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“Just because the country attained independence at midnight, is it proper for women moving at midnight?”

– Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee president Botsa Satyanarayana on the Delhi gang rape

I want to shout, I want to scream, I want to run away as fast as my legs can take me. I want to grab  someone , just anyone by the neck and ask  them a question. Why?! Why can’t I be who I want to be? Why can’t I reclaim my street, my neighbourhood, my city at night? Why do I have the access to the familiar alleys only till the sun is shining? Why do the roads which are my friend in the day light become my foe as the sun prepares to set? I want to cry, I want to bang my head against a wall, I want to die!

Nirbahaya died a very heinous death in December 2012, a death that defies all logic and imagination. In her death she united a nation with a cause which was hitherto an issue of shame and stigma. In her death the culture of silence that the country had so proudly worn as a blanket stitched out of the patchwork called Indian culture and tradition, was shed away. The young girl  was named “Nirbhaya”, “The Fearless One” by the nation and held up as a symbol of changing times. Isn’t it ironical that the girl whose last day was filled with nothing else but fear, who was fearful of the men raping her was named Nirbhaya.  Her death made a nation so fearful of questioning the existing power structure of patriarchy, fearless. So much so that the outraged citizens came pouring from all parts of the country demanding the staus-quo to be changed and changed right now. How unfortunate it is that it takes brutality of the highest degree to shake us from our “ comfortably numb” state and make us realize a simple thing : Women are persons, not property to lay one’s claim on.

Three years hence and we haven’t learnt our lesson. Women are still raped, sexually assaulted and blamed for such attacks on them. One would think that a gut wrenching incident that made a nation stand as one would lead to the torch bearers of patriarchy realize the utter  redundancy of their though process. That this realization in turn, would lead citizens and government alike to remember at all times the reason for Nirbhaya’s cruel termination of life.

 To me, it appears that the patriarchy has raised its ugly head once again, the head we thought we had successfully put down once and for all.  We are a strange nation. We mourn a death, even let the grief unite us and let the world know how shaken we are. However when someone tries to show us the mirror, we break it and cry foul. In this week alone, India,has banned eating beef, the utterance of the word Bombay and the BBC Documentary “ India’s Daughter” made on the Nirbhaya gang rape.

We are indeed a progressive nation that decides what it’s people should eat, talk and see. Censorship on every possible aspect of a person’s life is hailed as a sign of a robust democracy by the political and religious stalwarts.  A 50 minute documentary that takes its viewers to the journey of blood curling violence also provides an insight to the mind-set of the man who raped her has made the Government of India remove all links on You Tube. What is it that has made the Modi government impose a ban on a documentary on a serious and extremely topical issue? Isn’t this  the government  that coined the slogan  “ Beti Bachao, Beti Badhao” in order to show how much  are women  valued by them?  I  couldn’t fathom a single reason till I saw the documentary. And then I understood all.

 It takes two hands to clap, says the culprit Mukesh who has been interviewed in the documentary. Remorselessly he goes on to describe the events of the day in a “matter- of fact” voice and goes on to put the entire blame of the victim for the iniquitous act that he had committed. In his eyes, the greater onus lies on the women to prevent rape. Venturing out of the confines of her home after sun-set with a male who wasn’t her relative would only attract male attention. The shock does not end here. The brutality and the rape was only to “teach her a lesson”. “ When being raped, she shouldn’t have fought back. She should just have been silent  and allowed the rape...."What are women? A piece of dead wood who would “allow” all and sundry to violate their personhood and not even protest  the violation!

A woman is like a precious diamond, says the defence lawyer in the documentary.  It is upto us how to keep that diamond. Thrown on the road , the dogs are bound to attack it. How much more misogynistic  can we be  than to treat a woman like an inanimate element whose entire  existence depends upon someone else’s mercy.

Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh said the BBC show was banned partly because it featured an interview with one of the five people convicted of the attack, who made “highly derogatory” comments about women. Now really dear Minister?!  Do jog your memory to the statement of Mr. Babulal Gaur, a senior member of your own political party who claimes that rape is a social crime which depends on a man and a woman. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong! Doesn’t Kailash Vijayvargiya, a politician  who states that rapes are bound to happen if limits of morality are crossed by women, belong to your political party again?

How are these views different from the ones mouthed by the rapist and his defence lawyers? The deep resonance and identification of the incendiary comments made by a rapist with that of the esteemed parliamentarians and common citizen is excruciatingly perturbing and bone chilling. Aren't we told the same thing time and again? Don't we hear  the watch dogs of morality laying downs the "dos and don'ts for a woman? Haven't our parents told us to be back before sun set,to dress modestly so as not to attract any unwarranted attention. The mind set reflected in the documentary is the mind set of most people, men and women alike, the victims and perpetuators of patriarchy. To realize that an average Indian thought process is akin to that of a rapist is stupefying to say the least.

Women have forever and always lived within an invisible  lakshmn rekha dictated by the set of complex and archaic set of patriarchal norms  intimately linked to gender roles and expectations. Any attempt by them to breakthrough the chains is viewed as  a rebellion against the so called “Indian” culture that needs to be curbed at its very onset. This, unfortunately is not a perception merely of a section of a society, it is an extremely common place one. Open a course book of any school in India for young children and you’d read the lines “ My mother cooks food for us and my father goes to office”.  How relevant is this imagery in today’s context when to be a homemaker or going out and proving your worth or being both is seen as a choice by many  and not a mandate.  What wrong then Muksh did? He was only showing Nirbhaya her position! How dare she commit an infraction ? As the protector and monitor of patriarchy what wrong did he did he do if he raped her to teach her a lesson? Teachers are to be venerated not punished. He was merely executing what he has seen, taught and internalized.  

The misinformed outrage in favour of the ban has very conveniently overlooked the statements given by responsible people in places of authority who have been entrusted with the responsibility of the safety of the denizens. The statements that are doled out as pieces of cardinal advices to resurrect the  tradition that has fallen flat or to fix the blame on the woman for any acts of sexual violence.  The Mumbai Police Commissioner gave an option to the women of the city between a “safe environment” and “promiscuous culture”.  “Promiscuity” being defined purely in terms of the choices a woman makes in the realm of sexual behaviour. Ignorance of Hindu scriptures that instil traditional values to break-down of joint family system. From free interaction between the sexes to bikinis and short skirts, everything but the root cause have been held responsible for degeneration of socially expected roles of an woman. Men too have  been reduced to imbeciles and mating pigeons who have no self control.

Does the familiarity of these views resonate with those of the ones shown in the documentary and these aren’t even the rapists?  A ban on a documentary that has finally brought out in open what as a nation we were shying away from accepting, ie as a nation  we have vilified the women who have tried to break the mold created for them. Creating road blocks to fair and easy access to  information in a democratic set up would only give rise to  the “ Streisand Effect ” on the internet wherein there is  increased and intense discussion in an event of an attempt to ban or censorship is made.

The documentary is being viewed by hundreds of netizens and shared on various social media platforms inspite of the ban. The message to the government is loud and clear. A ban is not going to prevent us from accessing the information; a ban is not going to make us submit to the diktats of a government in the name of safeguarding the glory of the nation. We will not let the supercilious attitude of the products of patriarchy glorify rape under the garb of shindig women from the monsteritis that people like Mukesh are capable of committing.  Remember we are NOT Taliban, so let's stop acting as one. 


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