Skip to content

To the Young Women and Men of Delhi: Thinking about Rape from India Gate

December 23, 2012

Dear young women and men of Delhi,

Thank you for the courage and the honour you have brought to Rajpath, the most dishonorable street in our city. You changed Delhi yesterday, and you are changing it today. Your presence, of all twelve thousand of you, yesterday, on Rajpath, that street that climbs down from the presidential palace on Raisina Hill to India Gate, getting soiled by the excreta of the tanks and missiles on Republic Day each year, was for me a kind of purificatory ritual. It made a claim to the central vista of ‘Lutyen’s Delhi’ as a space for democratic assertion in contravention of the completely draconian, elitist and undemocratic prohibitory orders that make the heart of this republic, a zone of the death, not the life and sustenance, of democracy.

From now onwards, consider the heart of Delhi to be a space that belongs, first of all, to its citizens. Yesterday, when thousands of you gathered peacefully, intending to march up Raisina Hill to the president’s palace, you were charged with batons, tear gas and subjected to jets from water cannons. The violence began, not when protestors threw stones, but when the police started attacking people. Stones were thrown in retaliation. The television cameras that recorded what happened show us the exact chronology. The police were clearly under orders not to let people up Raisina Hill. Why? What is so sacred about Raisina Hill? Why can a group of unarmed, peaceful young people not walk to the gates of the president’s palace? So, lets be clear. Violence began when the state acted. Of course, the protest got hijacked by hooligans. But of course it had to be. When hooligans in uniform are let loose on an unarmed crowed, there can be no possibility of averting the possibility that hooligans out of uniform will respond in kind.

But do not let this stop you, or distract you. Do not be scared away from the heart of the city by this violence. Prevent the hijackers from taking over your anger and twisting it to their purposes. But most importantly, never, ever be scared again. You have all given us the gift of a fearlessness. This city is no longer what it used to be, and it is so because of you. Rajpath is yours. This city is yours. its days and nights are yours. Do not let anyone take this back from you. Keep the city. Keep the city safe, make it safe. Make it yours and mine again.

Thank you for doing this in the name of an anonymous 23 year old woman. She is someone like you, like millions of others who wants to lay claim to this city, by day and by night. You demonstrated that the presence of women and men, out on the streets, in public, is the only guarantee by which everyone can feel safe in this city, or in an city for that matter. It is not by making pubs close early that this city will be made safe. It is by ensuring that as many women can be out and about in any place in the city, at any time of day and night, in buses, on the metro, in public spaces, in work spaces, cinemas, theaters, at home, and even in pubs, that this city will be safe for all of its citizens. By being together, in public, as free and equal men and women, in the place where prohibitory orders and Section 144 forbid you from being, you made sure that this city belonged to the 23 old woman who was asked by the men who raped her (Sharma, Sharma, Thakur, Gupta and Singh) what she was doing out and about at nine at night. You were together, as young women and men, safe, secure in each others company, drawn together by friendship and solidarity, and by your friendship and solidarity with the 23 year old woman who is fighting so bravely for her life. She could have been one of you. Any one of you could have been her, or her injured and brave friend.The young men amongst you demonstrated that you were not there to assert your control over women. The young women amongst you demonstrated that you could hold your own with young men, and feel the opposite of being threatened and insecure.  Our city, so ashamed of its reputation for misogyny, can only be grateful for this organic, spontaneous and public demonstration of the solidarity between the bodies of young women and men.

You made me proud of Delhi again, just as much as the men named Sharma, Sharma, Thakur, Gupta and Singh had made me ashamed a few days ago by the way in which they brutally raped and nearly killed that anonymous young woman, and assaulted her companion.They cannot be called beasts, because no animals behave as terribly as these men did. They make us ashamed to be human, and make me ashamed to be a man. I am ashamed by them just as much as I was ashamed by the bystanders on a busy street who pulled down the windows of their cars to gape at a nearly naked and clearly injured woman and man, or just stood around, staring, but could not find enough humanity within themselves to come up and offer help,  or comfort, or even cover the two young people on a cold December night.

But yesterday, you, the twelve thousand mostly young men and women who came to Rajpath to express your anger showed the world that Delhi has a different face as well.  Thank you for restoring humanity to this city.Today, the several more than yesterday’s twelve thousand have been joined by a fringe consisting of the storm troopers of some political parties, especially the BJP, and the agent-provocateurs of the Congress, neither of whom have any hesitation in fielding people with accusations of rape against them for elections. Here, in this fringe, you will find the ABVP, the Bajrang Dal, the NSUI, the Ramdev Wallas, the hooligans of the unfortunately named Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena,  the anti-corruption brigade, all manner of busy-bodies, goondas and do-gooders, and some goondas who are do gooders. Do not let them distract you. Overwhelm them with your numbers, make your protests decentralized, and impossible for them or the police to direct and control. Do not, under any circumstances let them speak for you, or tell you what to do, or dictate the agenda. Take back the protest by making it go viral all over the city.

Do not forget that when Sushma Swaraj, the BJP leader made the disgusting comment ‘ uski zindagi maut se badtar ho chuki hai’ (‘her life is now worse than death’), in Parliament, she was actually endorsing the Patriarchal value system that produces rape. It is your responsibility, and the responsibility of all of us, to ensure that Sushma Swaraj’s political career dies it’s deserved and timely death just for that one remark. Let us make sure that she can never be elected to any office again, that she can never insult and humiliate the young women of this country with her patronizing platitudes. She, and other politicians like Mamata Bannerjee, who have questioned rape victims testimonies in recent times, do not deserve our confidence, they deserve an eternal political exile. Just as brutal rapists only deserve an eternity of imprisonment and confinement in solitude in order to reflect on the violence that they have committed.

Remember, the rapist’s intention is not sexual pleasure (because the ONLY way in which pleasure can be had is through the reciprocity of desire, through love, through erotic engagement, not through taking away someone’s agency by force and without consent). Rape is not about sex, it is about humiliation, its intention is precisely to make the raped person think that now that they have been subjected to sexual violence, their life will no longer be worth living. The rapist and Sushma Swaraj are in perfect agreement about the worth of the life of a rape victim.The reason why some men rape women or others who are in their power is because they believe that some lives are more important, worth more, than others. That is the key to patriarchy.

Dear young women and men of Delhi, I am writing this to you so that in the middle of all your anger you can find a space to reflect on the force that patriarchy has over all our lives, and I hope that you will find the means, burnished by your anger to dethrone it from its underserved position of power in this city. I want yours to be the generation that changed Delhi forever. And i know you can make that happen, and that is why I am writing to you.

Let us think about patriarchy together. Patriarchy is what makes you ashamed, not delighted when you have a period, because your traditions teach you that a menstruating body is a polluting body. Patriarchy is what tells you that there are things you cannot or should not do because of the way your body or your desires are shaped. Patriarchy is the secret to your nightmares, the reason for your deepest, most personal fears and anxieties. It seeks control of your body, your mind, your speech, your behavior, even the ways in which you raise and lower your eyes. Behind this lies a clear identification between property and the sexual body that patriarchy tries to perpetuate at any cost. When anyone says that a raped person, say a woman, is defiled, what they mean is that the violence done to her sexually is identical to the violation of their personhood, which ‘properly’ understood, is the property of someone who can legitimately ‘husband’ her body and being. Any woman, according to this view, either is, or will eventually become some man’s property. If she is ‘defiled’ she will become ‘broken goods’, the legitimate claimant to the property which her body constitutes will no longer have any interest in ‘husbanding’ her. That is why they say that her life, laid fallow and waste by rape, will no longer be worth living.

That is why courts in India are so reluctant to admit marital rape. They are bewildered by the reality of marital rape because they cannot understand how someone can ‘violate’ their own property. To understand clearly this you have to think about kinds of injury other than rape.

How is it that violent attacks, or injuries that are non-sexual in nature, do not lead anyone to say that their ‘life is now worse than death’. Imagine an injured soldier, a war veteran whose legs have been blown off, being told by a mainstream politician his ‘life is now worse than death’, and you will immediately see how ridiculous the identification between the destiny of your sexual being and the worth of life is. The injured soldier is feted, decorated, celebrated. The rape survivor is made to feel something quite different. An episode of rape is horrible, but it is not necessarily always more physically painful than a blown off limb. The only reason why women are disciplined and made to fall in line with the threat of rape dangling over them (either by their rapists, or by their would be ‘protectors’) is because rape is seen as a crime against property. And the property in question is inevitably patriarchy’s right over the woman’s body, over the body of any person that patriarchy deems to be without agency. The woman who is raped is made to feel ashamed because she was not vigilant enough to safeguard the orifices of her body from being accessed by an inappropriate other, or a stranger against her will (not that her will counts, necessarily). Had it been an ‘appropriate’ other, say a husband, or a boy-friend, she could be made to feel equally ashamed for the revulsion she might feel in submitting to his sexual will, on occasion, or at any time at all, against her own wishes and desires.

The reason why Sushma Swaraj and others like her hyper-ventilate in this way is because they are the architects of the patriarchal order that produces rape. If Thakur, Sharma, Sharma, Singh and Gupta have committed the rape that needs to be condemned by everyone, than Swaraj needs to be held accountable for perpetuating the value system that leads Thakur, Sharma, Sharma, Singh and Gupta to think that rape is the natural and normal thing for them to do. After all a vast number of men in India, routinely rape their wives. And Sushma Swaraj throws Karwa Chaut parties to celebrate the thrall which patriarchy allows husbands to hold over their wives. No young self respecting woman in Delhi should ever take anything that someone like Sushma Swaraj ever says seriously.

Dear young men and women of Delhi, When you see your legitimate protest contaminated by the BJP cadre, ask them about how they are going to deal with their misogynist leadership. How are they going to deal with those who justified the rape and murder of Muslim women in Gujarat? Ask them about how they intend to deal with the fact that even in the recent Gujarat elections, one of the victorious MLAs (the sitting MLA for Dhari) Mansukh Bhuva, has  a charge of leading and participating in the gang-rape of the wife of a panchayat member of Amreli district by seven people.

Investigation in this case is currently in progress, and while the MLA has said that the charges are false and politically motivated, does it not indicate that a party like the BJP is actually not committed in any way to taking the rights of women seriously when it gives a ticket to a man who stands accused of gang rape. Should it not have waited for this man’s innocence to be proven before blessing him with an election ticket? Ask Sushma Swaraj, ask Narendra Modi, dreaming of Raisina Hill and Lutyens Delhi, what they have to say about Mansukh Bhuva.

Even as I write this, some people are expressing their concern at the way in which your protest is getting out of hand. They are saying that you should not be indulging in violence. On Facebook, I see young Kashmiri men and women ask whether or not the authorities in Delhi will now begin to say that you have been paid to throw stones at the buses of the Delhi police by the Pakistani ISI (after all, that is what was said when young people in Kashmir throw stones at the forces of law and order after the administrations insensitivity in rape cases forced young people to take to the streets, so it is quite natural that they should ask this question when you throw stones in Delhi.)

Learning from your peers in the frontiers of this unfortunate union (governed in part by an unwieldy, creaking but sort-of-working constitution and in part by the precise and lethally efficient Armed Forces Special Powers Act), to throw stones at the force that needs stones thrown at them is not something I feel you need necessarily to be ashamed of. A Tehelka investigation (‘The Rapes Will Go On’) by G. Vishnu and Abhishek Bhalla pointed out in April 2012, that several police officers in positions of responsibility in this city and in the National Capital Region (Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad) think that when women get attacked it is their fault. While writing this, I checked with one of the correspondents who had filed this story. He told me what I had suspected. The Delhi police did order a departmental enquiry, and the concerned officer was ‘transferred’. Not suspended, demoted, punished or reprimanded. No disciplinary action of any consequence was taken. The Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Noida police were even more ‘sensitive’ to the morale of men in uniform. They did nothing at all. A force that does not punish those amongst its ranks guilty of making such statements, and thereby perpetuates a naked sexism, deserves all the stones that get thrown at it in retaliation for its egregious use of batons, tear gas and water cannons against a peaceful gathering.

But throwing stones at policemen is one thing, and having your protest hijacked by the storm troopers of political parties like the BJP and the Congress is quite another. I think you need to think carefully about how you can prevent your anger from being abused by political opportunists of all stripes for their own ends. Do not lose your resolve. Do not let lumpen political mercenaries ride the wave in the the upsurge that is your anger.

Many of you carried banners that asked men to think, with which I whole heartedly agree (and I am writing this in order to do this thinking with you, and as the mark of my gratitude to you) and some of you asked for capital punishment for the rapists, a demand that i cannot agree to, but am willing to argue with you about, in friendship and in solidarity. The rapists should in my view, spend their entire lives in prison, in isolation, considering what made them do what they did. Hanging, (which one of the accused has even demanded for himself) is the easiest way out for them. It will be the least severe punishment that we can imagine for these horrible and violent men. Moreover, if would-be rapists think they might be hanged, they will go the extra mile to kill their victims, in order to destroy the possibility that someone may testify against them. Under no circumstances has the death penalty ever been known to reduce any crime. It is not the death penalty that will stop rape. To stop rape we have to think about the attitudes that make rape imaginable, that normalize rape. But we can debate this question in depth at another time (and I will be thinking with you a little bit about what these attitudes might be and where they come from later in this piece). Right now I want to think about what your presence on Raisina Hill means to me.

The water cannons that dowsed all of you on today and yesterday’s cold december mornings were cleansing – not you, but this filthy, disgusting state, that can guarantee only the insecurity of its citizens. Remember, that this is not the only rape and murder that has shocked our conscience in recent years. Remember, Manorama, a woman in Manipur who was allegedly raped and then murdered by soldiers of the 17th Assam Rifles Regiment. This happened in 2004, a full eight years ago. Eight years have passed and the rapists and murderers of Manorama have not even been produced in court. They have not been produced in court because they are not civilians like Sharma, Sharma, Thakur, Gupta and Singh. They are men in uniform, not bus drivers, fruit juice vendors, cleaners and gym instructors. An enquiry was ordered and conducted, and its contents still remain secret.

Here is a link on NDTV’s youtube channel to a report on the Guwahati high court’s decision on August 2010 to open the Upendra Commission of enquiry report.

But immediately afterwards, the defense authorities, petitioned the Supreme Court with a ‘Special Leave Petition’ against further proceedings in this case. Here was the state, and the army, doing the opposite of what needed to be done to speed up the course of justice in a matter that had to do with rape and murder. In the summer of this year, eight years after Manorama was raped and murdered, the Supreme Court permitted the special leave petition to be heard, and the proceedings in the Imphal bench of the Guwahati High Court, and the opening of the Upendra Commission enquiry had to be suspended. This enquiry into her rape and murder remains, as far as I know, suspended and wrapped within secrecy. Manorama’s family are exactly where they were eight years ago, as far from justice as it is possible for anyone to be. I do not know what progress there has been on the hearing of the Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court. There seems to be little information available on the matter apart from stray reports that the Supreme Court was hearing the SLP. I would be curious to know what the apex court decided. Whatever be the outcome, we can say this much for certain –  the Manorama case did not get ‘fast track treatment’.

So when Sushma Swaraj demands ‘fast track courts’ to treat cases of rape and sexual violence, ask her why she is so disinterested in making sure that ‘fast track courts’ can track Manorama’s rape and murder. Is it because the fact that when rape and murder are deployed as instruments of national security policy in order to contain insurgency, different standards are automatically assumed to apply? Is it because the BJP thinks that rape is ok as long as it is done in the interests of national security (as in Manipur and Kashmir)  and in order to uphold the honour of Hindutva (as in Gujarat)?

Remember the Kunan-Pushpora rapes in Kashmir, which occurred on February 23, 1991, twenty one years ago? You probably don’t, because Sushma Swaraj, nor any other prominent politician for that matter, has never thought it necessary to demand ‘fast track courts’ to try the guilty rapists of Kunan Poshpora. At least fifty three women were raped on that night by soldiers of the Fourth Rajputana Rifles. No police investigation was conducted, despite a complaint by the villagers. A district magistrate and a sitting chief justice of the Jammu and Kashmir high court conducted their own enquiries and found that the soldiers of the 4th Rajputana Rifles had ‘acted like beasts that night’. But no cognizance of their reports was taken by the civil or military authorities in Jammu and Kashmir, or at the centre.

The charges were dismissed as ‘baseless’. Three months after that incident, the Press Council of India was invited by the Army to conduct an enquiry, and the Press Council of India found that the charges were baseless. Not a single soldier of the Indian army has ever been booked for Kunan Poshpora for all of these twenty one years. Now imagine that the Delhi police and administration invite the Press Council of India, or let us say, the Metereological Survey of India to determine whether or not the unnamed 23 year paramedic was raped on a Delhi bus. How can a mass rape by soldiers be investigated and judged by a body designed to look into complaints regarding the running of newspapers and media organizations? This is what ‘justice’ in cases of rape has by and large meant in the outlying territories where the writ of the Indian Union runs. Now, we are facing a situation that alarms us in the very heart of the republic. Perhaps it is time we learnt that we cannot have different standards at play in Delhi and Kunan Poshpora. And that if that is how they do play out, then it is time to admit that those who run this country run large parts of it as if they were colonies. If you, the young women and men of Delhi can begin to understand this, as a result of what you have been experiencing today and yesterday, then all the tear gas and water cannon jets that you faced may well have been worth the while.

Granted, public memory is short, but how short? Remember the rape and murder of Nilofer Jaan and Aasiya Jaan in Shopian, Kashmir, as recently as May 2009, which saw a cover up and reversal of forensic findings at the highest level, with the connivance of the highest levels of the security forces, bureaucracy and the political establishment, so that two raped, killed women could be shown to have ‘drowned in ankle deep water’ in an apparent ‘accident’. You can read the entire contents of a carefully written ‘citizens’ report on the Shopian Rape and Murder case here

Remember how the enquiry report on Nilofer and Aasiya Jan’s rape and death was tampered with so that suspicions about the women’s ‘character’ could be inserted to make it appear that any evidence of sexual abuse could be wished away as the natural consequences of the ‘waywardness’ of young women? Remember, that Omar Abdullah, Rahul Gandhi’s dear friend, who sanctioned and endorsed these lies, continues to be in office, presiding over the violent occupation of Kashmir. Remember that the denial of rape and murder is a key element in his strategy of governance. Remember all of this when politicians and the media praise you for your idealism, and condemn you for throwing stones. Remember that when your peers in Kashmir or Manipur throw stones out of the same anger that motivates you today, their stone throwing is met not with water cannons and tear gas but with bullets and condemnation, but their ‘idealism’ never finds praise in the salons and studios of New Delhi. Remember now that here, now, this winter of 2012, is the time for you, in the streets of Delhi to find a kinship with your friends, your peers, in Srinagar and Imphal. Remember that the safety and freedom of a young woman is always more important than the safety and security of the abstraction that you have been taught to think of as a nation. Remember that a raped woman is deserving of your friendship, your solidarity, you courage and love, wherever she may be, in Delhi, Srinagar or Imphal.

