Representative Image. Photograph:( Reuters )
The debate over a juvenile rapist. Are you a child at 17? Government insensitivity. Theek hai.
December 17, 2012. The first update came on agencies. Something about a gang rape the day before. Someone was writing the headlines for the next wheel but this report did not make it. The newsroom was busy with other, more important stuff. The Gujarat election had just concluded. Exit poll figures were coming in. There were psephologists, analysts, fancy graphics and charts, lots of talking to do. Rape is, frankly, nothing new. It can wait. Or so it was decided before some of us proceeded to the pantry for coffee and biscuits. I remember this vividly because in the days and weeks and months that followed, after the full horror of the gang rape revealed itself, after the media named the victim Nirbhaya, and the world named India its rape capital, this episode kept playing on loop in my mind. It struck me how we had normalized rape. Keep the story for tomorrow.
The story fed itself. People came out on the streets. Experts of all descriptions came out of the woodworks. We discussed gender sensitivity. Moral policing. Police sensitization. The need for new laws. The need to implement old laws. The futility of laws altogether, because it’s all about social biases. No wait, it’s all Bollywood’s fault for feeding us sexist stereotypes. No means no. Death penalty versus corrective punishment. The debate over a juvenile rapist. Are you a child at 17? Government insensitivity. Theek hai.
Copy writers ran out of adjectives to fill the screens. Anchors ran out of punchy lines. In how many ways can you say that rape is a horrid crime against humanity so punish the perpetrators?! Policemen were schooled to be more receptive to victims. Parents were urged to raise better sons. People were shaken out of their routines to raise their voice. This cannot go on. Nirbhaya galvanized an entire nation. India’s daughters had a voice and a mission. And then what?
More Nirbhayas. Every day. Every hour. Women in this country are assaulted, brutalized, silenced. Most cases do not even get reported because frankly, why bother. Why bother with the character assassination that follows physical assault. Why bother proving to the world that you did not ask for it. Why bother with the endless procedure and the ruthless grind of the so-called legal justice system.
Hashtags and headlines feed a fleeting frenzy. Brutality becomes just another talking point. Oh how awful, I can’t believe this. What has the world come to! As we reported the Nirbhaya case for months, I saw it sliding down the rundown. I felt myself swinging between outrage and ennui. This horror is recurring. You get used to it. Same with Hyderabad. Ranchi. Jammu. Ditto. It comes and goes. Nothing ever changes. So get over with it. Don’t waste your time India. Rape doesn’t really offend you. Drop the pretense.