Cry, the beloved country

The countenance of truth in the times that we live, more often than not, is abhorrent. However small it may be, sections of the Indian male population still remain chauvinistic. The mortal remains of the last martyr of this paradox were consumed by flames Sunday morning soon after sun rise. Earlier at 3:30 AM when the Air India special flight taxied down the tarmac at Indira Gandhi International Airport in heavy fog carrying the body of the hapless young woman accompanied by her parents, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party president Sonia Gandhi waited in a sheltered receiving quarter slightly shivering in the cold.

On the fateful night of December 16, the 23-year old physiotherapy student and her male companion were returning home from watching ‘Life of Pi’ in a mall when she was subjected to an hour long brutal gang rape and assault by 6 men in a moving bus. In Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital her condition turned worse and as a result the Indian government air lifted her to Mount Elizabeth hospital, a multi-organ transplant facility in Singapore where she succumbed to internal injuries after putting up a brave fight for two weeks.

In their Last Post Mount Elizabeth hospital authorities said: “We are humbled by the privilege of being tasked to take care of her in her final struggle. We share the huge sadness of her parents at her passing and will work with the Indian High Commission to provide the family support in this time of grief.”

However there was talk in the media quoting medical experts from well known hospitals in Delhi and Mumbai that as long as the patient remained in infectious condition, intestinal transplant was not an option worthy of considering. Speculation was also rife among television news channels that the Indian government was playing it safe dreading a public backlash should the untoward happen.

In 2011 police records for nationwide reported rape cases, Delhi accounted for 572, Mumbai 239, Bangalore 96, Chennai 76 and Kolkata 47.Social workers estimate that there could be as many more unreported cases because of the social stigma allied with rape victims in society. What is more outrageous is the fact that it is within the family or in the neighborhood more than 90 percent of rapes take place.

The late film maker Yash Chopra’s 1975 classic ‘Deewar’ (The Wall) had pitted the quintessential equation of virtue Vs vice. One of the oft repeated dialogues from the movie is between the antihero and his idealistic younger brother: I’ve everything I want; huge bank balance, bungalows, expensive cars, but you? In all naivety the younger one responds, I’ve our mother. During reruns of the movie, even after decades, crowds flock to the theatres largely attributable to the revered image of the sacrificial mother that remain firmly entrenched in the Indian male psyche. Yet none among the onlookers gathered around the fallen young lady and her companion thrown out the bus by the goons in a suburban street corner in Delhi in biting cold, had the decency to throw a piece of clothing over them and swathe their nakedness before the police arrived. Later despite the government’s earnest attempts to maintain the identity of the victim a closely guarded secret in respect of the family’s privacy, investigative journalism touched new heights by its disclosure.

The act of rape in society has become so common place to the extent that it has ceased to create lasting reverberations in the corridors of legislature. Awadhpal Singh Yadav, a former minister from Uttar Pradesh is currently under investigation on rape charges he had allegedly committed against a domestic servant.

Abhijit Mukherji, himself a Congress MP and son of the Indian President, derided women protestors in Delhi as ‘dented and painted’ in a television interview on Christmas day sparking outcry from many quarters that forced him to apologize and retract his statements.

The 5 culprits of the incident are aged between 20 and 40 and the sixth one is yet to turn 18. By the death of the rape victim the prosecution would now include Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in the charge sheet that can lead to death penalty for the accused. Meanwhile based on the Juvenile Justice act, the under-18 accused will get away by not having tried under the IPC and with a 3-year reformative punishment unless the law is rewritten.

While the smoldering embers of the funeral pyre began to wither, friends of the victim revealed that her marriage with her companion in the bus was to have taken place as close as in February. Delhi chief minister Shiela Dikshit had said earlier that the young lady’s untimely death was a “shameful moment for me not just as the chief minister but also as a citizen of this country”. The configuration appears all the more blatant when one considers that the largest democracy in the world is ruled by a coalition government of which the majority party has a woman at its helm.

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