For the last few days, I have been wondering how I can even begin to think about the rape and assault that the brave twenty three year old paramedic (who is now fighting to live, and to live well in a Delhi hospital) and her friend had to undergo. You have asked all men to think. I am a man. I am not a celibate man who can wish away his sexuality. And so I am trying to think this through with you. I hope that all men in Delhi join me in this exercise.

As a man, I have looked at myself in the mirror, each of the past days, and thought about whether, ever, under any circumstances, in any condition of sobriety or intoxication, I have ever entertained even the thought of compelling a woman, a man, a boy or a girl – a lover, a friend, an acquaintance, a colleague, a neighbor, a relative, a stranger to act against her  (or his) consent. I think every man should look at himself and think hard. All of us men have to think because only men rape. Only men entertain the thought of rape. They (we) rape mostly women, and girls, but they (we) also rape other men, and boys, and those of indeterminate gender.

They (we) rape, not because rape has anything to do, as I have said already, with sexual relations, but because rape has to do with the assertion of power, of the compelling power that can make one body do what another body wants against its will. And just as only upper caste men and women can insult and commit violence on to those they consider lower than themselves in a specifically ‘castiest’ way, so too only men can rape, because they (we) think of themselves as occupying the summit of a sexual pyramid.

This pyramid, which we could call patriarchy, is built out of the sexual equivalent of slavery. The protocols of slavery indicate that some bodies be seen as being bereft of agency. Sometimes these bodies are marked by racial difference, at other times by gender, or by other markers. What is understood is that these agency-less bodies (howsoever their agency-lessness is constituted) can be transacted at will by other bodies that are deemed worthy of agency.

Wherever and whenever a certain kind of body (a woman’s body, a child’s body, a prisoner or captive’s body, a slave’s body, a ‘junior’s’ of ‘freshet’s’ body in the ritual of ragging or hazing on campus, a gay man’s body, the body of a caste or race ‘other’) can be thought of automatically as an object that one can bend or break or punish at will, just because of what it is, there and then lie the foundations of rape. The reason why an upper caste landlord can demand his ‘right’ over a lower caste woman’s body and simultaneously insist that she is ‘untouchable’ has to do with how he understands the difference between his body and hers. He rapes her to punish her husband for trying to assert his rights as a tiller over the land he thinks he owns. Or he rapes her because the thinks he can, and because she is there. Thakur, Singh, Sharma, Sharma and Gupta, the men who raped the unnamed paramedic, did not do anything that has not been done before. Men like them did it in cities and in villages, in fields, warehouses, plantations and factories, under trees, beside wells and rivers, in thickets and in clearings, in public and in private, in ruins and bedrooms, even in temples and kitchens, for thousands of years. They did it, not only to strangers and captives, but to their wives and their sisters and their daughters too.

This understanding has nothing biological about it. It is hard-coded into the cultural protocols that teach a man, even as a young boy, which kind of body has agency, and which kind of body is there for the taking.

Our dominant traditions denigrate a character like Ravana who would not touch the abducted Sita without her consent. At the same time it valorizes the Rama who exiles the same Sita when his advisers suggest that the population is not convinced of her ‘purity’ because she had spent such a long time in the home of her abductor, the same Ravana. Here, Rama is the one who underlies the code of rape. He cannot understand that a man can actually not rape a woman within his ‘power’. His decision to abandon Sita is based on the idea that she cannot not have been in sexual contact with Ravana. Ergo, either she willingly had sex with her captor, or if she did not, she must have been raped. In either case, being thus defiled, and broken, she is no longer fit to be his ‘property’. In other words, just as Sushma Swaraj said, her life, either is, or must be made, worse than death.

The assumption that women are automatically available for sex at the appropriate ‘clean’ time is hard-coded into the Hindu tradition. Rama as an upholder of that tradition, cannot act outside its dictates in the way in which women’s agency is viewed.  Remember that the Brhadarankya Upanishad says – “..surely a woman who has changed her clothes at the end of her menstrual period is the most auspicious of women. When she has changed her clothes at the end of her menstrual period, therefore one should approach that splendid woman and invite her to have sex. Should she refuse to consent, he should bribe her, if she still still refuses, he should beat her with a stick or with his fists and overpower her, saying – ‘I take away the splendour from you with my virility and splendor’

(Bradaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter 6.4.6 –  see especially pages 88 and 89 of the Patrick Olivelle translation of the Upanishads published by the Oxford University Press, 1996)

When one thinks this passage through, it is not difficult to understand why rape should be such an endemic practice within our society.  Marital rape is the original, scripturally sanctioned template on which all rape is founded.  The fear of death penalty can never be a deterrent when you have scriptural and cultural sanction for the codes of property and agency that underlie the control that some bodies are armed with over and above others.  In our society, this includes the sanction for the control that men have over women, adults have over children, and that dominant castes have over others. This normalization of domination and control is the key to the phenomenon of rape and humiliation. In such a situation, carrying placards that demand death penalty for rapists is the easiest thing to do. The difficult, challenging and interesting thing to do, the real thing to do, is to try and understand what are the cultural factors that actually go into the making of a rapists mind. Thakur, Sharma, Sharma, Singh and Gupta were not eccentric, abnormal characters. They were normal young men. One of them even functioned as an occasional priest in a neighborhood temple. Think carefully of the traditions that he would have imbibed that would have helped, not hindered him in doing what he did.

On the very day after Thakur, Singh, Sharma, Sharma and Gupta did what they felt like doing. We had reports of a Mohammad Rashid who raped a six year old in Turkman Gate in Delhi. A father was found to have raped his daughter in Kerala for over a year. All of these men had found ways of telling themselves that whatever they were doing could be done. A few days ago, a garment trader in Metiabruz, Kolkata, cut off his sister’s head because he suspected her of having an affair with someone he did not approve of and walked with her decapitated head, sword in hand, to the police station, in defense of his family’s honour. There are people who have praised him for his commitment to his family’s honor. None of these men were deranged, or otherwise criminally inclined. They were all, all honorable men. We need to figure out what gives them this idea of honor. We need to understand and confront the ways in which men read codes of tradition and honor and translate them into the grossest forms of misogyny and the generalized hatred of women.

Dear young women and men of Delhi, if you want rape to end, you will have to confront those traditions. Confronting those traditions, confronting the known history of patriarchy is not the same thing as demanding capital punishment. In fact, they can be the opposites of each other. By demanding ‘death’ for the rapist, you are tacitly entering into a compact with those who see rape not necessarily as a crime against a free agent, but also as a property crime, as an assault on honor and dignity. My understanding is, and my appeal to all of you is –  stop treating rape as a matter of honor and dishonor altogether, and expose and boycott those who would insist it is a matter of honor and dishonour. Treat it as ordinary, disgusting, evil violence, as the naked expression of power, and you will see that the expression of power is never challenged by the demand for death. It is easy for those who think of women as property to demand death for those who violate their property rights over women. That is why many men who will demand death penalty for rapists will happily go home and rape their wives. (Because in their understanding they cannot ‘rape’ their wives, only strangers can rape ‘their’ wives.)If you want to end rape, to end the forced sexual subjugation of one human being by another. You will have to look elsewhere than the gallows for comfort.

Rape and sexual assault, and other kinds of violence centered on the enjoyment of humiliation are different from other kinds of violence. You could be in the company of violent men, as a man, in a bus, and they would not necessarily slap you around just for the heck of it (unless you ‘looked’ racially different, or were different because of the way you expressed your sexual orientation). But imagine or remember what it is to be a woman on that bus, or to be the ‘wrong’ kind of male – queer, child, racially other, submissive because you are held captive – and things can suddenly go wrong. This is what happened on that bus that the 23 year old paramedic and her friend had boarded. This is what happened when Sharma, Sharma, Singh, Gupta and Thakur and their unnamed juvenile accomplice, decided to assert their position as bipedal upper primates on top of their imagined sexual pyramid. Let us not forget that the matter spiraled when one of the assaulters taunted the woman and her friend for being together at night in Delhi. In their eyes, she had broken the code of sexual slavery, by being a person who had acted as a free agent, as someone who could choose to enjoy her claim to the city, its entertainments, with a companion who happened to be male.

Of course she need not have acted as this free agent for this horrible event to happen. She could have been at home, confined within narrow domestic walls where most rapes in Delhi, and India occur. (I have yet to hear of policemen and politicians advocate the abolition of marriage in the same breath as the closure of pubs, although more rapes happen within marriage than do at or around pubs, clearly neither marriage nor pubs are in themselves the causes of rape, but it is always curious that one should be asked to be banned, though sometimes judges do ask rapists to marry their victims, though no one has yet asked a woman who was attacked or molested at a pub to return to the place where she was assaulted). In this instance, were we to go by the law of statistical averages, the brave 23 year old paramedic was not, but could easily have been the sister, niece, daughter, daughter-in-law or wife of one of the accused. Because the majority of those who get raped in our society are sisters, daughters, daughters-in-law, nieces and wives – and they are raped by brothers, fathers, uncles, fathers-in-law and husbands. Or she could have been a worker raped by her boss, or her colleague. She could have been a student raped by a teacher, a patient raped by a doctor or a warden in a hospital or clinic, an undertrial raped by a policeman, an insurgent or suspect raped by a soldier. She could have been dressed in clothes that she felt helped her enjoy and assert her sexuality, or she could have been dressed in work clothes, she could have been dressed in a burqa, a sari, salwar kameez or in a nun’s habit. She could have been a three year old infant, a teenager, a young woman, a post menopausal woman, even a grandmother.

Anybody at all, other than a man in a position of real or imagined power, can be raped by a man in  a position of real or imagined power. We might as well call this the first and most important law of rape.

This means that you can be raped in order to punish you for having broken the code of sexual slavery (patriarchy) – which is what happens when you are ‘accused’ of being up and about in the night in the city with a man who is not related to you. Or, on the other hand, you can be raped, in order to enforce it, maintain it, irrigate it,  generally show the world – how it works, who’s on top – which is what happens when rapes happen within the four walls of homes, work places, institutions and prisons.

Where does this sense of impunity that seems to govern the actions of so many men come from? It cannot come from biology alone. Because, thankfully, not all men, not even all men in positions of real or imagined power, are rapists. Rapists choose to access a cultural code of permission. There is something in the cultural baggage or vocabulary available to us all that normalizes sexual violence, even renders it trivial, as a bit of horseplay at worst, or the hallowed order sanctified by tradition, at best.

Dear young men and women of Delhi. There are things you can do to stop rape.

  • Shame any man who casually passes misogynist, sexist, remarks.  Shame all those cowards who try to humiliate anyone because of the way their bodies or desires are. Shame them in public.
  • Young women, do not retreat from public space. Take back the night. Insist on being out and about. Insist on the conditions that enable your safety. Ask why there are no women bus drivers, women cab drivers. Ask what the Delhi police is doing to punish misogynist officers and constables.
  • Young women, please understand that when you hear songs that are violent and misogynist, you can choose to boycott the radio stations and recording companies that put them out. Leave a party or a celebration that plays a Honey Singh song. If you are young man who is a friend of a young woman at any such gathering, leave the celebration with your friend. Call the radio stations, phone in and demand that they stop playing misogynist songs.
  • Demand more public transport. Demand a thousand more buses that ply all night. Demand a metro system that stays open late into the night. Demand street lighting. Ask why the car lobby in Delhi can systematically stymie the expansion of public transport in Delhi. If there are not more public buses and metro trains, understand that those who run this city are responsible for rape and assault.
  • Take your traditions seriously, and recognize that every religion teaches the subjugation and humiliation of women. Ask men and women of religion what they are going to do to recognize the misogyny in their traditions, to confront and challenge them. Insist that under no conditions can any woman pollute anything around her. insist that women are not property. Not of their fathers, brothers, boy-friends or husbands. Not of the state. Not of God. Understand that people can never be property and must never be viewed as such.Combat and confront anyone who says they can be.
  • Shame and expose those politicians and police or army officers who try to cover up cases of sexual assault and rape in Kashmir and the North East and elsewhere. Do not create a hierarchy of more and less important victims.
  • Young men, decide now, and for all time, that you will treat the women you encounter first of all as friends, as equals, as people who have as much right to your city as you. Learn to respect a woman’s right to pleasure. To her right to say yes and no. Do not think that ‘no’ means ‘yes’.
  • Young men, if you confront a situation in which any man harasses another woman, or any other person, make sure that you will stand up and protest, call attention to what is going on,  and make sure that this stops.
  • Young men, and young women, do not reduce the matter of confronting rape and molestation to one of asking the attacker whether or not he has ‘sisters and daughters’ at home. Rapists prey on their sisters and daughters just as easily as they do on strangers.
  • Young men and young women, do not ever let anyone tell you that under any circumstances, that your life is not worth living.

I hope you change Delhi forever. I hope that the rest of the country follows your example.

I remain hopeful because of what you did yesterday and today. Do not disappoint me, do not disappoint yourselves. Make your protest viral. Take it everywhere, to workplaces, schools, streets, parks, the metro, to dark and unlit streets, to lit streets and corners. Take over the city. Make it a city that belongs to you and me and the brave 23 year old paramedic still fighting for her life.

*

More from Kafila:

26 December:

25 December

24 December

23 December

211 Comments leave one →
  1. December 23, 2012 11:30 PM

    Thank you, may your essay inspired young men and women to continue protesting, and shift the mind set of others who support by their in action the status quo of the position of women.

  2. let me in permalink
    December 23, 2012 11:31 PM

    Where was all this anger, sensitivity and outrage when women in 1986 and Gujarat 2002 were raped!! common young india..where were you!!

    • sharada21 permalink
      December 24, 2012 9:45 AM

      @let me in: Around 1986, most of us were not born. Around 2002, we were still in school. Today’s young India and its anger, sensitivity and outrage is a collective reflection of some 20,000 years of “civilisation” and organised subjugation of women, LGBT, lower classes, children and elderly.

      • December 26, 2012 11:02 PM

        Bravo. As a 37 year old woman who’s lived through a couple of sexual assualts and spousal abandonment, I’ve come to believe that being born a woman is to be vulnerable to unceasing and endless disrespect, humiliation, suffering and pain, both emotional and physical.

        During moments of bitterness and rage, I wish that by some cruel joke of Mother Nature, women stop being born in this misogynistic land we ironically call Bharat Mata.

        I suppose it will take hundreds of years of unceasing toil to make the average Indian accept and value women as equals and as human beings. I’m certain it will not happen in any of our lifetimes.

        As a twenty-something, I hoped that my generate of women would be spared the injustices that wrecked the lives of earlier, less fortunate generations.

        Yet, I see that most men my age, in my socio-econonomic cohort are just a shade better than the men who lived during the Mahabharatha.

        An Indian man’s belief in women’s immutable, absolute inferiority is just as immutable and just as absolute.

    • Alok Shukla permalink
      December 24, 2012 9:55 AM

      86???

    • December 24, 2012 6:10 PM

      @let me in

      I am with you on this one. Actually you could also have asked, “Where were they? When British massacred about 800 in Jalianwala Bag, Nadir Shah massacred about 50,000 in Delhi or Bin Qasim captured Raja Dahir’s daughters and send them to Khalif as a gift.

      • December 26, 2012 11:21 AM

        Not to miss this….

        Add one more Sanjay & Geeta Chopra, bro and sis and students of Modern School of Barakhamba Road… brutally murdered and girl was raped by Notorious Billa and Ranga. Modern school students did peace march towards PM House/Morarji Desai. Govt took years to give them death penalty… this was the only case of death penalty which was watched by their parents which was considered good act by the people …. Govt should take prompt decision on this, and the GIRL should be allowed to watch along with her MALE FRIEND who is equally a victim of that night ghastly incident.

        Sanjay & Geeta Chopra Had been kidnapped while hitching a ride to AIR to present “IN THE GOOVE” outside Gold Dak Khana near CP on 26th August 1978 and their bodes discovered on 29th August 1978…

        Why Govt couldn’t make strict Rules then, they had strong cause like the way we have TODAY ….

        • December 26, 2012 12:32 PM

          Thank you for reminding us about Sanjay and Geeta Chopra. I disagree with you entirely about the death penalty. I think it will create many more problems than it will solve. People who rape will be prompted to murder their victims so as to prevent them from testifying. And I totally reject your call to have people, anybody at all watch executions. We need to leave behind this gross lust for death if we are to move forward towards tackling sexual violence.

  3. sanjaibhatt permalink
    December 23, 2012 11:34 PM

    I agree with you. Thoughtful analysis, eye opening and perspective changing. Wish that the same can be translated in Hindi so that some of our political leaders/ police personnel / others in power can also read this. Thanks for straight thoughts…kudos, sanjai

    • viveksaxena permalink
      December 24, 2012 4:14 PM

      well said ..but i request her to do a regional translate so that some of them who cant even understand hindi can also absorb it..thankyou

  4. December 23, 2012 11:45 PM

    Thanks Shuddhabrata. Thanks for this piece!

    • December 24, 2012 12:25 AM

      Do you think there is something substantial to the claims of making rape a gender neutral discourse?

      • Anonymous permalink
        December 24, 2012 4:00 AM

        Yes,
        Ask a victim.
        Yes.

  5. Sucheta permalink
    December 24, 2012 12:09 AM

    Dear anonymous young lady, who has shown so much courage, we gather our thoughts in solidarity with yours. We hope your physicians and nurses do the best they can and that you survive. And that you take the time to heal, physically, mentally, emotionally…. but also that you don’t let them defeat you. Go back and complete that medical degree, if that is what you still want or go do something else; but make something of a life that you will be proud of so that this one night does not define who you are or what you become for the rest of your life. Do this for us because we need role models, but do this for yourself because you will not let them defeat or define you.

    • Ratna permalink
      December 24, 2012 4:20 PM

      I endorse your views. God be with that brave girl and let her give it back to them. Let us all be united INDIA, stand up and fight for the cause that is mine and yours and is everyone’s.

