stops me from joining the uproar, going out shouting slogans, lighting candles. It leaves me wondering... will we, as a nation, ever really care about our women--without first looking at their social and financial backgrounds?  

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