Can I call you that? I’m afraid I never dared give you a name, not even a symbolic one. And Nirbhaya, Ragini, Damini, these are not your names. No, you had your own name, your own identity, and an entire lifetime that no one can take away from you. You laughed, and lived, and loved.
And you fought, suffered and were brutally murdered.
I wish I could say I was here to celebrate your life, but I know nothing about you. Why don’t I know your name? Why do we live in the kind of society where the victim of a crime has to be hidden for fear of social stigma? What social stigma? For being attacked? For surviving it? I wish I could say I hate them, sister, but I’m one of them too. And, through all these years, through all these crimes that we’ve been hearing about, we’ve kept quiet, and you paid the price in full.
So, no, I’m not here to celebrate anything. I’m here for the lifetime that they did take away from you, sister. The lifetime we let them take away from you in one single horrific hour. As an entire nation, as a society, we waited and we watched as our women were raped and brutalized, and we bought bigger locks and better alarm systems, and we told our friends and daughters and sisters and mothers to be careful. But, we never said a word against them.
And, now we’ve killed you…
How does it help you to know that we’re all distraught over your death? How does it help you to know that people will cry for you, are already doing so? How does it help you to know that I don’t even dare to sleep tonight because I’m afraid I’ll dream of you? For, I’m too ashamed to look you in the eye, Sister. I don’t know what I would say to you.
“All Indians are my brothers and sisters”, our school used to make us say, every single morning, come rain or shine or bomb squads. Children regularly fainted and threw up, and a lot of parents complained. Our school built a roof, put up some fans, but we never missed a day of the morning assembly. The Pledge and the National Anthem.
What good were those vows, sister? And, what would our founding fathers say about this absurd hatred that has pervaded Indian society? Because, in India at least, Rape is more of a hate crime than just an instance of gender violence. A large part of India is literally misogynistic, and the passion with which they hate women is just overwhelming. I have a theory on this; I believe that these men represent the part of India that has long been fed on films and movies where the hero “woos” the girl by following her around, stalking her and whistling at her on the streets. These men take these ideas and apply them in regular life, and seek to approach “modern” women in the same way, expecting to be positively acknowledged. When these women express fear or disgust, these men perceive that they have been rejected or rebuked, and start hating women with a passion, because they know that once women achieve sexual liberation as a nation, no woman in their right minds would marry the likes of them. And, here I blame arranged marriages, because if people were left to themselves, the idiots and the misogynists would be automatically weeded out.
But how does any of this matter to you now, Sister?
“I want to live” I know you never said those words; you were raped and sodomized and beaten so badly that you couldn’t even speak.. But, in my mind, you are forever going to be saying those words to me, dearest sister.
And, I shall be forever failing you…
Six Men. Six men against one young girl. Our country should be ashamed for ourselves. That’s the culture we have? A culture of cowards? Because, believe me when I say this: I am not a feminist, I am an individualist, and that just makes me a whole lot more dangerous, and a whole lot more enraged. And there is nothing I loathe more than the cruelty of cowardice. It’s beyond despicable. A man raped a two year old baby, after tying her legs together, the day after they tortured you for an hour. She died two days ago.. Was she out at an inappropriate hour? Was she dressed in “immodest attire”? Was she behaving “inappropriately”? No. She wasn’t raped for any of the reasons they like to throw in our faces, sister. She was raped because we have a law and order problem. She was raped because our country is still stuck in a misogynistic mindset best represented by the son of the Indian President when he said that it is not protesting if women “go to discotheques at night and candle-light vigils in the day”. Mind you, sister, this is the idiot who also said that the women at the venue were too beautiful to be protesters, so we are terrified at the fact that these are the people who are our law-makers.
Our law-makers? No wonder nothing has changed. No wonder that infant was so brutally raped that she succumbed to her injuries a day after fighting for her barely-begun life. She is dead today, because our country is inept, apathetic and corrupt beyond comprehension. These are the same reasons why six drunk men felt confident enough in attacking you and your boyfriend in a bus, and then raping you as they beat him unconscious. Can we even imagine the agony of that moment? No. But, my mind won’t stop trying, sister, and it hurts so bad.
And, what about the love you have left behind? My heart bleeds for you, young Ser. And, I swear to you, I swear that I will never stop fighting. Never. I wish I knew her name so it could be the one I whisper before I ever do anything and everything in my power to destroy this rape-culture that we all helped bring into existence.
Because there is a rape culture here. One that is so pervasive, living a normal life has become impossible in this country if you are a woman. For all the men reading this, imagine what it would feel like if you were always at war, lets say with Pakistan, and that we lived on some border. Where some unidentified person can just come and pick you up and take you away if you don’t keep your eyes open wide enough, phone always in hand while walking in an empty locality, edging away from cars that slow down at footpaths. You guys, it’s become physically exhausting and intolerable. And, yes, you can empathize, and I’m so glad you do, because we need every single ally we can all get, but the fact remains that a lot of men don’t want to see women raped, yet half of them still talk in terms of protecting a lady’s modesty instead of giving her her rights.
Five years ago, my senior from college was viciously stabbed to death as he stood up against some miscreants who were harassing a fellow student. A few months back, my junior was raped. And, now they’ve killed you. Please forgive me if I leave it up to the good people of this country to make sure that the perpetrators, your assailants, get the “justice” you deserve. (The “justice” they deserve… I fear humanity cannot provide) I intend to make it my life’s goal that this Country becomes the kind of place where both men and women can walk out of their doors at any point of time, knowing that their constitutional right to life guarantees them the safety they deserve. The safety we deserve. The safety you deserved…
And, what is expected is not even idealistic. It is only realistic that the State provide you with security regardless of your gender, or the time. And, when I say “provide you with security”, I mean a secure neighborhood and country, where crimes are the anomalies, not the norm. What we have now is rampant abuse of the law and an inefficient bureaucratic set-up that works for no one but those who are corrupt and apathetic.
Because, they are well protected. They have their chauffeur driven cars, and their servants to go to the market, and their guards to watch their homes. They don’t care about you and I. They don’t care that even the drunk scum who met you on the bus dared to ask you why you were out alone with a man because our well-protected politicians themselves keep saying those words. Our government has been screaming those questions out so loud – “Why were you out?”, “Who were you with?”, “What were you wearing?”, that even the rapists have realized that they’re the lucky ones in this entire scenario.
You’re only the one who died…
Not even the most brutal torture can bring you back. Not the most painful punishment is going to make your boyfriend or your family feel any better. But you asked us to make sure they’re caught and punished, and they will be.
But, they’re not the reason you are dead, they are just the way it happened. Our society is to blame for your funeral. We are to blame for what they did to you.
I just can’t get over the fact that for 10 days, you were fighting this, and you told all of us that you wanted to live.
We did nothing to protect you.
And we couldn’t do anything to save you.
Forgive me, Sister.
Shamefully Indian but Proudly yours,