  6. December 24, 2012 12:16 AM

    A great act of balancing. Here it is BJP, who hijacked the protest. In another post by Atitya Nigam today, it was NSUI (the student orgn. of Congress). Are the editors sleeping?
    Its not about rape, its not about the misogynist Indian male, its about the credibilty of Kafila, the conscience keeper of the nation.

  7. NMK permalink
    December 24, 2012 12:21 AM

    Well said.

    In solidarity

  8. Rohit K permalink
    December 24, 2012 12:41 AM

    Salute!!
    Good work, and an eye opener for those who blindly follow crowds..

    • December 24, 2012 2:07 AM

      What’s wrong in following crowds? You think the crowds in Jantar Mantar, at Raisina hills are wrong. Those you call crowd; are people, real people of India, the Aam Aadmi, if you like.Crowds are always right as long as they target the authorities. Its the Govt. of the day and their goons (read police) who are wrong, always. Democracy has failed to deliver. Only the people on the street can rescue this nation with a little sympathy and support from retired judges and bureaucrats, NGOs and well meaning op-ed writers of assorted hues.
      Please have respect for crowds.

      • December 28, 2012 5:30 PM

        I hope you are being sarcastic. Otherwise, It is disturbing that there are people who accept the kind of infantile cynicism that you betray here.

  9. December 24, 2012 12:43 AM

    Do you think there is something substantial in the demands to discuss rape not just as a man V woman/other men issue? More importantly, much needed solidarity. There has been a lot of vitriol and cynicism poured on protestors in every city by liberals in the past week.

    • December 24, 2012 1:43 AM

      Dhrobo, I think both men and women can be raped. But I also know that there are virtually no women rapists. So rape (as far as the victim is concerned), can be discussed in a gender neutral way, although many more women and girls are raped than men, or boys, but I think it would be almost impossible to discuss the rapist in a gender neutral way.

      • December 24, 2012 2:32 AM

        @Shuddhabrata Sengupta
        If I may be allowed. What is ‘Kafila’s’ stand on freedom of expression?
        Does it allow room for comments unagreeable to the blogger? when its neither a personal dig, nor an abusive rant, while it may or may not be sarcastic.

        • December 24, 2012 3:00 AM

          Dear Malay Deb.
          Kafila’s policy on comments unagreeable to the blogger is simply this. The author of the post decides on what he or she wants to allow. There is no single policy. If you follow my posts and the comments that they generate, you will see that I generally allow even harsh and stringent criticism, and strong differences of opinion are always welcome. I occasionally disallow some comments that I think betray the commentor’s bad taste. To give you an example, in response to this thread, the only comment that I ‘trashed’ ie disallowed, was one that suggested that i must have been conceived because my mother must have been raped by my father. This comment was made because I made a point about the generalized nature of marital rape as a ‘template’ for other kinds of rape. I trashed it because I failed to see what invoking the sexual histories of the individuals who happen to be my parents has to do with the discussion. In any case it only reveals the mind and cultural accomplishments of the specific commentator. I did not think that revealing that level of cultural accomplishment was useful for the general discussion. You will note that no other critical comment has been disallowed on this posting. Other Kafila authors have other standards, while I respect their right to how they manage the comments on their contributions, I do not have to agree to following their example, nor do I expect them to follow mine. I hope this clarifies things for you.

      • Tejaswi permalink
        December 24, 2012 2:37 AM

        Shuddha-babu, much as I agree with your larger sentiments in this post, I am afraid i will have to disagree with you on the incitement of the youth. What is the demand here? Death sentence for the rapists? Is this going to be an “exclusive” case on this occassion (aka – a lynching) or is this new law which is being demanded going to be the law of the land? While the student movement is laudable, pause to think what might happen if such a thing set a precedent. We are all horrified by the act, but will knee-jerk reactions to one incident make us agree with whatever draconian provisions are being asked for?
        Look at the vast majority of people coming on air to put forth their grievances. Can even one narrate it coherently? I used to live in Delhi and like you I was, and still am appalled, by what stands for a Metro. But will this agitation solve anything at all? I am sorry to sound a contrarian strain here, much as I admire you and stand by what you write. But giving the streets to apaches (while there are genuine crusaders about) is not the solution. You might say that it was orchestrated. But it was something that was waiting to happen. Given a large crowd, in the thousands, this sort of thing is possible. There will always be the nekulturny out for a picnic on such occasions. It is not just expected, but we should assume that they would be there every time.

        Am I asking you to forbid young people from agitating? Not at all. But make the demands more sane. What is the need for a new law? It is the implementation that has been faulty.
        Yes, those VIP streets need to be reclaimed by the aam aadmi. For sure. I would not disagree with that at all. In fact, a decade ago I was also assaulted by a police officer for standing my ground when there was a visit by a foreign president and was asked to vacate immediately by the lead police jeeps and thrashed for questioning them. Why don’t they just create new roads for VIPs if it is that decidedly needful to do so?
        But that is not the point. What would have happened if one of the student agitators had assassinated someone in the name of this agitation? I know that is far fetched. But even that extreme case is not beyond us.
        I would say this in the end. Beware of media ho(u/r)ses bearing gifts. They stand by you today, and tomorrow they will brand you lumpen and cast you aside. All those young men and women who are on the roads today will find themselves on the wrong side tomorrow when these same media scoundrels will brand them apaches for the violence that will surely come.
        I am sorry I sound so defeatist amidst all this. But I would have expected a little more cautionary note from you. I would also be gleeful at a show of strength from our youth but for the right causes, not for demanding something that is not feasible and will not ever be so. I wish they had done this when Gujarat was burning. I wish they had done this in the name of the Sikhs from 84. I wish they had agitated similarly for the people of the North east or Kashmir.

        I have every empathy for the girl who had to suffer. I do wish our laws and protectors were different. But I cannot condone a lynching. Most people would spit at me for saying this aloud. But think about it. A few days later you will still defend a Dhananjoy, however henious his crime – that the death penalty will not solve anything. I apologize for going against you and “by taking up arms, end so”. I hope this does not offend you. But i wish you would tell people who listen and read what you write, to take it a notch towards the sane rather than the implausible.

        • December 24, 2012 2:53 AM

          Dear Tejaswi,

          Thanks for your comments. Just to set the record straight, I have written in the past (on the sarai reader list) against the execution of Dhananjay Chatterjee. And I would be against captial punishment for the perpetrators of the Delhi Gang Rape as well. I do not condone lynching, and my post here is partly a critical response to the demand being made for lynching. But I understand the anger that gives rise to it, and I want to listen to it, and speak to it, even in criticism of it. I do not think that criticism and solidarity are mutually contradictory sentiments. I hope you will understand. best, Shuddha

      • Tejaswi permalink
        December 24, 2012 3:16 AM

        I am sorry, that was unfair, and patently so. It was knee jerk reaction on my part too. Something that I warn everyone about :)) Yes, I agree, on re-reading.

        I am slightly amused that your diatribes are pointed at the Vamadeva Shastris of the world. I hope I can help you in those researches some day. But then how do you account for a Gargi? or a Maitreyi.
        I read with some interest your other article about Galton in passing. Sometimes, I grudgingly think that the fascist science might not be so wrong after all, however much I detest agreeing with those cretins.
        However disinclined we are to give it credence, some of the aspects ring true. Aren’t we all guilty of that to some extent? He looks like a “southie” or “northie” (wonder why they never say “eastie”, probably “chinky” encompasses all) !!

        But my contrite apologies. I know now where this is coming from and I wholeheartedy agree. Not that you need my approval. Still, it does not make me feel comfortable to say things against a person I admire. So I am quite comfortable being wrong and apologising.

      • Tejaswi permalink
        December 24, 2012 3:20 AM

        I didn’t read your comments earlier. I was busy typing out my reply :)) Anyways, yes, mea culpa.. sorry

      • December 24, 2012 7:43 AM

        Dear Tejaswi,

        Thank you for saying sorry, but kindly do not feel bad. We humans are imperfect. These are horrific times in India. We say so much, are frustrated about so much else. One thing we can do is to let he law — albeit so monumentally imperfect, and yet essential — to take its course.

  10. Sucheta permalink
    December 24, 2012 12:45 AM

    Thank you for say it, for saying it all and for saying it so well.

  11. Sid permalink
    December 24, 2012 12:48 AM

    I have read your entire article but at the end i conclude only how much time you have wasted on written of this article…If you want to write for these sensitive issue then please do not go politically biased..You forget to mention the comment of Soniya Gandhi at Haryana “Rape to poore india mein ho rahe hai”. Even Rahul gandhi does not have a guts to open mouth in sensitive issue. You are true congressi and its reflect in your writing way..Now i will see your guts for publishing this.

    • December 24, 2012 1:34 AM

      @Sid
      You have nailed it. Your reference to Somia quote and Rahul’s silence say it all.
      I have no doubt they support rape, or at the least they have a vested interest in this misogynist culture. Thanks for a great insight of a philosophical proportion.
      But like you, I will not challenge anyone’s guts for publishing this.

    • December 24, 2012 3:10 AM

      Dear Sid, If Sonia Gandhi has indeed said in Haryana that ‘rape to poore India mein hote hain’ as a means of justifying rape, then I hope she can avail of the opportunity to join Sushma Swaraj in eternal political exile. They could consider spending their time together companionably contemplating their irrelevance. As for Rahul Gandhi, sometimes I do think that his silence is preferable to his speech. At least we do not have to ‘hear’ what he does not say, but we do unfortunately have to ‘hear’ what he does say. And I would much rather that he not waste my time (all our time) with the banalities that he is generally known to give voice to. I think that if you follow my other posts, it will be a bit difficult for you to sustain the conclusion that I am, as you say, a ‘true congressi’.

      • Tejaswi permalink
        December 24, 2012 3:28 AM

        LOL…. congressi? that is really funny.. one bright spot in a day. Probably you should just invite this Sid to comment every time you post something. Hilarious!
        Also, the genial buffoon that his father was, does not excuse the worsening elocution of the dynasty. Just think about it – Nehru would be my favourite even if I were to disagree with him. Indira was passionate and/but deceitful, but still capable. Then the Banana king of “humein banana hai” happened. Then, worse, we have sleeve rolling and saying nothing, to follow. I wish he would stop wearing those long sleeves. It would make us believe he had something to say without those attendant sleeves to display misplaced machismo.
        Ah, the Modis of the world relish the next bout thanks to this buffoon.

      • prinks05 permalink
        December 25, 2012 11:45 AM

        why does the article not talk abt congressmen in general…u have lashed at all bjp members but not a single congressmen,,sheila dixit’s comments are not worth ur comments or u think she is the goddess who never goes wrong?

  12. Pankaj permalink
    December 24, 2012 12:54 AM

    Very Well Said…..It will open people’s eyes….but , sadly not of the Govt of India…

  13. Alok Shukla permalink
    December 24, 2012 1:04 AM

    Love your article. I would also call out to expose the puritanical religious traditions of Islam that calls out a female to adopt a code as it believes that if men and female interact worse would happen. On the pretext of Dawah too many of mullahs are preaching this misogyny on face-book and otherwise! Not to talk about the absurdity of women being polluted during her menstrual cycle. A thought that pervades through all religions.

    • December 24, 2012 2:48 AM

      Dear Alok,
      I agree with you about the necessity to confront misogyny in every religious tradition, including wherever necessary, Islamic, Christian and Jewish traditions. I am very well aware of the way in which many muslim clerics, (like the clerics of other religions) preach misogyny in the guise of Dawah. And I think it needs to be confronted.

  14. Third World Engineer permalink
    December 24, 2012 1:07 AM

    Religious traditions, that do not permit a woman to perform last rites even for her parents, do not allow a woman to become a priest, prevent her from touching an idol, or even from visiting a place that is regarded as sacred, indulge in phallus worship, and in marriage, a woman’s possession is merely handed over from her father to her husband, are bound to be misogynistic. These traditional values are implanted in young and tender minds from a very impressionable age and challenging these usually invokes strong emotive responses from a society which is continually becoming more intolerant towards any opposing views.

    “The religious reflex of the real world can, in any case, only then finally vanish, when the practical relations of every-day life offer to man none but perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations with regard to his fellowmen and to Nature.” A relative idea of safety in the cities for the swelling middle class is possibly something that the state will be eager to achieve, but deeper down nothing much will change – the state, big capitals, and the patriarchal ideas of class, caste, gender and their inter-relations, will all continue to survive and nourish one another.

  15. prabhat permalink
    December 24, 2012 1:38 AM

    can we collectively make an effort to translate this piece into Hindi, one passage by one Hindi speaking person, please!

  16. December 24, 2012 1:50 AM

    Left me in tears. When I started reading it I didn’t expect such a gut-wrenchingly moving piece.

  17. Teja permalink
    December 24, 2012 2:36 AM

    Excellent article.

  18. Raja permalink
    December 24, 2012 3:03 AM

    Excellent article but I wonder how many people will actually take it seriously- especially when it concerns questioning their traditions. For years I have been trying to open the eyes of my friends where their religions (and religious mediators) fail to address equality of gender, caste or community. And though, each of them is “well educated”, they remain ignorant and adamantly close to these very traditions that promote the kind of patriarchal controls and subversion of women or people who are perceived as lower than them. And saddest part is that I see kids today growing up with the same traditions- popularized by soaps and big budget Bollywood flicks. I stay hopeful that maybe one of my friends will change. And it does begin from one person, doesn’t it?

    I, however, disagree about being allowed to march everywhere. It is a sad but necessary reality that India, and any other democracy/state, needs to protect the political authorities against every threat- external or internal. Breakdown of political machinery would throw the whole nation into crisis immediately on a much larger scale which I am sure that someone like you can easily imagine. Just like the ‘peaceful protesters’ could not control the “hooligans” from joining their ranks, how are the security agencies to know who is unarmed or armed and not going to create a major national disaster in a high security zone (like the Rashtrapati Bhawan). Forcing your way to places that have been clearly marked off-limits in the name of national security is inviting trouble and I will not fault the security agencies for responding with force. A peaceful protest does not include violence of any nature- including vandalism and trying to storm through barricades protecting the symbols of Indian democracy.
    The use of brute force is shameful but looking at video coverage I will say both sides are at fault. I am personally very distrusting of cops but in this instance, I can only say that they acted, albeit too harshly, in reaction to provocation. Democracy means freedoms but it also means we have many duties as citizens, and one is to respect the law. And non-violence being the core method by which we attained independence as a nation, we should respect that value.

    All over Facebook, it is tragic to see people asking for capital punishment and other forms of torture. It is a disturbing trend where people want to behave just like the monsters they want to punish. Some people are fixated on the clash between protesters and the police. The real issue is getting lost in all this chaos. Women, and even men, need to feel safe without fear of being attacked just because they belong to a different gender or class or caste or community. That’s why, I am so glad that your article is asking people to question their traditions and I do hope that more people actually do that.

  19. Tejaswi permalink
    December 24, 2012 3:22 AM

    My sentiment exactly. Well said.

    • shariq permalink
      December 24, 2012 8:38 PM

      very well said ……kudos to the writer…
      i fully concur with the writer………specially on the misogynist outlook of our society .//.
      Artist like honey Singh ….who demean the image of women …should be boycotted if not banned …… Bollywood should also stop objectification of women…..
      and these double tongued BJP leaders should be politically exiled…..

      • December 24, 2012 11:19 PM

        Dear Shariq,

        I am totally against bans, and totally for boycotts, of people like Honey Singh. The ban will only endow them with glamour. The point is for people to call radio jockeys and simply say to them, if you play one more Honey Singh song, I will never listen to your show, and to have hundreds of thousands of people do this. That will be more effective, and just, than any call for a ban can ever be.

        • incognito permalink
          December 25, 2012 2:54 PM

          Dear Shuddhabrata (oof, such a difficult name, can’t you shorten it?)

          You write very well and had articulated thoughts of large number of people. But try getting your text edited by a ruthless editor (unless you are competing with Arundhati Roy). An otherwise thought provoking essay got mired into unnecessarily partial propaganda against BJP. Sushma Swaraj’s view is obviously disagreeable, but your over emphasizing meant you have an agenda.

          When asked why no one from the government had gone to India Gate and spoken to the crowd Mr. Sushil Shinde, Home Minister replied in CNN IBN: “No, the government can’t go everywhere where any group of people is protesting. If tomorrow 100 adivasis are killed in Gadchiroli or Chhattisgarh, should the government go there? No.”
          What do you think?

          Following is the list of MPs and MLAs who have declared crimes against women including rape. FYI, they are not only from BJP:

          http://adrindia.org/content/analysis-candidates-mps-and-mlas-who-have-declared-crimes-against-women-including-rape

          Your identification of Delhi rapists by their surname betrays your otherwise liberal world view. I was afraid you were about to give away the region and caste they belong. For a second I wondered whether you had taken your brief from Raj Thackerey. The gross generalization of rapists’ surname smacks of the same mindset of Sushma Swaraj that you are so critical about. You should know that there is more to a surname than a name. Ask Rahul Gandhi.

          Why is it so difficult to be without prejudice, objective?

          • December 26, 2012 12:38 PM

            Dear Incognito, Long names are terrible burdens, is that why you wear a mask for a name? I have nothing against masks by the way. You can call me Shuddha, that is the best that I can do. By the way, if you want to know what I think about how Sushil Kumar Shinde, Sonia Gandhi, and other Congress worthies, especially Shri Botsa Satyanarayana, Andhra Pradesh Congress Party Chief think about this matter – please do take the time to read

            http://kafila.org/2012/12/25/misogyny-politics-and-zombiedom-from-sonia-gandhi-to-botsa-satyanarayana/

            it wont tax you much, it is a short piece.

            thanks

            Shuddha

            • incognito permalink
              December 26, 2012 1:13 PM

              Dear Shuddha

              My mask has nothing to do with the discourse. I am equally appalled by the right wing street justice vis-a-vis feudal mindset of the rulers of world’s largest dynasty. However, it is easier to see through the overtly regressive political leaders, but very hard to see the real face of the suave chameleon leaders and their cohorts in the intelligensia. IMHO, the latter is far more dangerous, because they can manipulate public opinion better.

              I don’t think you understood the nuances of the names and surnames. That’s why you have been so careless about repeatedly calling rapists by their caste/community names, thereby generalising the identity of the offenders.

              Thousands of sikhs were killed in 1984 because the lynch mobs were aroused to ‘identify’ with the community of the assassinators of Mrs. Gandhi and given street justice.

