Tuesday, April 17, 2018

An Ugly Crime and its Uglier Aftermath

For the most part, we are a hedonistic, ridiculously materialistic lot who like our fancy cars, swanky apartments, Burberry bags (or is it a Fendi baguette?), Jimmy Choo shoes, overly embellished Sabyasachi saris, Victoria’s Secret underwear and getting massaged to within an inch of our lives at sumptuous spas (if that is the sacrifice one makes to be selfie – worthy then so be it) to bother about the less fortunate and their petty problems which let’s face it, is usually a buzz kill. Or we deride those with beaucoup bucks to burn and pity the shallow, empty lives they lead bloated to bursting with the fat of the land while secretly envying them, hoping and praying for the affliction that is affluence to give a hoot for those who are nowhere as fortunate or privileged and are getting themselves raped, killed, cheated, starved, misfortune – ridden or just dying in droves. How very thoughtless and annoying of the poverty – stricken, downtrodden, unfortunates!
Yet, even in the midst of the endless ennui and selfish self – indulgence there comes along with a little more frequency than we would like, the occasional case that is so heinous that even a slumbering conscience cannot find it in itself to hit snooze and return to its preferred somnambulant state. So we rise up in arms and agitate against the fat cats in power, those debauched douchebags, ever dithering over their dirty politics, who refuse to do the needful and serve up justice even when children are slaughtered, women are violated and the blood of the innocent flows in copious streams. But when the frenzy of outrage burns itself out over the course of a torrential outpouring of passionate feelings via strongly worded tweets, facebook posts and candlelit vigils, as it inevitably must, we return to the cosy cocoon of creature comforts, change and making the world a better place be damned!
Image courtesy of The Polis Project 

This moral torpor is the defining characteristic of the modern Indian and it is truly a shameful state of affairs. But even by our standards, we have reached a new low and plummeted to the very depths of all things vile, if the tragedy at Kathua which saw eight – year old Asifa lose her life in the most horrifying way imaginable, is anything to go by. It was bad enough that the child was abducted, drugged, violated, tortured and murdered by monsters who lacked even a shred of kindness or humanity, but what followed is every bit as depraved. In a land which believes in celebrating the differences of its diverse peoples if only to perpetuate them in order to divide and rule, we have witnessed yet again, the appalling hatred and prejudice on the basis of religion, race, caste, creed and the rest of the reasons we use as an excuse for detesting and despising our fellow Indians and treating them abominably. We have allowed our prejudices to fester to the point where compassion for a child and a rightful need to redress the wrong done to her has been eclipsed by an incessant preoccupation with squabbling over idiotic ideological notions. It is the disgrace to end all disgraces and when coupled with our crimes of omission and commission it is one that by rights ought to haunt us to our dying days.
These are dark days for India and Indians and if we are to emerge from this with our innate decency intact, it behoves us to make amends for all the countless victims over the years who need not have suffered so much or died in pain and so often in vain. For starters, irrespective of what defines our identity or which side of the belief brigade we belong to, we need to acknowledge that though hopelessly caught in the toils of divisive politics for ages, we must do our utmost to abolish and burn down the barriers that separate us whether it is caste, religion, language, class, colour beliefs or gender that have torn us apart or die trying.  This country belongs to all of us and loving it means loving each other or at the very least embracing the differences that make us so unique and India, a secular country as well as the world’s largest democracy.
Let us not blame the victims of rape or murder for their fate but do our utmost to ensure that the perpetrators are taken to task immediately if not sooner. In the same spirit, let us acknowledge once and for all, that it is not acceptable to name and shame the accused over the dreaded firing platforms that social media has become, for the simple reason that in a democracy, mob justice is not acceptable and everyone is innocent until proven guilty over the course of what is hopefully a fair trial. Doing otherwise, makes us no better than those purveyors of revenge porn who merit all the disdain there is in the world. If we have lost faith in our judiciary system we need to restore its integrity, by putting down bribery and corruption once and for all, instead of shaking our heads hopelessly and saying we have joined them only because our half – assed attempts to beat them has not paid off.
Accusing the ruling government of their colossal failure to make this country a safer place for women while stating the obvious is far from productive. We keep talking about raising awareness about the shortcomings of the head honcho and his bhakts but when it comes to taking honest to goodness action we are not even as effective as kids playing on handheld entertainment. Let us not lose sight of the fact that our disappointing leaders are where they are because we put them there on account of being too busy chasing the great Indian dream of working in MNCs and making money hand over fist hawking products that sell self – loathing and discontent to take a stab at serving our country and making it great. Of course, our parents forced this dream upon us, following the example of their parents and we, will shove it down the throats of our kids too instead of encouraging them to join the Indian armed or civil services that include administration, foreign service as well as law and order. Correct me, if I am wrong but being more service minded and asking how we can make a real difference is bound to be far more constructive than the constant bellyaching and calls for castration of rapists. The latter makes for an awesome revenge saga but the truth is, it is entirely barbaric and somewhat impractical because the majority of policy makers have man parts which they are inordinately attached to.
In addition to this, we need to vigorously review the changing dynamics of sex and sexuality in a brave new world that has witnessed the #MeToo movement. This means not pretending that intercourse occurs only within the sacred confines of marriage for the express purpose of procreation. It also requires making peace with the shocking truth that women and even minors have sexual desires and are not quite the ‘pure’ creatures everyone needs to believe they are. Besides it is an inconvenient truth but sex always has and always will defy the laws of logic, politics, cultural values and morals. And to navigate the minefield, bumping uglies has become, youngsters need to be taught how to express themselves in an empowered way as well as how to practise safe sex. And of course, sex education is not an endorsement of promiscuity and a Western plot to vanquish our culture and its values.
Since we are all aware that this is no country for children, it is high time we worked on implementing decent child care services to ensure that our youngsters are being raised in a safe and healthy environment. It wouldn’t hurt to make sure that every child, irrespective of his or her financial status must be provided access to quality education and equal opportunities to shine and realize their full potential.
Most importantly, let us not forget Asifa or use her death to drive home twisted agendas. Instead, let us hold her close to our hearts forever more and vow to never ever let our children become victims of our gross selfishness and negligence. Let us strive to make our country a place where everyone is treated fairly and with respect, where women our revered as Goddesses and whose children are taught the power of service and sacrifice. Let us be worthy of this great nation and of the memory of a beautiful soul snatched away too early, a bitter price exacted for our gravest sins.


Bharath said...

These are good honest and heartfelt thoughts Anuja. We as a society need to state, internalise and continually live certain values unambiguously. Violence, for instance, must be shunned without hiding behind a claimed provocation. We must value responsibility with the same intensity as we value freedom. Here, we cannot have a better role model than Mahatma Gandhi. It is also high time we placed a greater emphasis on value education.

Anuja Chandramouli said...

Thanks Bharath. Gandhiji has been in my thoughts too... We need to be deserving of the freedom won at such a great cost by the freedom fighters. And yes, it is a responsibility. What is the point of celebrating Gandhi Jayanthi faithfully every year, if we can't be bothered with his teachings?

Bharath said...

So true Anuja. Tragically many do not even see Mahatma Gandhi as a role model anymore. Many of the feeds/comments on social media are distressing. Sad - but high time leaders & every one stood up for values.