              More than a thousand Muslims killed in 2002 in Gujarat because the lynch mobs were aroused by ‘associating’ with the perceived perpetrators of burning Sabarmati Express.

              A lynch mob doesn’t care about reason. It looks for prey through ‘association’ and ‘identity’ of their victims. By identifying/associating alleged rapists by their caste/community names, unintentionally (I trust) you have acted like an agent-provocateur. That’s not done. It’s completely out of sync with content of rest of the blog.

              Regards

            • nilabja permalink
              December 26, 2012 2:04 PM

              Dear Shuddhabrata

              Hope you have read my post and would like to know if I correctly explain (societal medieval attitudes) the comment made by the politician. While the net is an immeasurably large step forward in bringing our freedom, the forwards on facebook of sympathy for the victim for the rape and marriage possibilities at this stage (not her health status and more crucial issue of life) is deplorable and reflect why we are like this. I am hearing this all round me also. Besides, no doctor has confirmed anything about those aspects, they are concerned with her life now . Also no one told us anything about her link with her friend (these forwards are making presumptions which are not in our domain). Friends, colleagues and other human relations are not in their dictionary. Why not see the latest James Bond movie rather than Bollywood to learn more about possible human relations that transcends that one word only

              Nilabja

            • Nishit Ladha permalink
              December 26, 2012 4:16 PM

              Subho you may keep deleting my replies but I will keep writing that your post is utter nonsense and disgusting. You seem to have your own issues with Hindu Culture as well as BJP. And you have used this article well to target them. Your article is completely biased.

              1. You only quoted about BJP leaders with incidents in Assam and other places. They were being rules by Congress at that time.

              2. You challenge the tradition of Karva Chauth. You definitely have no clue about these traditions or Hindutva relationship with them.

              3. You don’t want BJP in power next time. Has that anything to do with rape. The quality of life for women in Gujrat and Bihar has only improved In last 8 years

              4. You don’t even know that the last name is called family name and should be called with some respect. These titles are used by false too.

              5. I could not make out you suggesting any solution for avoiding rape cases in India. again only a cynic can write an article like to provoke the youths, while you will never leave you apartment to be part with them.

              6. Your article tends to increase the communal divide also. How much have you researched about the life of a soldier in Kashmir. Nothing but you like to use it to create even more furor.

              7. You used a Hindu name to write, but you talked nothing about Islam or Christoanity. We’re you scared? Those who want to speak truth are never scared.

              This article is the most disgusting article where the girl has been used by you to après you’d own political nd communal message

              • Nishit Ladha permalink
                December 27, 2012 12:18 PM

                I am still waiting for your reply..

  20. December 24, 2012 3:39 AM

    So very long and yet incomplete. Spend some time on twitter ;) will get you to get a grip. Recieve feedback and work on it. Avoid Justification

  21. Aysha Munira permalink
    December 24, 2012 3:49 AM

    I agree with the analogy drawn by the author between soldiers and the rape victim. I would like to add further that the woman ‘invited’ trouble by her attempt to protect her male friend which was impossible to do in the face of four demons. she was punished for the sign of courage she showed. Sushma Swaraj or anyone who think a rape victim’s life is not worth living should know that this rape victim rather deserves a bravery award and a much more respectable life if she pulls through.

  22. Swati permalink
    December 24, 2012 6:55 AM

    Excellent Shuddhabrata! Very well written. You have tried to look at the issue from almost all possible angles! You echo my thoughts! Since I cannot write as well as you have , I am taking a print for some of my friends , near and dear ones (men’women) who are conditioned to think in a patriarchal way and exist within the narrative of ‘power and control’.

  23. Saurabh permalink
    December 24, 2012 7:16 AM

    Could it be that when Sushma ji said that her life is not worth living she meant the critical medical condition she was in and not the stigma attached to rape? Her intestines are out, doctors say she won’t be able to eat ever. Is it that difficult to understand what Sushma ji meant? Either that or there is some deliberate mis-interpretation at work here. Sad that you did not even once point out the President, the PM, the CM for their callous approach to the protests. Also, it was disconcerting that you used surnames of the rapists, not sure what that meant. They had firstnames, didn’t they?

    • Arun permalink
      December 24, 2012 7:19 PM

      Clearly you took home all the correct take-aways.

    • December 24, 2012 11:49 PM

      The Thakur Sharma Sharma Singh refrain underlines the absence of the usual regional, and criminal elements and points to the so called “main stream” being at the helm of this despicable act as well.

      • December 25, 2012 1:41 PM

        I am not a Sharma, Thakur or Singh, but definitely one belonging to the ‘main stream’ that you so kindly see at the ‘helm of this despicable act’.
        As I understand from your and a few others’ posts, that I have to carry this stigma presumably for what my forefathers did or didn’t do and my caste or surname will be invoked every time a fellow caste member is found wanting in an act of crime.
        I was told that it is only the people of higher caste who are regressive in their culture, believes, attitude and thinking. May be I was not told the whole truth.

        • December 26, 2012 12:44 PM

          Dear Dev, I belong to that ‘mainstream’ as much as you do. And I do sincerely feel it is the responsibility of people who belong, due to an accident of birth, to the dominant sections of society, to take on the responsibility for critical reflection on the traditions that they have received by inheritance. I am not for a moment suggesting that every person with an upper caste Hindu tag is a misogynist. Or that every Ashraf Muslim inherits the sexism inherent in a narrow reading of Islamic traditions, or that every practicising or non practicing Jew or every Christian inherits the inherent patriarchal biases of some parts of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. All I am saying is, we have a responsibility to think about and reflect on our traditions. I also think very strongly, that there is an orthopraxy of misogyny in the Dalit movement, in identity politics of the kind that has arisen amongst African Americans – these too need strong criticism, and not only by Dalits or African Americans. I hope I have made myself amply clear.

    • Dinesh permalink
      December 24, 2012 11:55 PM

      @Saurabh, I totally agree with you. Using Sharma, Sharma, Gupta, Thakur sends out a very wrong message. I am a Sharma myself and felt very disgusted. And yes Sushma Swaraj is completely misinterprated here.

      • kunal saha permalink
        December 27, 2012 2:35 PM

        Pretty Good article well written I dont have knowledge that may be close to any of the learned readers of your article but still there is a tone of Hypocrisy that I can sense in some your comments.

        Yes you were harsh on Hinduism and I believe that you were justified at some of the places you mentioned .But a few lines led you to believe that somehow due to these few phrases(maybe few more of them coming) a vice has got hardcoded in our culture when you being more knowledgable than me yourself know that a few lines in a book dont define a culture as complex as that of India.Then at the same time in your comment above you imply that its because of “narrow reading” of Islam that people could get those vices or because of “certain paragraphs” of bible ,( jewish or christian version) people could get those vices.I certainly believe that its more important to attack and “discard” or “evolve” the wrong scriptures and ongoing traditions of our own culture and at times that is easier.But you as a writer should have more guts to attack the traditions and scriptures that are wrong anywhere or in any religion.Whether you read a bad part in “narrow way” or with “broad mind” , lines that are wrong and want to mean something horrific would be wrong anyway.They would mean the same howsoever you may want to twist the meaning of it .Gather that strength of that kind and then you will perhaps find more people supporting you .I write this in good taste , dont perceive that I write this in bad taste .I am sincere believer in attacking any tradition that is wrong whether mine or somebody else’s.

  24. Neeraj permalink
    December 24, 2012 7:58 AM

    Dear Shuddho Dada,

    Brilliantly written article. This is my first meeting with any of your posts and I think you did a wonderful job in helping us understand the root cause. I have some questions and I might be completely wrong in my thoughts but would be glad if you can help me find an answer:

    1) I felt that you were little harsh on Hinduism here. Is it only Hindu traditions, mythology and texts that give birth to such patriarchal feelings OR you did not have time to delve into other religions that might state the similar OR by repeatedly tagging the rapists as Sharma, Sharma, Gupta, Singh and Thakur, you presumed something.

    Again, please do not mistake me as a hindu devotee as I agree with your explanation of Ramayana, I just want to understand that your 10000 words article could have become a little longer if it would have not been only hinduism centric. I do not know much about other religions and respect each of them but would also want to understand if cues for improvement were adopted by the others or all of them are equal partners in crime.

    2) Life Imprisonment instead of death sentence: Think about the fear and trauma any victim (rape victim, attempt to murder survivor) might undergo if somehow the prison falls, the inmate is out..free. I agree with you that death sentence did not help reduce the crime, did life imprisonment show some favourable statistics? The gallows arent for comfort they should act as a deterrent as no person loves anything more than its life. I do not even agree with a simple hanging as a punishment, I ask for the most inhuman punishment. But then as you said, it can be debated in a different time and space

    Once again, thank you for the eye opener and pardon me if my thoughts seem idiotic

    Neeraj

  25. December 24, 2012 8:50 AM

    Is this a diatribe against lawlessness and societal/state apathy/corruption or a forum to rant against the BJP? Are you implying that the BJP is the only party that gives tickets to rapists? Go check the roster of all other parties and you’ll find them equally guilty, including the Congress. The problem isnt just Sushma and Mamata, but Sonia and Renuka too…perhaps even more so, as they are the ones in charge – hence, responsible for this outrage!!!

    • December 24, 2012 1:41 PM

      absolutly agree

    • December 24, 2012 6:50 PM

      BJP deserves special mention here due to the way a lot of people have been reacting everywhere – online, offline, at protests, etc. saying how voting for Modi in 2014 is the solution to all of this. It is important for people to realize that, if halting misogyny is the goal, a party that conducts “rath yatras” and promotes “Karva Chauths” is the last thing that’s needed.

      Just because an author criticizes a party does not automatically imply that he or she supports the rival party. We need to stop the two party circus. Read up on how Jon Gnarr won the mayor’s position in Rekyavik when people got fed up of the existing options.

  26. venukmwpb permalink
    December 24, 2012 8:53 AM

    Reblogged this on Venukmwpb’s Weblog.

  27. petervas permalink
    December 24, 2012 9:07 AM

    wanton soup for the indian rapist: http://petervas.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/rapist/

  28. Partha Sengupta permalink
    December 24, 2012 9:13 AM

    not read in totality honestly. But thank God, slowly, I am finding people who agree to the basic fact that rape has nothing to do with sex. I would also ensure that it is not only young persons like you but olders like me also will work hand in hand. I would prefer to work at the root cause. Make sure that molestation is equally as criminal as rape, because the dignity is lost either way, make sure that blaming / accusing women for ‘binging it onto them’ is a criminal offence whether by social and political personnel. Trying to get ot suggesting the girl got married to the perpretrator is a criminal offence whether by judiciary or Khap, or any social position holder.

  29. Poonam Singh permalink
    December 24, 2012 9:27 AM

    Thank you for this heartfelt post. Hope the intended audience reads it and acts upon it. The youth of our nation needs to be aware. Sadly in the rush to get ahead in their personal lives they couldn’t be bothered by such niceties as position of women in our society. May this be the badly needed wake up call.

  30. December 24, 2012 9:36 AM

    AAP NE BAHUT THEEK KAHA HAI. BHEER APNA RASTA KHUD DHOOND LEGI.SWARTH SE BHRAE REHNUMAAO KI AB ISS YOUTH KO JAROORAT NAHI HAI.AMEEN.

  31. Sahil permalink
    December 24, 2012 10:28 AM

    Simply Bakaiti ! Nothing is going to change with this prostitution of words, quoting from scriptures and then asking the youth to revolt against the norms , fool !

    The writer is completely off-board , I am sorry , it makes a fantastic reading but in a fools paradise.

    Nothing is going to change because nature does not change.

    If you wish the scenario to be changed , You should change yourself !

    Bakaiti in English does not help our girls and sisters at all.

    Sorry !

    • December 25, 2012 7:40 PM

      So what would you have people do? Nature does not change so let’s applaud the gang-rape and wait for our turn as the victim?
      Nature does change. It’s called evolution. It’s the reason you are typing in front of a computer somewhere and not living in a forest or a cave and hunting your food with crude stone weapons.
      And words do have power to affect opinions. It is why authorities all over the world are so deeply suspicious of the internet. If words didn’t matter, so many writers wouldn’t be under fatwas or imprisonment for what they wrote. May be this one article won’t change mindsets overnight, but certain things need to be said, over and over again.

  32. December 24, 2012 10:32 AM

    Dear Shuddhabrata,
    Absolutely brilliant!!!

    One of the things I have observed in the media and other public discourses is the frequent invokation of the concept of women being worshipped as Goddesses and deities (particularly in the hindu tradition). And this is often made in good faith.

    However I find this quite problematic. If looked deeply it is the NOT the human being but its gender role of a mother that is celebrated/worshipped. As if, unless “she” is a mother, wife etc. she does not deserve to be treated as a human being.

    I want your take on this. I am not sure how much of this is deep rooted in our cultural attitudes towards women but it does seem to be misused a lot in mainstream discussions and almost unquestioned.

    • Alhambra permalink
      December 25, 2012 7:15 AM

      Not at all. Kali and Durga are worshipped for their own actions, unless you consider that shiva is being worshipped for his gender role as a husband and father. And anyway there is nothing wrong with that, given that the Christian God is worshipped as the Holy father. stop coming up with random reasons to hate on tradition. Why can’t liberals ever be consistent… Always bashing local traditions, irrespective of its content..

  33. December 24, 2012 10:51 AM

    Reblogged this on Life As I Know It and commented:
    very well written…..

  34. Neelanjana permalink
    December 24, 2012 11:19 AM

    As a woman, a feminist, an activist, I rarely forget to acknowledge the struggles of our fore mothers. Without whom we wouldn’t even have this analysis of patriarchy, our subordination; men’s control over our sexuality, reproduction and labour; intersectionality; heteronormativity, etc. Acknowledging those who have struggled against greater odds before us, for us, and created a path where none existed is a feminist project against a particularly masculine trait of ownership, in this case of ideas. It would be good if pro-feminist men adopt this ‘way’ too.

  35. raj sharma permalink
    December 24, 2012 11:33 AM

    I agree with most of the remarks made by the writer but the comment against Shushma Swaraj is unwarranted. She said so in parliament to indicate the gruesome condition of her health and its implications on her future life (remember she is only left with a few inches of intestine). Only an idiot without common sense would say that it had anything to do with patriarchy.

  36. unknown permalink
    December 24, 2012 11:51 AM

    all ‘victims’ should be encouraged to take their powers back. bring back someone like the bandit queen and skin such men of their splendoured powers. give them a dosage of their own poison.

  37. December 24, 2012 12:24 PM

    Recently Sanjay Nirupam has made a comment “Aap to partiyon me thumake lagati thi”. Even if some one dance, it has all the right to talk about any thing that matter to him.

    दिन फिर गये जो जी रहे अब तक अभाव में,
    वादों से गर्म दाल परोसी चुनाव में.
    ढूंढे नहीं मिला एक भी रहनुमा यहाँ,
    सच कहने सुनने की हिम्मत रखे स्वभाव में.

    तब्दीलियाँ है माँगते यों ही सुझाव में,
    फिर भेज दी है मूरतियां डूबे गाव में,
    दिल्ली में बैठ के समझेंगे वो बाढ़ को,
    लाशें यहाँ दफ़न होने जाती है नाव में.

  38. Natasha permalink
    December 24, 2012 12:28 PM

    Churumuri has published a post that turns vice into virtue. The grass-eaters of Mysore say secular and Left-wing intellectuals — whatever that means — must go back to the scriptures to learn about how to treat women. This post, in this age, on a blog like Churumuri. More than Sushma Swaraj, it is these ‘high caste’ grass-eaters who need to change.

    • December 25, 2012 2:11 PM

      “……these ‘high caste’ grass-eaters who need to change.”

      Actually some of them changed, though many more have failed to make the cut.
      But if you really want them to change, you can help them (and yourself too) by accepting them as people and not branding them as ‘high caste’, ‘grass eater’ etc.
      It will not diminish your secular, left-wing credentials. Trust me.

  39. meenakshi permalink
    December 24, 2012 1:08 PM

    Thank you. Now how to spread the word!
    Articles like this can end up being confined to the converts. Social media helps, but other ways need to be discovered too.

  40. Abhinandan Jain permalink
    December 24, 2012 1:28 PM

    Beautifully presented the condition of the society. The evil lies within us. And I’ll overcome it. For the Humanity and Peace.

  41. reasonableman permalink
    December 24, 2012 1:36 PM

    To those who bash patriarchy and in essence masculinity let me just remind them that before the age of electricity,computers,automobiles,fast food restaurants, industrial mass productions,public schools, telephones, mass media,democracy,forensics,hospitals and so on.The shelter of the patriarchy was the best option for women compared to a world where female friendly jobs were few and far between, crimes like rape were extremely difficult to prove ,bandits,robbers and warring armies roamed freely and all the infrastructure (built by men) that women depend on today to give them relative independence from their daily chores did not exist.So please think twice before bashing men for all the worlds problems. both men and women contributed equally to the establishment and continuation of patriarchy because IT WAS THE BEST OPTION AVAILABLE AT THE TIME.

    Yes, in the domestic environment there was abuse in some cases ( how much is a matter of debate and can not be decided with a broad generalization ) but even there we see cultural remedies in the form of rituals and traditions.

    Is patriarchy necessary today in India?
    probably in those parts where the empowering infrastructure has not reach the majority of women and society as a whole, because there is no point in women declaring their independence from patriarchy only to find themselves uneducated and having the only option of either becoming domestic workers or prostitutes.

    do religious traditions protect modern women?
    i don’t think so because they were meant to be implemented for medieval times and social conditions and trying to solve current problems using them will fail if not make things worst.

  42. December 24, 2012 1:38 PM

    Hi Shuddhabrata

    Good attempt to put across your point of view, though a wee bit long. I can understand the angst against the hegemony of patriarchy and rightly so. It is a matter that has perpetuated and nourished the power politics that exist in society, specially against women. That the genesis of rape lies inset this paradigm is a matter that needs to be discussed and pronounced even more loudly. Your call to the brave youth of the nation to identify with the same is correct but on one hand while I agree, I fail to see the analogy and the need to pull Sushma Swaraj, BJP or any other political party into the discussion. You have valiantly and perhaps even logically tried to vindicate why so, particularly by drawing an inference to Swaraj’s statement – ” uski zindagi maut se badtar ho chuki hai” but it is hard to accept that the statement can be deconstructed as one stemming from the subjugation of women to a patriarchal hegemony alone. Not that I will attempt to explain her sentence either, because I leave it best with every individual reader to infer, with due consideration that she is a seasoned politician and being so, whether her statement is to be taken seriously at all or not is the first question. On the same note let us not also forget what our own Miranda educated chief minister had to comment on what insinuates rape, but that is a different dialogue all together. The real crux of your well written article should have stuck to the issue of Power dominance and the need for a social equality not only among genders but in community and environment in general.

    Then you also researched and spoke about how the roots of patriarchal hegemony originates from the the oldest Hindu scripture, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (Note- In your essay you have mentioned/misspelled it as Brhadarankya). Incidentally I had the opportunity to research on the same also during a course study of mine and therefore beg to bring forth a point which has been much argued and discussed that the Upanishads as we read it today, are a compilation and there has been additions to the original based on various cultural and hegemonic motivations. Hence the section Chapter 6.4.6 is a vast contradiction from the original purpose and discourse on Advait of the said Upanishad. In fact some teachers choose to omit this section at all in the discussion of the discourse. Having said so, I know that one will defend saying if the section is invalid why is it even a part of the same. Well, it is part of it but just as the vedas pronounce that not all ‘word’ is to be believed in, written or said, one must learn to assimilate and disperse what is right and what is wrong themselves. As writers, thinkers or even leaders, if we choose to cite an example which can insinuate an opinion that is half baked it will lead to chaos. There are ample analogies across various religious and mythological texts that will suggest the existence of such patriarchy but they all cannot be held as the reason for the existence of the same.

    Patriarchy is a time imposed phenomena. One has to track back to evolution to really find its origin and since that is not possible, the only other option is to discard the existing order and create a new one. But this cannot be created by demonstrating in the public. It has to begin at our homes. Specific laws against perpetrators of modesty of women is only a temporary solution which will induce fear but not exorcise the old order. In fact the need is for a law which will protect any one subjugated to illegal dominance by the ones who think they are ‘powerful’ by will or gender.

    Thanks for writing this. It should help the genesis of a new order.

  43. annie permalink
    December 24, 2012 2:00 PM

    You just put all the emotions boiling inside a lot of us into words. Very well written.

  44. December 24, 2012 2:03 PM

    Finally, someone has traced the roots of why rape is normalized in India, and the kind of intrinsic change needed in each one of us to prevent it – sadly, I think this patriarchal mindset will take eons to change – but, every drop makes a difference and we need to begin somewhere.

  45. Divya permalink
    December 24, 2012 2:09 PM

    thank u for writing this…its a very informative & thought provoking piece!

  46. December 24, 2012 2:13 PM

    I agree with most of what you have written but many parts of your article sounds like an anti-BJP tirade, Wish you had refrained from doing that …when you do that the article becomes political which is exactly what you are accusing the others of doing.

    • Sidd permalink
      December 24, 2012 7:03 PM

      Completely Agree with you. Just what I was thinking.

    • angryindianyouth permalink
      December 24, 2012 7:21 PM

      Total agree with u @Aruna Rajagopal…
      This sound more like an anti-BJP article than that of the rape and the issue at the center.
      Please do not discuss the half story. Give this article a complete and proper ending.
      There are many more that multiple political parties in India and all have such TAINTED LEADERS in them. Why have you not targeted them. Why only BJP? I am not a BJP Supporter but mind it I do not accept that only one party or person is responsible for this situation in India. Not just the politics but we as the people, the society is not well cultured and well behaved like the Indians are rather were known to be…

      We don’t bother to teach our kids and children any respect for any person. All we care is that they are WELL BRANDED in Popular School, Colleges and Jobs.

      And why are we not insisting our daughters and sisters to learn some form of self defense training. we only provide a car or some good company of known people to take care. why not make them independent and capable in other situations too. Many a times the rapist is known to the victim and is a known person whom they know since a long time. This is the same known person whom the parents trust that will take care of their daughter/kids (Child Molestation also an issue)

      I have a long list of points to discuss but one by one so that it does not gets buried in the long debates going on.

  47. Vinod permalink
    December 24, 2012 2:14 PM

    Once you started berating politicians, yoga teachers, Hindu activists who spoke against rape and for punishment, I started questioning your judgement. I found you equating anti-corruption activists with goondas! When I saw that there was a pointed effort to berate all those who were not communist, I figured that you were blind.

    You are a rapist of reason. A rapist of honesty and integrity. You would happily force your hatred into the minds of the innocent, perhaps as your mind was once raped.

  48. December 24, 2012 2:40 PM

    Ha Ha Ha…. This whole article has only one purpose one context … JAI HO Congress , Congress Great hai,. baaki sab bekaar hai …

    Are bhai … kam se kam ab to congress ki chaatna chodo … kuch to akal laga lo ,

  49. December 24, 2012 2:44 PM

    Thank god that men like you who write articles like these still exist. Thank you for mentioning the Shopian case. Our selective amnesia is scary. Thank you for remembering what is happening in Kashmir and North East.

  50. Chandra Devi permalink
    December 24, 2012 2:59 PM

    I think when, Sushma Swaraj said her life is now worse than death- i think she meant about the poor girls ability to have children, since her internals organs are ripped apart. Most women would like to have children- if not many at least one. This poor girl cannot do that. Ever seen the plight of childless women???? And you dont need a degree in psychology to figure out if this girl will ever be able to have sex; forget enjoy it.

    and i dont think this will end her career- when Kasab and Company ran lose all over Bombay, our kind kind Home Minster Mr R R Patil, quote DDLJ- “Bade bade seheron main aise chote chote battain hoti rehtein hain” A terrorist attack in Bombay was a chotee baat for him.

    I think the cops are the real problem. They are too corrupt and insensitive. They know their job but they are just too disinterested in really doing their job. They managed to find one of the rapists who had ran off to BIHAR but cannot find Bitti Mohanty coz he is the son of a DGP. Charged, convicted and out of ‘Parole” to meet his “ailing” mother- he runs away and the cops let him!!!

    These are the politicians of our country and that is the situation of the cops. Seems we cannot expect anything better. if we do then they will laathi harge us.

    • Sucheta permalink
      December 26, 2012 4:12 PM

      @Chandra Devi – That is the very point that Shudda is making, I think. I am more than my ability to procreate, and having children need not be limited to birthing children. We need to be critical of ourselves and our cultures that propunds the stigma that create (as you said) “the plight of childless women”. I am a woman that has not birthed a child and might never be able to, does that negate my woman-ness? I reject the notion that it does, I have many attributes beyond reproductive organs and can have and raise children who I might not be related to biologically, but they will be my children.

      Also, sex can and should be more than a penis entering a vagina. It can and should be about love, and physicality that can happen after reconstructive surgery and even if someone (hopefully not her) is paralysed waist down. The fact that you suggest her life will not be worth living because she might never have children makes me very sad about our limited view of ourselves and our world.

      I also hope that maybe we can work towards creating a society where we hold all our politicians responsible for what comes out of their mouths… and create a force of law and order that is larger than the people in it, DGP, SP, CM, PM… whatever. The structure should be bigger than the person in t he seat. ANd we do so by not letting these people in the seats become so big – be their names Swaraj, Patil, Gandhi, Modi, Reddy, Yadav, Bhattacharya or what have you.

  51. Sohail Hashmi permalink
    December 24, 2012 3:12 PM

    Dear Shuddho

    Extraordinary.
    The Thakur Sharma Sharma Singh refrain underlines the absence of the usual regional, and criminal elements and points to the so called “main stream” being at the helm of this despicable act as well. Brilliant !!

  52. Sarvani permalink
    December 24, 2012 3:13 PM

    It’s a good read..
    The crimes against women continue to happen, because they have never really retaliated strongly enough.
    I have always felt outraged by the tolerance showed by generations of women..not just in India, but across the world.
    Yes, there are a few strong women who stand up to such atrocities and yes, there are many women’s rights organisations. But they simply are just not enough.
    And yes, there are also a few fortunate women, who are raised in a household as equals, where the men as well are gentlemen. They simply see women as fellow human beings who need to be respected irrespective of what they do, say or look like.
    But even such fortunate women, interact with others, fellow students, colleagues or even strangers on the road. So it doesn’t matter if their families & friends are nice. Because these few fortunate women may suffer due to an unfortunate turn of events.

    True, Patriarchy is being preached and practised.
    But it was also tolerated by generations of women in each & every household and society, irrespective of religion, race.
    It is not too late, women should start to say “NO”.
    No to patriarchy. No to misogyny and No to any little thing that they find unacceptable.
    If -in each household(where there is inequality in treatment)- the women assert their equality and not bow down to the so called patriarchal values, the men would accept their equality and hopefully, their attitude would change, gradually and eventually. And they would learn to respect women as equals, as fellow human beings.
    So I think each household should focus on turning out gentlemen. So that the strangers on the road are as nice as the brothers at home or the friends at college.

  53. December 24, 2012 3:16 PM

    Finally, a coherent, logical and compelling reflection on the rape culture of India. I kept wondering why the public has gathered, once again, to protest what is never going to change. The outraged public was protesting the crime itself, and not the codes of culture that make such crimes possible. The outrage overflowed also because each of the young men and women felt that the 23-year-old’s LIFE was destroyed because of non-consensual intercourse. Shuddhabrata Sengupta explains concisely why this is not the case through the example of an amputee solider. While it always takes such crimes to inspire writers to such fantastic prose, we must all pay attention to the message: re-examining the codes of tradition and having the courage to rewrite these codes. If it means the loss of culture and tradition, it’s perfectly fine. We don’t need to feel nostalgic for a culture that binds, instead of liberating it’s adherents.

  54. December 24, 2012 3:18 PM

    Thanks to the Hundreds of Brothers for giving their life for Asiya and Nelofar,the young couple was gang raped in Kashmir,and My kashmiri youth Protested for the same..They were not Dispersed by water baloons ar anythng,but with the Bullets..they were Killed and Culprits Still Roaming Without any fear and they say we belong to them.. Biased india

    • December 25, 2012 2:26 PM

      Between the water baloons and the bullets there were bricks. You forgot to mention that.
      Not that I support every act of the Govt. in Kashmir.

  55. arjun raina permalink
    December 24, 2012 3:19 PM

    well spoken…love arjun

  56. Mir permalink
    December 24, 2012 3:26 PM

    You witnessed a protest by Twelve Thousand People in Delhi and it was all over the news.
    In Kashmir more than a million people came on to the streets at different places in 2009 to protest a similar unfortunate incident and that is kept under the rugs.
    Biased media for biased people.

  57. RPJ permalink
    December 24, 2012 4:00 PM

    Well argued, especially on the question of capital punishment. I fully agree with the view that rapists should live a life of stigma and isolation the rest of their lives. Full marks!!!

  58. December 24, 2012 4:21 PM

    I love the piece overall. But I could not contend with one point and don’t judge me for that. When you started to mention the reaction of politicos to this rape incident, you said Sushma Swaraj’s career should die a deserved death. And I wonder why you never mentioned why Sonia’s or Sheila’s political careers shouldn’t? Sushma, as Leader of the Opposition in LS can only demand what her party feels should be done. Sonia, for that matter, is the CEO and the COO of the party. Your one-sided diatribe speaks more about your political inclinations than anything else.

  59. Irena Korpic permalink
    December 24, 2012 4:31 PM

    It is good if you go to the streets and protested that it so not to proceed. My God, so many young people have come to. Too bad that the police and the government have done so. It is undemocratic. But for sure: The world sees what happens

  60. Neha permalink
    December 24, 2012 4:35 PM

    Hats off! You just restored my faith in Delhi. Way to go, we MUST end such behaviour!

  61. chawlaankita permalink
    December 24, 2012 4:41 PM

    Reblogged this on The Colour Purple and commented:
    “Patriarchy is the secret to your nightmares, the reason for your deepest, most personal fears and anxieties.”

  62. December 24, 2012 4:43 PM

    These are very useful pointers for ACTION at the end of the piece. Here are three more.
    1. Stop telling / forwarding crude jokes based on women’s bodies. TODAY. They convey an unconscious but real approval of the notion that degradation of women is acceptable

    2. Stop other people from doing so in your class / workplace / family etc

    3. If your group outnumbers the eve-teasers in any situation, whack them

  63. kritika permalink
    December 24, 2012 4:45 PM

    I just want to ask everybody on this thread that when we ourselves are gonna stop using the word VICTIM . Our terminology reflect such biases and moreover a meticulous analysis would show that the swear word or abuses we hurl reflect misogyny .

  64. Sushant Singhal permalink
    December 24, 2012 4:45 PM

    If brevity is the soul of wit, this infuriatingly long post is completely devoid of wit but still, is not entirely useless. The write up suffers from verbosity, anger and prejudice. The entire idea could have been conveyed in 1/10th of space it has now used. The ideas which the blogger wishes to convey would be far more acceptable to the readers if he wouldn’t take a personal delight in crucifying Sushma Swaraj and others. In his present avtar, he certainly looks like a hater of everything Hindu philosophy has to offer to the world. In nut shell, the author doesn’t offer any solution to the problem and merely tries to extract promise from the readers that they would never vote for Sushma Swaraj and Narendra Modi!!! In order not to appear blatantly prejudiced, he adds the word “Congress” also once or twice with BJP.

    However, one thing everyone would perhaps agree with his statement that rape has nothing to do with sex. There are several motives and any one or more of them could be present when a rape or molestation is contemplated. The motives may range from “deciding to teach a woman some lesson for anything she actually or supposed did to annoy the rapist” to “humiliating her / her parents or her in-laws.” Moreover, if some terrorists groups / army personnel indulge in sexual assaults against women belonging to opposing side, they may be trying to teach lessons to the entire community and to firmly establish their ‘physical strength and supremacy to curb any revolt.’

    In the present case of gang rape of a 23 year old paramedic none of it seems applicable. Here the motive could be to ‘have fun’ with a girl by over-powering her and her friend. Why such an outrageous idea would have crossed their mind while plying a public transport in busy streets of the national capital? Several points come to my mind a) They must have been assured of gross incompetency, lethargy, couldn’t-care-less-attitude of the Delhi police and the judicial system of our country and somehow concluded that they could get away with it. b) they might have gained an erroneous impression that the girl was likely to agree after some token protest ! They could be having some porno films of sexual orgies in their mobile phones making them believe that ‘all girls are after that thing’. The fact that the girl was not from some affluent family must also have gone against her. In our country, police acts against a culprit only if the aggrieved woman is a foreigner or belongs to some hot-shot family. c) the fact that a boy was with her and they didn’t look like a married couple, may also have given birth to fancy ideas to the rapists who started with eve-teasing and finally assaulted and even tried to kill both of them by throwing them naked out of the running bus.

    To start with, I would urge our Govt. to immediately ban all pornographic sites being managed / shown in our country. It is extremely unlikely that those “Sharma, Sharma, Thakur, Singh, Gupta” had in their pockets or in their home or office any copy of Brihadaranyak Upnishad telling them to forcibly take a pious girl but in all probability, they had had net connectivity on their phones and must be in the habit of watching pornographic material abundantly available on various sites. The pornographic sites are more likely to adversely modify thinking of impressionable minds than these ancient scriptures which only this blogger seems to be aware of.

    2ndly, the license to drive a public transport vehicle should be given only after thorough checking of credentials. It won’t hurt anyone if a character certificate from some Principal of the school is made compulsory as one of the enclosures of the application.

    3rdly, if any incident of gang-rape against a woman takes place in any city in India, the I/Charge of the concerned Police Station should be held responsible.

    4thly, license to practise law should be confiscated if it is proved that a lawyer has tried to help his client by fabricating, producing a false evidence in a court during trial or had deliberately tried to obstruct any witness from reaching the court.

  65. December 24, 2012 5:54 PM

    काफ़ी अच्छा लगा शुद्धब्रत जी, पर क्या रेपिस्ट व हिन्दुस्तान के जवान लोग इतने गहन विचारों और आत्म विश्लेषण को समझ पाएँगे? यह सवाल सिर्फ़ प्रतीकात्मक है… किस के पास इतना समय है इस आपा-धापी के माहौल में, शायद ख़ुद पर न आ पड़े इसीलिए लोग बाहर सड़कों पर उतरें हैं… बाकि दुनिया कौन-सी बहुत सुधरी हुई है? अमेरिका में शायद यहाँ से ज़्यादा नहीं तो बराबर रेप तो होते ही हैं, क्या कुछ फ़र्क पड़ता है, कोई रास्ता है भी क्या, कहीं भी? शायद मेरे सारे सवाल प्रतीकात्मक हैं… इंसानी फ़ितरत ही ख़ूनी दिखती है, बदलाव तो डर से ही पैदा होता दिखता है… हीरो और जवानों की वाह-वाह करने से नहीं… शायद…

  66. December 24, 2012 6:04 PM

    Most of what you have written is true and very well written but the fact that you have taken a dig only at Sushma Swaraj and not at other policticians esp when what others- Shinde n Sheila Dixit have said has been more disparaging than anything which Sushma Swaraj has said, that makes me skeptical that you have just written for Congress!

  67. Mayank permalink
    December 24, 2012 6:21 PM

    3 Points of Improvement;

    1) You could have taken example of “Brahma” instead of Ram

    Ram made SACRIFICE in order to ENSURE that as a King he should be above all the doubts and suspicions. Read more on how he DIED and how he lived whole life post that decision.

    2) And as far as the Bradaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter 6.4.6 shlokas are concerned little research could have provided you this answer

    [Although there is no mistranslation or error. but actually, when we study scriptures we get blinded with the idea that every word of the scripture must be correct & true irrespective of time & occasion. This expectation is not correct.

    The scriptures are not written in a day & there are chances of entry of contamination when they are carried through a period ranging over thousands of years. Brihdaranyaka Upanishad is no exception. There have been some additions/alterations in the original text over a period of time. The part you are referring to is added much later on & is contaminated by social environment at that time. You can easily notice the difference here ... the deep & profound discussion on Advait suddenly changes to "how to get a good son or daughter, how to approach one's wife for sexual intercourse, what to do against paramour of one's wife etc.". This section obviously doesn't match with the earlier major part of Brihdaranyaka Upanishad which discusses Non-duality in depth.]

    3) From cement to chocolate all advertisement objectify women. Think about who is paying to create them and who is getting paid for creating them and who is to be blamed for watching them.

  68. Manojit permalink
    December 24, 2012 6:53 PM

    First let me clear,I am a Male and a proud young Hindu but has no hesitation to face criticism.Yes,you are mostly right when you say it’s the mindset need to be changed and the mindset is deep rooted in our tradition,you have referred Ram’s example here.Yes Ram can be considered as a dutiful king but has failed as a husband.He behaved like a very very ordinary man who couldn’t show the courage to change the mindset of society.You referred Sushmaji’s comment which i also disagree with her-this mindset need to be changed.Rape should not end a life,it’s a severe crime and it is harshly punishable.Death penalty is not the solution-Rapists will kill to clear all the traces afterwards and most of all,rape will be continued to be seen as a crime that finishes a girl/woman’s life that’s what i don’t want.But how you demanded Sushmaji’s exile just for this reason?May be she is not all-total right but how can you target her when practically rape many cases ends a life of girl in India which constitutes 70% rural area and where still best solution is for the girl to marry the same rapist and you can’t change it over-night!!!!You mentioned mainly ABVP who were present in the agitation from the 1st day but it was planned NSUI goons who created all mess,just get the fact.You seem to be mainly criticizing BJP but you have very few words for Congress,a neutral article needs to be free from it.You criticized Hindu traditions but where is the criticism about Muslim traditions?Muslims constitute 1/4 or 1/3 of the population,how you can change India without taking them?Are you feared to be called Communal? You criticized practicing Karva Chauth as a male dominance,but wasn’t it better instead of abandoning it if you wanted we to do something for woman?Not all the western concept has proved good nor all the Indian concepts has proved to be bad.Here if Indian tradition stands for a sign of respect in relation,that we must appreciate but yes,respect should come from both sides.It’s enough we have seen woman to do that,it’s time men also show it-there i agree.And at last,you brought examples of Kashmir and Gujarat.For Gujarat,has really no actions taken,is it believable that Cong in spite of being in Center for last 8 years could do nothing just because law and order is state subject ??And you completely forgot to mention 1984,the rapes of Hindu girls belonged to Kashmiri Pandits.Sorry to raise objections on various issues,but over-all it is a thought provoking article.Just the subject should have touched the other sides of the wall too.

  69. NEEL permalink
    December 24, 2012 7:44 PM

    I partially support the statement made by the writer but not to the fullest. After reading the article, what can be drawn is that the writer has gone smooth towards Congress and much more precisely to say the article is politically biased…The writer completely failed to pinpoint the dirty politics played by congress diverting issue more to the society and shows aggression towards sushma swaraj’s statement…However the writer haven’t looked into statement made by the ministers and politicians in power to get a larger picture …If anyone go through the recent statement made by Congress representative including sonia gandhi and others non of these statement doesn’t make any sense…The journalist just made use of his pen and thoughts to bully some of the opposition party leaders….But i completely support the statement made by the writer other than his political stances… I think journalist plays a greater role in educating the common people and I would like to request journals to give a free and fair view not driven by any political stances….I would like give my view that the so called society is a final product driven by our culture and the contribution of government through little political reforms…YES ITS TRUE THAT WE LIVE IN A MALE DOMINATING SOCIETY…EVERY ONE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CURRENT SITUATION INCLUDING GOVERNMENT TOO…I am against the kind of society in which we have managed to grow-up and i fully wish to see a revolution in this system either it is political or it is social taking up key issues like crime against women,child abuse, reservation system and extremism pro actively…There is increasing urge to revise our constitution by amending new strict laws and regulations without diverging from our basic principle of secularism and liberal political philosophy..A CHANGE IN THE SYSYEM IS INEVITABLE…The demonstration is because every time any issue comes up, the congress has just tried to escape saying “LET START A PUBLIC DEBATE ON THE ISSUE”…After few month the issue dies in the eyes of public and politicians…TAKE ANY RECENT DEVELOPMENT ON TOPIC LIKE CORRUPTION,LOKPAL BILL..ETC…IF SOME BILL FINALLY GET CABINET APPROVAL THEN IT WOULD BE A WEAKEST AS POSSIBLE… WHICH WOULD BE LIKE A FILM ROLLS JUST EDITTED ACCORDING TO THE WISHES OF CORRUPT POLITICIANS, WHO CAN MAKE USE OF IT…THERE IS A GROWING SENSE AMONG YOUTHS THAT GOVERNMENT IS GOING ON CHEATING ITS CITIZENS….THERE IS LACK OF TRUST AMONG PEOPLE…I would like to congrats the writer for penning down his out of box thoughts….

  70. December 24, 2012 8:15 PM

    Firstly, I congratulate you for a good article.
    Just for your information, I would like to share that I strongly disagree with you on the following point.
    ”Take your traditions seriously, and recognize that every religion teaches the subjugation and humiliation of women”
    With no intentions of making this matter as a religious issue but the fact is that some of Indian religion are not correctly understood and are subjected to social bias.
    May be every other religion oppress woman hood But Sikhism is the only religion where woman have equal rights and they are as free as men to carry their Kirpan with her as the only safeguard. Sikhs dont believe in festiv rituals which have no meaning in today’s Indian Nation Rakhi as woman is more than self sufficient to protect her own dignity and honor. Being named as ‘Kaur’ itself show that woman have been given more honor in sikhism.
    Thanks.

    • Sucheta permalink
      December 26, 2012 4:22 PM

      Enough of this – all others are bad, but look at this one, (mine or not) that is not. We as a collective society are patriarchal, maybe to differing extents, but not one of us is exempt of this criticism nor should we exempt ourselves.

  71. Visitor again permalink
    December 24, 2012 8:31 PM

    I applaud your passion, and the many points you have raised here, but this is– and sorry to be harsh– the ‘stupidiest’ line I have read. “If Thakur, Sharma, Sharma, Singh and Gupta have committed the rape that needs to be condemned by everyone, than Swaraj needs to be held accountable for perpetuating the value system that leads Thakur, Sharma, Sharma, Singh and Gupta to think that rape is the natural and normal thing for them to do.”
    You are such an intelligent, passionate writer. Such a hasty generalization is not expected of you. Sushma Swaraj *may* feel that a woman’s life is stigmatized after a rape– but in this case– the woman’s life has become ‘meaningless’ not simply because of the stigma, but also because of the physical damage. A soldier’s life, even if damaged, at least has been put to SOME good cause, according to most people whose example you take. But a rape survivor’s life — and what she has had to undergo– has not brought ANY benefit. Do you see this? Therefore, your comparison is not so valid.

    The last sentence of the bit I quoted shocks me. That was a really hasty generalization on your part. I am SURE even in Sushma Swaraj’s value system, ‘rape’ is NOT a NATURAL and a NORMAL thing to do. I don’t think the word ‘value’ and ‘rape’ go together.

    Thanks for sharing that authors choose the comments. This explains why Kafila didn’t accept many of my comments on their others posts. I applaud your openness to comments.

    • Sucheta permalink
      December 26, 2012 4:28 PM

      Her life has changed forever, but might not have ended, and she put her life to a very good cause, where she had a choice. But that is neither here nor there, what she suffered did not bring anyone any benefit – because she suffered a crime at the hands of those who should be indicted for it. Her life did not become meaningless because she was subjected to an attack -NO. Which is why, we the people of this country, should be asking for justice for her, for punishing those that enacted this violence upon her and her friend.

  72. December 24, 2012 8:56 PM

    Dear Shuddha,
    In your otherwise fabulous post you give the impression that Sushma Swaraj thinks of the victim as the living dead or zinda laash because she’s been sexually violated. I am afraid that is not the case. If you listen to this excerpt from her speech it is clear she said that only in the context of the victim’s health condition:

    Given that the victim’s health condition is still not out of danger, and she will live a very difficult life even if she survives, I think ‘zinda laash’ is not an inappropriate description. By now there is some hope the victim will survive but given that when Swaraj made her speech there was almost no such hope, I don’t even find Swaraj’s phraseology insensitive.

    • December 24, 2012 11:17 PM

      Dear Shivam,

      Your point is taken. However.
      I find the term ‘zinda laash’. whatever be the context, offensive. This afternoon, I was in a meeting where a disability rights activist found the term ‘zinda laash’ offensive regardless of whether it was used to describe the specificity of a rape victim or the state of an injured, even a traumatically injured body. Insensitivity towards the physicality of a body is not something that is forgivable in my book. If Sushma Swaraj had a career as a script-writer in Ramsay Brothers B Movie Horror Flicks, then, I might have seen some ambiguous sense in her invocation of zombie-dom to describe the life of a fighting woman. As of now, she remains a leader of the opposition in Parliament, and one of the cast of the horror movie that is the spectrum of BJP’s prime ministerial aspirants. She was a misogynist when she was a minister, she remains one now.

      Thanks for pointing out the video though.

      • Nishit Ladha permalink
        December 26, 2012 4:30 PM

        Sushma spoke on the line of euthanasia looking at her physical state. We may keep arguing about mercy killing bug only the person in pin cn answer that. Tie yourself down on bed for one week nd get feed through pipes. You will get what I and Sushma means

      • nilabja permalink
        December 27, 2012 12:10 PM

        We may give the benefit of doubt to the lady though the possibility is high that she said that in light of her being raped and not injured in other dimensions. In any case she should not say that publicly any more than any one should if a dearer person was battling for life and doctors are doing their best to save her life. If euthanasia is spoken of (i shudder to say it) why speak in riddles? However, I feel that the attitude about rape ruining a life’s worth is expressed by many common people around us, in facebook forwards and even in this discussion, that is sad.

  73. Vaneesha permalink
    December 24, 2012 9:00 PM

    Thank you for this article. It gives us all so much to think about. I hope we all begin to truly appreciate the points made, especially those about the senselessness of stigmatising the victim; that rape is about humiliation and domination rather than sex; that women are never ‘impure'; and how speaking out against misogynist remarks in everyday conversation can make a difference.

    The reason that this particular incident resonates so deeply with young urban Indians today is because she could have been any ‘one of us’. But I hope that we all think more deeply about the abuse of positions of ‘power’ in other scenarios as well.

    We want ‘justice’ (what can be justice?) for her, and we also need the people of India to ‘wake up’.

  74. December 24, 2012 9:47 PM

    There seems to be nothing “Merry” about this Christmas or “Happy “about this coming New Year. I am feeling very very sad,heartbroken, skeptical and cynical. Prove me wrong “Power of the Universe” let there be justice and victory for my 23 year old human kin, my hero who is battling a nightmare right now . Let her win. Change the law. Change the system. Let there be light. Let good win over evil. Make a miracle happen. Please prove me wrong.

  75. December 24, 2012 9:49 PM

    Brilliant. Every word is true.

  76. December 24, 2012 10:00 PM

    Dear Suddhabrata,

    Thank you for the post.

    These protesters are the Light House of our times. Indeed I

    agree with you that protests must go on until we see

    irrevocable change in the course of the legal, political and

    social system. I agree with you that Hindu Nazis (We are a

    wonderland where Hindu Nazis are getting normalised

    mimicking to the letter 1930s Germany) other interested

    political elements.

    The protesters also should also be embraced by the

    Women’s Groups. This presents a chance for the Women’s

    Groups which are unaffiliated with political parties to reach

    out to a younger generation. The strength in their number will

    certainly produce a change of climate at least in institutions in

    which they participate.

    However, Suddhabrata, the moment has also come to ask

    for and get GENDER INDIFFERENT LAWS concerning

    sexual violence. Men and boys too get raped by men.

    Secondly, force can applied in various ways. Women (for

    example teachers) can force male students into sexual

    relations, or the same inside familial settings. Restricting

    sexual violence in the Male-Perp Vs Female-Victim or

    Male-Perp Vs Genderfree-Victim kind of symmetries will

    prevent us from perceiving other forms of sexual violence.

    You, indeed mentioned one of the fascist modes of sexual

    violence that the media is refusing to discuss at this moment

    which is sexual violence as the breaking-down of the Other.

  77. Subha permalink
    December 24, 2012 10:48 PM

    Excellent article.. I disagree with a few points though.
    I am completely in support of execution for a charge of rape rather than life imprisonment. Are these prisoners starved to death? And yet there are children begging on the streets and dying of malnutrition. Why should any kind of resources be wasted on rapists? And what is going to be the outcome of all their thoughts in isolation? They are never going to return to society as useful citizens anyway. We have enough and more population to give thought to and deal with, without wasting anything on these worthless scum.

  78. Alhambra permalink
    December 24, 2012 11:24 PM

    Unnecessarily harsh on Hinduism. Rama exiled Sita not because he thought she was impure, but because his subjects said she was impure and hence unfit to be king. Rama then spent his remaining years bereaved and wifeless. As a king he considered his duty to be responsive to his subjects was paramount, more important than his duty to his own family, and his action is something that needs to be respected. He sent away his wife and thereby his progeny, all because of his subjects’ wishes. Which king would do that in today’s world?

    And why haven’t you mentioned the Buddha, who abandoned his wife, kids and subjects and wandered off into the wilderness to become a dreamy ascetic? He was the original Deadbeat Dad, and yet kafila doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in it.

    The Brihadaranyaka upanishad verse condoning marital rape is frankly indefensible, but don’t make it appear like it is some kind of core belief system of the upanishadic tradition or something. It is hardly, if at all, commented upon by 2000 years of commentators. It has been rediscovered and publicized only now by feminist authors.

  79. December 24, 2012 11:56 PM

    Thank you for an enlightening article – well researched, well structured, well written. I hope this letter finds itself into the hearts and minds of all – not just the youth in Delhi, but to every citizen in every corner of our country. Everyone needs to read and consider these words. I certainly will. Thank you again.

  80. Brahm permalink
    December 25, 2012 12:32 AM

    Dear Mr. Sengupta,

    Kudos to you for such a enlightening write up. As an ignorant reader I have a few questions to ask-

    1. Did you forget to mention the names of AISA, SFI etc. with NSUI or ABVP because you don’t consider them the affiliated youth wings of any political party or their existence in general does not matter to you ?

    2. I completely agree with you when you talk about rape being used as weapon by the state to drub fear among the people who are not willing to accept its writ. You correctly gave the example of Kashmir and North East. I’m again confused about the fact that you did not mention the atrocious acts of CPM cadres in West Bengal and Tripura. I understand it would have made your piece unnecessarily lengthy. Here are a couple of links for your further reading-

    http://tehelka.com/and-now-rape-as-political-witch-hunt-the-stories-of-7-women/

    http://www.indianexpress.com/news/valid-ec-card-but-cpm-cadres-don-t-allow-nandigram-rape-victim-to-vote/456150

    3. It seems that you have read Ramayan in great detail and understood it deeply. As you write “Our dominant traditions denigrate a character like Ravana who would not touch the abducted Sita without her consent. At the same time it valorizes the Rama who exiles the same Sita when his advisers suggest that the population is not convinced of her ‘purity’ because she had spent such a long time in the home of her abductor, the same Ravana. Here, Rama is the one who underlies the code of rape. He cannot understand that a man can actually not rape a woman within his ‘power’. His decision to abandon Sita is based on the idea that she cannot not have been in sexual contact with Ravana. Ergo, either she willingly had sex with her captor, or if she did not, she must have been raped. In either case, being thus defiled, and broken, she is no longer fit to be his ‘property’.”

    If you could please tell me which version of Ramayan did you read where Ravan would not touch Sita without her consent and Ram’s decision to abandon Sita would be based on the idea that “she is no longer fit to be her property”. As far as I can understand, Ram defeated Ravan in a war and could have easily brought hundreds of women from Lanka and maintained a ‘harem’ in Ayodhya as any vanquisher who treats women as property would do. Instead he brought Sita back to Ayodhya, gave her the status of his ‘Patrani’ and after abandoning her did not remarry and lived an austere life.

    I have a few more questions but unfortunately do not have the luxury of time to ask them. One more thing, though I agree with the argument that you are trying to make, but your examples to substantiate it are highly biased.

  81. Dinesh permalink
    December 25, 2012 12:41 AM

    Very well written and I appreciate you for mentioning the kushpora case in kashmir and the manipur case. But a little disappointed for saying sharma, sharma, gupta, singh again and again. I dont really understand why, please enlighten me on this.

  82. December 25, 2012 1:06 AM

    Standing ovation – a zillion times!!

    Could we somehow convey this to the dolts sitting in the Parliament?

    And more importantly, how do we make the society introspect on these lines so that not only does it not ostracise the victims, but also behaves “normally” with them? …Would be really interested if I can come to know your views on this through a follow-up comment or through another blog post on the same addressing solutions to this mess. Don’t know for sure, but I suspect reforming the society is going to be a big deal (although necessary if we want to let women live in the country!).

  83. Agrim permalink
    December 25, 2012 2:36 AM

    Firstly, I must congratulate you for writing this incredible piece. I am glad I came across this. Thank you!
    Now, as I had expected, the readers have blamed you for being politically biased as your rant against Sushma Swaraj was a tad bit overstretched but I could understand the underlying tone. As a staunch feminist myself (and yes, I am a man too), it is disturbing when senior leaders come out in the open with such demeaning remarks.

    The points that you have highlighted in the end were interesting but the point that you made : “and recognize that every religion teaches the subjugation and humiliation of women.” is not entirely true. I am not sure if you are aware but Sikhism in no way, has ever preached misogynist ideas and in fact, has always identified women as ‘the brave ones’ and equal to men.
    And the other point that you made about ‘marital rape’ is so pertinent in a country like India and is one issue that has never been addressed by our society.
    Thank you for putting my feelings into words (especially the points you made about capital punishment….I have been making the same arguments for a week now)!

  84. Nishit Ladha permalink
    December 25, 2012 2:45 AM

    Mam, Few days back, I wrote an article that all these protestors are dumb and idiots. and i still call them. Not because that they are not doing right thing, but because they are asking to the wrong people again.

    Another thing, about Sushma’s comment that you wrote – I dont kno what made you say that. Her comment was very valid. And if you want to experience that, try feeding yourself for a day through pipe. Sushma said that because the girl cannot have regular food again in her life. Isn’t that a suffering for her. She has been braving it and may god bless her with health back to normal, but yes, her condition is very critical and worse then death at this juncture.

    I will call you also a hypocrite, who suddenly came out to write ablog after the 23 year old suffered. your city was practically a hell for women for so long. Where have you all been. For consecutive elections who voted a spineless leader who actually achieved nothing for Delhi. but who cares and even you will forget this incident after a couple of days.

    Stop writing provoking stupid blogs, instead come on field and do something valuable. provide a solution. Replace your leader who put every citizens security and safety as the prime agenda in his manifest and ensure that he keeps them, else kick his butt too. yes, kick hundreds of such butts till you get that right noble leader.

    I feel ashamed of this nation and all the people like you who try to target a party who actually uplifted the life of women. want to see the progress, check BJP rule in Rajasthan in 1999. You are just an hypocrite, trying to cover up the ass of assholes by targetting the shoulders of BJP. what happened in Manipur was with Assam Rifle, and army does not comes under the juridiction of any state. Why not the Central government, then Congress (2004) did anything about it.

    Why after the Guwahati incident, the CM (again a Congress leader) did not do anything. What happened after the recent riot in assam, do you know how many girls and women were treated fairly. I am sure your Madamji knows, because i never saw you mentioning about them in any of the comment.

    You are not just an idiot, but one big loser, hiding behind your blogs trying to target the Hindutva. if you dare, meet me in India sometime, to talk face to face.

    • December 25, 2012 2:52 PM

      You are talking like a goonda (sorry, RSS cadre). Your last para proved the author was right all along.

      • Nishit Ladha permalink
        December 26, 2012 4:27 PM

        How much do you know about RSS. You can call me Honda or any cadre, but Ii am not someone who just believe on any narration just because its well written. I am a Hindu and a proud Hindu and I hate when a society blames a religion or surname for rapes or atrocities on women. I believe that’s an easiest excuse to hide the bad deed by some males of our society. A sexual harasser is a criminal male or female. He is not a rapidly because he belongs to a religion. Actually no religion preach that. Rather then trying to tackle the problem of women insecurities and threats to them the author focus on communal lines and politics . You all are bigger Honda then me that way

        • nilabja permalink
          December 27, 2012 11:53 AM

          I dont think the author does that though he banters too much on the political part. One has to agree that people and especially public ones cutting across party and religion need to change their mindsets nurtured on feudal lines, we have come a long way after that. ‘A human being man or woman is much more than producing children’. People in all walks of life including many of our own ministers and ex ministers do live productive lives being single or with no children. What the lady in high place said was a reflection of her mindset and she would do better for herself to realize her outdatedness and correct herself.

  85. Visitor again permalink
    December 25, 2012 8:58 AM

    Dear Shuddha, your response to shivam and visitor again’s comments proves that your intellectual brain has taken over your ability to empathize — even though, all your attempt, ironically, is to empathize, to put yourself in the shoes of women. However, in this case, you are too attached to your biased comprehension. Empathy is never selective. Best wishes.

  86. Chakrabarti permalink
    December 25, 2012 9:43 AM

    You had to ruin it by making it political didnt you :) ?

    This article had be so gripped and inspired ; all until it started to become all about BJP and Sushma Swaraj.
    There are SO many ways the govt could have just stepped out and spoken to the people. Just stepped out, its not like they were defending anyone (or were they?)
    You had to leave ALLLLLLLL that and make it about BJP. I am no BJP Fan – they are one unholy mess. I agree BJP now looks like a pack of monkeys all heading towards different directions, but I dont see potential in them to be the nefarious, unpatriotic and criminal minded creeps our monarchy seems to be today in India.
    Face it, Sushma Swaraj is a bafoon as far as politics is concerned yet she is light-years away from the potential harm that can be inflicted on people. If I didnt know better, I’d say you were deliberately using this to maim her image (not that she had one nevertheless) :)

    Rahul G’dhi didnt open his mouth because he has a couple of rape-charges to his credit. Any punishment laid out today would mean tomorrow his ass will be on fire (if it ever can). We are being ruled and governed by rapists. Yatha raja thatha praja.
    I;d rather have an old hag blabber innocuous nonsense in the parliament than watch a sane guilty man who’s getting away with the same crime he has a record for.

    Lets leave the clowns out of this mess and deal with the real criminals shall we?

  87. ringo_star permalink
    December 25, 2012 11:54 AM

    well intentioned, but too long. I don’t think you reached your target audience because most would have stopped reading after 4-5 paras. you should break down the post into multiple parts to make your voice heard.

  88. Richa permalink
    December 25, 2012 1:04 PM

    Beautiful,passionate article.I’ve always hailed the questioning of the socio-political climate that allows an act like rape to exist,the questioning of the very ‘patriarchy’ that you speak of.I agree completely that we need to look into our rituals and our very dissolved,subconscious ways of thinking to find the roots of misogyny,eve teasing and rape.
    Are rituals like KarvaChauth ,Kanyadaan etc exemplars of an equal society?No they are not.Everywhere you go,there are miniscule indicators of the power men hold above women,and of the status quo that women condone….We need to identify and patiently overturn these little inequalities,in order to destroy the base on which the larger ones occur.

    I too believed for many years that rape is not a sex crime,it is only a crime of power,intended to humiliate and ‘defile’ another human being.But something about statistics worldwide and a gut felt understanding of the male of species prompts me to research and think of a broader set of reasons for which rape occurs in society:

    a)It is a power crime,where men of a perceived higher order seek to subjugate a woman in order to publicly humiliate her/show her her place when she seeks an equal platform/voices her dissent against their wishes/to humiliate her husband/father who they perceive as the ‘owner’ of her sexuality and thereby her person as well.

    b)It is a sex crime,where an aroused man,incapable of normal social interaction with a woman/maladjusted to the ways of society wherein a womans’consent must be asked and achieved seeks to reassert his fragile ‘masculinity’.

    It is a sex crime,where an aroused man,who is completely socially capable and aware of the norms of society,sees an opportunity for rape,and takes his chance.

    The latter 2 (b) occur because the rapist

    1)does not think of the feelings/will of the victim as something important to be considered at all,much like a non vegetarian does not consider the will of an animal before his desire for its meat.It is a basic ‘dehumanisation’ of women,that all human beings are capable of.The Nazis dehumanised Jews,which is why they were able to treat them so badly.The European Colonizers dehumanised Native Americans,which is why they were able to wipe them out.Zamindars and upper castes dehumanise Dalits,which is why they are able to treat them badly.
    In most middle class homes,there is a sort of ‘subhumanisation’ of the household help,which is why they have separate entrances,toilets,plates,glasses and water.

    and because 2)thinks they can get away with it.Besides seeing opportunity to rape,the rapist also sees a poor girl/with no male guardian etc who would seek justice/revenge,and sees opportunity for no repercussion.It is our abysmal judicial system and societal attitude towards rape (as a bad thing that happened to a bad girl and should be hidden away as much as possible) which creates this no repercussion climate.

    To sum up these,the rapist(not including murderers and serial rapists)
    is not any man with an opportunity/any man whose ego has been insulted but a

    1)misogynistic man whose ego has been insulted in an acquiescent socio-political climate

    2)a maladjusted man with a masculinity complex(also furthered by same society) with an opportunity

    3)a perfectly psychologically normal man with an opportunity who has been conditioned(by the same society) to think of a woman as subhuman in that her feelings/consent are secondary to his carnal pleasure.

    In all 3 we see that societal conditioning is a necessary precursor.So is opportunity.(In case 1,the acquiescent socio political climate where the perpetrator,because of his perceived power over the society fears no repercussions is the opportunity).

    Therefore working towards a greater equalisation/humanisation of women in society and also increasing the threat of repercussions for rape/psychological sensitisation of society towards womens’choices,and the difference between rape and sex should help us see a better,freer,more equal society emerge.

  89. December 25, 2012 1:10 PM

    @Shuddhabrata Sengupta

    Thanks a lot. Your lucid explanation of the way comments are moderated on various Kafila blogs is quite useful. It explains why I fail to see my comments on the board unless it supports the blogger’s view. Your tolerance for dissenting voices on your blog is highly appreciated. At the least, it saves the discourse from being a mutual appreciation society.
    More power to your pen.

  90. ankita_crafty permalink
    December 25, 2012 1:12 PM

    Unfortunately the subjugation and dismemberment of a female’s sexual identity begins at home itself. It is enshrined, and as mentioned by you lauded in our scriptures. The fundamental flaw is in the understanding that a woman’s body is bred to bear, the mental and the physical. Her ability of produce the miracle of life places her at the pinnacle of existence, which is a raging threat to a man’s claim to social rule. That galvanizes the cultural agenda, that having being blessed with all that power, she cannot be allowed to rise any further lest it corrupts her and minimalizes the dominant male value system. No law, system or government can alter this, because we are by products of this belief. Unless we begin to enforce the strength in respect and equality at the domestic level, the trickle-down effect will touch only a shallow portion of the society prone to rapid breakdown .

  91. david permalink
    December 25, 2012 1:33 PM

    Pls why no one is talking about the state sponsored mass rapes of tamil women in sri lanka..it was fully supported by the indian government.espcially sonia n rahul gandhi

  92. Nilabja permalink
    December 25, 2012 10:22 PM

    Second time in the day I heard/read (once on the net) that the poor girl may not lead a normal ‘married’ life. I do not know if there is any medical basis for this supposition and sympathy but perhaps this overarching societal attitude on marriage or recognition from men as sexual partners underpins the comment, albeit in good faith, of our parliamentarian and perhaps also provides motivation to rapists. Women’s only worth in living is being able to get men’s adoration, so destroy it. A rape does not and should not change a victim’s life (although it is invariably associated with other violence that does) but the possibility of rape and even molestation determines women’s social life like few things do (do not go there, no need to have an economic life, do not stay out late, never mind if the work demands it, your male colleagues will do it and get the promotion, wear this kind of dress and not that) and we look forward to see the true life that our women can live one day. Best wishes and thanks to our fighter friends.

  93. Kausar Karim permalink
    December 26, 2012 4:22 AM

    A great very creative awakening to the youths of India… But as u speak of Patriarchal upbringing .. How do you change a youths MINDSET.. I am a 1960’s born and was always under a PATRIARCH .. A father, brother, uncle, grandfather,cousin,son,husband,brother in law, father in law …and was raised to not rise above them and their rules.. Had this MINDSET ever changed even after migrating to USA and its 18 yrs for me here in America… Being educated very well …also did not alter anything and was taking order from guess who???? Earning more than a spouse.. Paying more bills, running the house..did it change NO??? But like u say we all need to awaken at some point of life to demand our rights… That’s what I did.. When there is a stage in your life that says.. enough is enough!!!! Becomes a turning point.. Today I am a person in charge of my life, my emotions , feelings and my BODY!!!!!!! I make my own decisions, take risks, good / bad choices are done by ME!!! And I share the roof with my hubby not as a SUBORDINATE BUT AN EQUAL… U accept this EQUALISM …you stay with me if not that is the DOOR… Staying and leaving is your CHOICE…

  94. Kumar permalink
    December 26, 2012 1:17 PM

    The article is well written, though with some bias The comments and analysis by so many makes it really interesting, meaningful, comprehensive and worthwhile.

  95. RGV Venkat permalink
    December 26, 2012 3:39 PM

    hi,

    i think its a extremely unidimensional article. And hence it simplifies everything and tailor makes arguments to suit the author’s belief. Firstly, Every religion is patriarchal the greens are no more gender sensitive neither are the whites. ever since land rights begun in history and the concept of inheritance came into being women rights have been suppressed and a patriarchal society has been adopted since across religions and borders and so to limit this to hinduism and portray it as only what ram did to sita etc is a very one slice outlook.

    Secondly and more importantly the take on rape and patriarchal society and person feeling lost i.e Sushma’s comment and then to say had a soldier lost its leg is again absurd simplification. Yes Sushma’s comment definitely comes from the patriarchal bent … however it cannot be equated to all who feel that the woman has lost too much. Because when a person is sexually violated (this is true even for American male prison inmates who have been raped you can read their interviews) the person does feel like their life is ruined, this doesn’t necessarily gain from the whole all marriage prospect lost angle as explained by you… it is from the fact that against your will your very body which is the most ur’s of anything has been violated and you couldn’t defend it. One feels a sense of loss when one’s belongings are lost/burnt, same is for a car or money or books however when one’s own body is taken and used by another it leaves the victim with an extremely deep sense of loss… now people who lose limbs hands legs are also known to feel this way but the feeling is less as there has been a loss of limb but not a loss of control… if u get what i am painfully trying to explain. Further the soldier example just doesn’t hold good because there is a sense of sacrifice and bravery attached to the soldier as he was there courting this danger which is not the same as this case….

    Further, I do not see how the attack on the BJP is any way valid its wary smartly used to direct one to the other….lets not forget godhra was an issue of rioting which started after 88 hindus were burnt alive. this fact is quite comfortably almost always forgotten… and coming to the sexual violence or the alleged sexual violence the apex court in the country is personally looking into the matter now to say u know better is really funny… i mean i can understand political cover ups in some situations which happen in remote parts of the country… but if u think u know better than the apex courts good luck… as of now no cases have been proven and in many there has been evidence found of miss teesta’s masala mix…. so until the top court finds the guilty guess you should reserve ur judgements…and yeah riots have happened in every city town thaluka of this country undery every government regime possible… so its just a lame attempt to drag the party into it… surprisingly u dont have much to say on sheila dixit who has been in power in delhi for more than 15 years… now and has seen delhi top the charts as a rape capital year after year and done nothing about it… so cant deny how it underlines a deep pro congress sentiment….

  96. Sonal Beri permalink
    December 26, 2012 7:24 PM

    Thoughts on the events unfurling in Delhi (…I speak this from personal narratives…)

    To borrow an analogy from Amitav Ghosh’s writings:
    This event is like a wind that blows ripples on a waters surface. The river lies beneath unseen and unheard.

    In this case, the river is analogous of the system that produces such a heinous crime. This is not a fight between “Us” and “Them”, because the “Them” is the “Us”. The establishment that we are fighting against is none other than our own families…..our fathers, brothers, husbands, mothers, aunts, uncles, schooling, upbringing, the patriarchy that entitles men over women, that tells a women never to say ‘no’, that places a women as a burden right at birth, that will tell you that you can never be better than your father, brother, husband no matter what, that your life is secondary.
    And worst of all, our mothers are a part of this….they have had to become the system themselves to claim a sense of power and security in their diminished existence. It is a classic case where the oppressed becomes the oppressor (active or passive).
    No Indian woman will have to look too far to relate to this….sexual assault, emotional, psychological, physical abuse is all too common.
    In the caste system of India, there is a fifth tier, below that of the untouchables – occupied by the woman.
    And this in a culture that celebrates the Mother Goddess.

    I think about this often, and I believe, that if each one of us were to fight for our freedom, dignity and right to live, we would be handing over a much different society to our sons and daughters. We do not need to become social activists to bring about a change. But it is important to fight your own fight. I had the life and education I have had because there were men & women before me who fought for it. I need to do my part. It is my responsibility to not take this freedom for granted and to protect it.

    I inquired of my ‘progressive thinking liberated male/female acquaintances’ in India if any were out on the street – One – a friend from New York who happened to be traveling to Delhi.
    I inquired of my 150 people family in Delhi, who otherwise at the drop of a hat would organize political rallies, dinners etc, if anyone were out on the street protesting – None

    The river runs deep.
    ….

  97. December 26, 2012 7:40 PM

    @kumud

    Good that you reminded us of Sanjay and Geeta Chopra.
    Can you or somebody throw some light on the caste identity of Billa and Ranga.
    It appears to be felt in certain sections of progressive liberal intelligentsia that any discussion on rape crime and the psychology behind it is incomplete without a reference to the caste/religion of the perpetrators. It might be helpful. Once we identify the caste group that produces greatest number of compulsive rapists, we can go ahead with devising a strategy that can keep their testosterone at a level acceptable to all concerned, myopic or otherwise.

  98. JGN permalink
    December 26, 2012 8:01 PM

    @ Shuddhabrata Sengupta/Sohail Hashmi,
    >>>>>>The Thakur Sharma Sharma Singh refrain underlines the absence of the usual regional, and criminal elements and points to the so called “main stream” being at the helm of this despicable act as well. Brilliant !!>>>>do you think crimes are committed only by the “main stream”? Then pl read this report and see the names of three persons involved in the same: “Women raped thrice in Mumbai in a day” http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-12-23/mumbai/35982372_1_naushad-police-station-lodge-staff
    Can’t we at least look at crimes without the region/religion bias?

  99. SMK permalink
    December 27, 2012 12:10 AM

    Dear Shuddhabrata,

    Your essay has been deeply thought provoking and inspiring. I have some burning questions, however, which I feel unable to answer for myself and was hoping you could make an attempt — your entreatment to ‘think about patriarchy together’ has been comforting.

    Some commentators have already made a few remarks about the ‘middle-class’ character of the ‘movement’. I don’t wish to reproduce the simplistic manner in which they have dismissed the movement in these terms. My anxieties however, are around the manner in which the movement has naturalised the idea of an untrammelled and unmediated patriarchy: as if there is a patriarchy that is just always out there doing its work and requires nobody to refurbish it in anyway (a double silence: the perpetrator of violence is made invisible and the woman’s quotidian militancy is silenced). In making patriarchy such a general organising principle of our social life, are we blinding ourselves to the specific operation(s) of an ideology that is always conscious and systematic and knows exactly what there is to gain by oppressing women? To me, this natural understanding of patriarchy can be generalised only if we regard the ‘family’ as the primary unit of modern social/democratic life — a notion of the ‘family’ that, forgive me for saying so, is liberal and bourgeois; a notion, which the state has accepted and perpetuated given its convenience for the reproduction of the conditions of production.

    Men and women workers who are immigrants to Delhi and other urban settings often enter into alliances — as lovers. While not ‘technically married’ the state insists on labelling such alliances ‘temporary marriage,’ i.e., if the coupling is concrete, if not the woman may as well be labelled a prostitute. Now from a courtroom perspective, rape for someone labelled in a ‘temporary marriage’ or ‘prostitute,’ as you can probably imagine constitutes a wholly different ball game: rape does not even exist for these groups. Then again, as so many people have shown, marital rape is also a very sticky subject in the courtroom. So the only kind of rape that is legitimate then is if one of these workers rapes a woman from a higher class? i.e., if the sacred zone of the household has been penetrated. What I’m trying to get at is: is there only one ‘rape culture’ rampant in India; from another related perspective is there only one all-encompassing patriarchy that takes its cue from the household/property? Is there not a need to contextualise patriarchy to see it function — rather than perpetuate a notion of it from our own metropolitan cultural location? I say this because one of the main demands of this protest is to improve law and order and increase police surveillance. Who is going to be policed more? I have a feeling it is the immigrant working classes for whom the family is anyways a fluid institution — at least more fluid than ours. Whose to say that theirs is not a more egalitarian life for both genders? Perhaps it was before we landed up with our limited familial, monogamous systems of cognition like our bhadralok forefathers. I don’t wish to glorify a culture I myself do not belong too — but the only way in which we can discount a more egalitarian gendered life is by saying “Oh, if this could have happened to a middle class urbane girl imagine what the other classes are witness too. And in those ‘households’ it remains hidden and never comes out into the open.” — 1) In the absence of any kind of research (I don’t mean just a statistical reading of court cases — since I agree, that is probably redundant) how can we be so sure that a more fluid family life (which, constitutes at least a section of urban people) doesn’t lead to fewer rape incidents? 2) How can we be so sure that we are not reproducing the very same patriarchal systems of oppressions that we are opposing?

    • December 28, 2012 6:07 PM

      Dear SMK,
      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I share your concerns. And I do not think that the fight against patriarchy will be successful if we see it as one monolithic entity. Of course, there is a concerted attempt to channelize the anger at the gang-rape in the direction of a sinister class-hatred – espeically towards the migrant poor. I am not one of those who is automatically sympathetic to demands to improve ‘law and order’. I do not think more police on the streets is going to make the city safer. Given the nature of our policing and police culture, it may even make the city more unsafe for women in certain respects. Nor is surveillance the main issue. (Though I think surveillance cameras in police stations is not necessarily a bad idea, if they can be made to work). And I am in total agreement with your opinion (if I have understood it correctly) that a more fluid arrangemnt of ‘family’, or conjugal life, or relationships, than the one afforded by the monogamous nuclear family may actually be more egalitarian. I don’t think it is a necessary for us to get into ‘normative’ or prescriptive terrain about what kind of conjugal relationship (of what kind of stability and constellation of sexes and roles) makes for more or less equal gender relations in the private sphere. But this does not mean that I accept or endorse the default naturalization of the heterosexist, monogamous, nuclear family.e Far from it. And yes, I do agree that unless there is choice, fluidity and a great deal of play, and no moral judgements about how people choose to define themselves and their personal lives, including the choice of the nature and number of their intimate relationships, there can be very little movement forward to a social order where rape becomes an archaic but dead enigma. I hope you get my drift. best, Shuddha

  100. December 27, 2012 12:12 AM

    Hi
    While i agree with almost everything that you have said, about the need for policy and mindset change, about the need to question the hundreds of cases where people have blamed the victim and hidden the criminal…

    But there is one thing i would like to clarify in your article.. our culture does NOT support rape or the ‘use’ of women..

    that shloka from the Brhadarnayaka upanishad is actually just a part- extract.. the actual paragraph of that shloka ends with a ‘such a man obtains ‘apyash’ i.e. such a man is vilified by society.,… that entire chapter of the upanishad is as about duty to the family and duty to have a child.. it also contains a rather harsh criticism of marital rape coz it says that the man has a duty towards his family and one who forces or bribes his wife into sex does society a disservice… I would suggest that you look at that extract in the context of the entire paragraph.. (and yes i actually do have both the original sanskrit, and the translated version of the Upanishad in my house and am not quoting from a secondary text)

    and while i agree that the ‘popular’ version of the ramayana has rama banishing Sita, i must remind you that it is not the only version of the story..
    be that as it may… modern society is full of examples where people have misread or deliberately misinterpreted history and defined ‘culture’ to suit their own twisted goals..
    lets not blame the past for present mistakes.. what society needs today is to take a good, hard look at itself and realise that you cannot keep blaming historical wrongs to justify present wrongdoing..
    The mindset of both men and women in this society needs to change.. WE need to stop accepting gendered norms and fight for a world where our gender or caste or economic background is not the sole basis of our identity.

  101. December 27, 2012 7:47 AM

    I feel for the people of india. Im a lifeguard in the summer, and i have had the utmost pleasure of getting to know the people of india descent. You r truly very,very nice people, wanting the same thing as americans. This was a terrible thing to happen. You all should feel proud of your response to this dispicible act. I know you are such a couragous people, and you will change your country for the good of all. I so very much respect the people of this nation.
    Good luck,
    We are with you

  102. zereh permalink
    December 27, 2012 3:14 PM

    Thank you for this post which covered all angles, emotional, political, psychological, logical, traditional and religious – yes my initial response to such a dastardly act was for capital punishment on fast -track mode, also a law /bill to that effect. But ultimately its the thought process that needs to change, the traditions that need to be challenged – by women and MEN alike. Personally, i have maintained this order of thinking in my home with my son and daughter.

  103. December 27, 2012 4:05 PM

    Reblogged this on Ketan Singh's Blog.

  104. December 27, 2012 11:08 PM

    It’s all because if how males are treated at the root level, the family level. Even after observing the most shameful and henious acts, the majority of Indian families still give importance to males. Everything related to male relations is important. Think about it, when a girl is not respected and given equality in the family where she is born, how can she get the same from outsiders?? The change has to come from the root level. And it’s very sad that in most of the cases this discrimination is done by women themselves in their families. It’s a cycle – when a girl is born, she is never given the importance or equality as male counterparts and she is always taught that she is a guest in that family and her real family is actually the family where she will get married. The one thing that they forget is how can they expect outsiders to give her equality when they themselves cannot do so..?? Obviously then this girl will go to her husband’s house and by hook or crook starts demeaning the women of that family to show that she also has authority.. And in the name of customs and traditions this society easily discriminates the male and female counterparts.. That’s the problem! If we can fix this problem at the root level and teach our children to respect all the family members irrespective of their gender.. slowly it will escalate to society level, nation level and global level.. Let’s hope people realize the root cause of atrocities that are happening to women and work towards getting rid of it.

  105. Pyoli permalink
    December 28, 2012 2:09 AM

    Love every bit of your article apart from the line where you say “Patriarchy is what makes you ashamed, not delighted when you have a period” Patriarchy of course, makes us feel that a menstruating body is ‘polluted’ and hence something to be ashamed of but do,I as a feminist have to be DELIGHTED when I get my period? I remember reading Kamla Bhasin’s articles and songs about how women should celebrate their menstrual periods. As a 10 year old with severe stomach cramps due to this monthly inconvenience I never asked for, I failed to identify with those words. So might I suggest that a woman unashamed of her periods can also feel irritated/angry/ambivalent towards it?

    • Doubting Thomas permalink
      December 29, 2012 3:40 AM

      Dear ladies, On dealing with your periods in interaction with others:

      Men dont know anything about periods – so if men ask you, tell them the undisputed fact: Without your mother’s periods, dude, you wouldnt be here at all ! And without your wife’s periods you wont have any kids to leave behind property to when you die, or be a proud father proving your “capacity”. So, everyone better start respecting women’s periods, dude.

      Amongst yourselves (women) anything goes – its your body, your business, your headache or whatever. Of course, without periods, you too wouldnt be around, so it is a bit like the daily pressure you feel for peeing or excreting – without that function ….. you get where I am going.

      What you should NOT do is accept those sick ads on TV that show you little girls all confused / worried / ashamed about your periods. That makes us men feel positively superior and powerful because we dont have anything so bad to worry about down there.

      But if a man really pisses you off about periods, ask him how he feels about cleaning up after his wet dreams. He should mostly shut up quickly (or it might escalate into a dirty fight, be careful.)
      Men have burdens too down there, but women dont like to talk dirty, and that goes to your disadvantage.

    • December 31, 2012 3:59 PM

      Of course we have a right to feel irritated, angry, ambivalent, nervous, anxious, impatient or delighted or proud, in our bodies. Whatever shape or form they may be, regardless of whether we are male or female. But ashamed, never.

  106. Chandra permalink
    December 28, 2012 5:39 AM

    The writer has an unique characteristic. Every time there is an anti-congress movement, he targets the opposition. First it was Anna and now Sushma Swaraj. I see no mention of Sonia, MMS or Sheila in this article. Unless you are a born leftie, you cant sustain a neutral interest in what may even be a sensible article. I understand it is his personal opinion but the joy of reading would be unlimited if the bias was not so evident. Here I refer to Paul Krugman, a liberal to the core and as much philosophical disagreement you may have with him, you will have to admit at the end of his articles that the arguments have been so well made it is often almost impossible to dispute it. But then he is a nobel prize winner, blessed with more than the average IQ

    • Nishit Ladha permalink
      December 28, 2012 6:50 AM

      I second your thought completely. And that is why I always said that this article is just bogus and an attempt by the author to utilize the opportunity to vent out his frustration against BJP without providing any substantial idea for improving the security of the women in our nation.

      • Doubting Thomas permalink
        December 29, 2012 3:44 AM

        So out of all the awesome stuff he wrote, you concentrate on Cong vs BJP?
        And you are a lady!
        This is the effect of “us-vs-them” – destroys an enlightened discussion.
        Cant you just ignore parts of the post and concentrate on what’s important?

  107. December 28, 2012 6:08 AM

    Reblogged this on Forty Two and commented:
    Agreeing with this on most points.

  108. petervas permalink
    December 29, 2012 9:23 AM

    there is a reference to a passage in the Bradaranyaka Upanishad that the author references and makes the following disturbing inference:

    “Marital rape is the original, scripturally sanctioned template on which all rape is founded.”

    if we were to lead lives strictly on the basis of what is written in any holy text, not just hinduism, we will run aground as a morally bankrupt society.

    the quran and the bible are riddled with passages written for a society far removed from ours. they offered at one time, both a spiritual guide and a constitution for living, however primordial it might appear to be.

    to apply them verbatim would not only be anachronistic to modern life but deviously irreversible as it is misconstrued a scripturally sanctioned behavior.

    it’s culture that is our DNA and not religion. our culture of ordering our lives around what is “honorable” versus what is “dishonorable” to family, needs to be governed by law and not by scripture. we are already doing it and hence there is no cause for worry.

    coming back to the issue of marital rape, the reference to the upanishad is interesting and merits an assessment beyond the scriptures. my interpretation is that the concept of divorce is fairly modern. the exit clause never existed. “domestic abuse” is a recent addition to our vocabulary.

    hence, what happens within the four walls of married life is left untouched by law until it leads to loss of life. this absolutely must change. the laws around domestic abuse needs to be strengthened as well.

    because rape, more often than not, is about power and dominion.

    religion offers rewards and punishments mostly in the after-life. the law of the land, fast-tracks this considerably. a cultural correction in possible by stricter laws being promulgated and executed.

    if the upanishad actually sanctions marital rape, every rapist in india would have quoted it by now. it would then become an irreversible and non-negotiable act as sanctioned by the scripture. it is not. hence quoting it to justify our atavistic and regressive gene is detrimental to the current argument.

    http://tinyurl.com/ab6jz49

  109. mayank permalink
    December 31, 2012 11:56 AM

    I am proud of Delhi. During a protest at Jantar Mantar, the protestors gheraoed the CM and asked her to return. This fearlessness & activist spirit isnt present anywhere in other so called “safe” cities. Delhi has truly led from the front again. Kudos & Respect !

  110. January 2, 2013 2:32 PM

    Rape is terrorism against women. And this terrorism must stop. To do so, it is important to understand the thought-process which leads to rape. This article provides good examples of a culture which seems to cherish the idea of rape!

    A few more such answers (in the form of sketches) as to why rape is so common in India can be found at the following website:

    http://rohitiswrite.weebly.com/terrorism-against-women-in-india.html

    http://rohitiswrite.weebly.com/terrorism-against-women-in-india—ii.html

  111. Pratishtha permalink
    January 9, 2013 1:42 PM

    A national NGO called SaveLIFE Foundation has taken up this issue in the Supreme Court of India to provide protection to Good Samaritans who want to and do help injured persons. They are also training the public on how to help injured victims.You can follow them on facebook.com/savelifefoundation & twitter.com/savelifeindia.

  112. Alhambra permalink
    January 18, 2013 11:24 AM

    Oh and BTW news reports indicate the victim’s last name was Pandey. So this writer can stop gleefully repeating the caste last names of the perpetrators and deriving some strange pleasure from fingering all hindu upper castes without actually saying the words. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/father-names-rape-victim-as-jyoti-singh-pandey-to-hearten-others/story-e6frg6so-1226548496546

    • September 6, 2013 9:11 PM

      The last name cannot be both Singh and Pandey – this fraudulent name first appeared in a British tabloid, Daily Mail(unless the woman was a Singh married to a Pandey, and had taken on a hyphenated last name, to reflect the reality of an inter-caste marriage, but the young woman was not married at all) and I am surprised that no one caught on to the fact that it was the handiwork of a reporter who was completely unaware of the ground realities of how caste, for instance, inflects names.

  113. vishvas permalink
    January 28, 2013 1:57 PM

    Author seems to take pleasure in saying the last names of the criminals (Sharma, Sharma, Thakur, Gupta and Singh). In the same spirit, here are the last names of the victims of their abuse: Singh Pandey and Pandey.

    ===
    Regarding Brhadarankya Upanishad quote [0] authorizing a man intent on progeny to beat his wife:

    Some argue that this section is actually suggesting a love fight with yaShTi (stick, twig or even a thread) and pANi with mock anger – a la kAmasUtra, even if that is what it appears to “those who have only thought of missionary position and the labor as punishment to women by an Angry Old God”.

    Even if this translation correctly communicates the scripture’s intent , there exists a huge mass of other scriptures [1] (which also happen to be from later times) which abhor domestic abuse – just like opposite recommendations in yogasUtra and haTha-yoga-pradIpika about abstinence. Hence, it is only the hindu of lowest character who uses this as a crutch to support his behavior.

    Because this is the case, this defect of the upanishad should be acknowledged and rejected – especially in today’s context when everyone is free to read and interpret it without character-based filtering by a guru. Unlike in Islam, doing this does not invite bounties for one’s head – instead it is appreciated and admired.

    [0]: The translation in http://books.google.co.in/books?id=f9-2jV7sRuEC&pg=PA88&lpg=PA88&dq=Surely,+a+woman+who+has+changed+her+clothes&source=bl&ots=6FZJO6_ARk&sig=RQ7S2TjF2KafrJ9_FzJwu0ZfJXw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=HEMDUc37HMOGrAextoGoAw&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Surely%2C%20a%20woman%20who%20has%20changed%20her%20clothes&f=false says: “..surely a woman who has changed her clothes at the end of her menstrual period is the most auspicious of women. When she has changed her clothes at the end of her menstrual period, therefore one should approach that splendid woman and invite her to have sex. Should she refuse to consent, he should bribe her, if she still still refuses, he should beat her with a stick or with his fists and overpower her, saying – ‘I take away the splendour from you with my virility and splendor’.

    [1]: For example, kaama-sutra, that famous hindu text dealing, in part, with sex. Also, Manusmriti clearly says ‘you can not control your woman by force or even house arrest, so rather than trying to control her, respect her, please her, take care of her.”

  114. Parixit permalink
    September 5, 2013 11:42 PM

    Kudos Sir.

    This is the single most enlightening piece I have ever read online on crimes committed due to patriarchy – and rape isn’t the only one. Super kudos for the warning to stay away from conservatives who are plotting a coup come election time in 2014 and hence making an issue out of Delhi rape. Of course they agree with the rapists that every woman is at least one man’s property, to deal with in any way he feels right.

    Comments to this post are equally enlightening. Not all who loved the piece are women, but practically all women have loved it. Tells me a thing or two about the true worth of your article.

    Those who haven’t liked it have overtly or covertly accused you of having a ‘hidden’ agenda by which we read – paid media, Congress stooge or Anti-BJP or anarchist or whatever other choice words Sanghis have in reserve for all who agree with you. It is disturbing that while your article deals with facts and merits and logical conclusions, every argument in support of Sushma Swaraj whom you’ve lambasted has only emotional appeal and none of the hard rational criteria apply to it.

    I hope 2014 is a year in which both the incumbent Congress and the hopeful BJP with tainted CM of Gujarat at the helm are taught a never before lesson by the Indian voters. However, I am growing in my cynicism that Indian voter only wants a superficial fix for all ailments that plague the country.

    I am 32 years old and am fairly close in age to the 12,000 strong group that marched on Raisina Hill. And I am some times shattered by how deeply conservative the youth of India is. It is all FOR patriarchy it seems to me.

    I am glad your article throws so much light on this issue. The youth need to hear voices that are sane and balanced and more importantly speak facts, merits and logic.

    Thanks again.

    Best,

Trackbacks

  1. Wanton soup for the Indian Rapist « urban bourbon
  2. Brutality, Anger and the Death Penalty | donchi kubeba
  3. Shinde speak shows all that is wrong with the government « teekhapan
  4. On the #Delhiprotests, Social Change and Public Innovation |
  5. Shinde-speak shows all that is wrong with government | Firstpost
  6. In response to Rape | Braless Studio
  7. Why all of us (men) may be rapists « ZINDAGI
  8. ET79 :: Yet another shame :: Girl allegedly sexually assaulted in Jammu « Ek Tamacha
  9. Outraged?? Lets channelise it for a better India | Janki Pandya
  10. Armed Forces Special Powers Act provides impunity for rape: Warisha Farasat « Kafila
  11. Not your maa-behen: A nation of victims | ULTRA VIOLET
  12. What do dented-painted women and disco-going protesters understand about a rape victim’s loss of honor? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker
  13. Bakht Arif, from Pakistan, sings Zinda Lash for Patronizing Indian Politicians (No, Don’t Listen to Honey Singh) « Kafila
  14. Arundhati Roy and Her Comment on the Indian Rape Culture | The Atheist Indian
  15. To the Young Women and Men of Delhi: Thinking about Rape from India Gate | Forum to Engage Men- FEM
  16. post 30: Turning theTitanic around | Jaajaabor
  17. Looking at the mirror « I Am A Voice
  18. Arise Goddess Kali | DrSapna
  19. How Delhi police assaulted my daughter on 25 December: Usha Saxena « Kafila
  20. A Day at Raisina Hill: Nilanjana Roy « Kafila
  21. How the God of Death Changed His Mind: Images from the Protest Against Rape at Jantar Mantar « Kafila
  22. New year, old thoughts « Desi Daaru
  23. ET79 :: Yet another shame :: Girl allegedly sexually assaulted in Jammu | Ek Tamacha
  24. The Silent Feminism | FWSA Blog
  25. FWSA Blog
  26. The Silent Feminism | The FWSA Blog
  27. It’s not about Delhi anymore… « Tranquil Chaos
  28. An Obedient Father by Akhil Sharma « Rafferty's Rules
  29. 22 Years after Kunan and Poshpora, Rethinking Kashmir: Abhijit Dutta « Kafila
  30. On Rapes and the Rapist: Introspection of an Indian Man | Traces
  31. Can sexual violence be objectively represented in the media? Here is my take on the matter. | Weak Depositions

We look forward to your comments. Comments are subject to moderation as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56,746 other followers

%d bloggers like this: