Rape and the city

Rajarshi Guha Roy

May be a little over one month ago, the generally calm and composed ‘City of Joy’ was aghast by the news of a woman raped inside a car at Park Street, the party hub of the city. OB vans rushing to the police headquarters, debates in the electronic media, morning news becoming hotter than the morning tea – the general fall-outs of such a ghastly news emerged in the city frames. But quietly sedimented beneath these layers was the imminent fear, the sudden thought which everyone wanted to dismiss feebly – “The city is not safe anymore.”

An incident like this, generally, brings out the skeleton of our psyche to the fore. And this time around, it was no different. Opinions, counter-strikes rushed in during the electronic media debates. Politicians, civil society members, members of the public – all came to the forefront to express poised opinions. But if we look at the gist of the entire social debate in the aftermath of the incident, we will be bound to find our social pshyche in dire straits.

Men screen women. Men look at women with pleasure. This is natural. One can’t ignore biology. But an act of rape is something else. It digs heavily at the political establishment, the administrative echelons of the state, the very entity of civil society and at large, the society itself. A woman can move to a pub late at night, inebriate herself within the limits of conscious pleasure and thus burn all the agonies out. Thus, it is evident, at least apparently, that in a metropolis, men and women enjoy equal social rights. But here comes the contradiction. When such a woman, who is just enjoying herself at a city pub, gets raped heinously, a part of the metropolitan society raises fingers at her character, her background, pushes in torturous comments to malign her family and emerge as the moral messiahs of the race.

A minister insinuated that this woman had shady background facts, that she had been related to some bad names in the past, that his father had a grey shade and many more. This minister didn’t stop at that. He went ahead and put up his moral adage, “A woman drinking at a bar late at night cannot be all white. Perhaps she has been connected to some Escort Service.” Mr. Minister, that night, the woman was all red! And Mr. Minister, rape has nothing to do with women, it has its constituents in men. One wondered how this person could insinuate someone so brazenly in public?

Then opened the Pandora’s Box. And this time, it came straight from the corridors of power. Yes, the messiah of the poor, the saviour of the hapless- the CM herself came up with a rubber stamp to validate the other Mr. Minister’s statement. She brazenly, unabashedly dubbed the incident ‘fabricated’, ‘a conspiracy hatched by her political opponents’. She forgot womanhood, she forgot her ‘Rajdharma’. She was there to save her administration from the jitters and ripples. If the chief executive of the state administration is so insensitive, so irresponsible, then can we roam on the city streets freely? Can the ladies, whom we love, I know go out to work?

The very fact that even a woman never stops to assassinate the character of another woman is very true. When a lady becomes a manager in any firm, fellow colleagues doubt that she must have slept with her superiors. When a girl bags a research project in any institution, some other women (Read again, women) in the same fraternity start recalling that they saw the girl many a times in the HOD’S chamber, all alone! It is actually so easy to doubt the character of a woman. And, the columnist of this current article truly feels that character assassination of a woman has been naturally ingrained in our history. Sita had to pass through fire to prove her chastity, men enjoyed when Draupadi was being molested in the court of Hastinapur. And with all these shabby occurrences, we celebrate a business-oriented Woman’s Day every year. Yes, we are hypocrites.

Sad! Very Sad! When the lady went to the local police station to lodge an FIR, the police vehemently tried to sit on the complaint. The inspectors even tried making indecent advances. There was an ardent attempt to hide the entire complaint under the carpet so that the city police could save its face. It will send every normal mortal into a tizzy to think about the condition of that lady at that point of time when a lion’s share of the administration were hand in glove to character-assassinate her. Yet, as they always have been saying, “There is always a silver lining.” As it should be in a democratic set-up of a country, this time, the fifth estate came up as a Godsend for the devastated lady and launched a tirade against the insensitive administration. Debates raged up, ministers were being questioned, the moral character of the government started getting prosecuted and judged in public and a sense of despair started emerging in the society. But very surprisingly, literally no one belonging to the iconic ‘Civil Society’ came up and spoke for the lady. It is shameful that politics and portfolios in the highly-empowered committees (Read, Railways everywhere) have rather ‘raped’ the soul and character of the civil society.

Finally, two dare-devil police officers led a team of sleuths to nab the culprits. Three people were arrested. Surprisingly, the abnormally maverick Chief Minister of the state called up the two and reprimanded them. Their fault? Well, they stole the media limelight from her! News did their rounds for another week. Then everything stopped. We still don’t know where the main culprit is hiding. Is he out of this country?

Cutting across facts and figures, the picture of the society which crops up through this heinous act is bizarre. The administrative system of this country added with the lethargic legal framework garnished with draconian and 19th century laws can do no first aid to a rape victim. A rape case is such a socially sensitive issue that whenever such a ghastly act takes place, the political honchos, starting from the block/local ‘Dada’-s to the eagles in the cabinet start playing politics. Amid all this mudslinging slugfest, the victim’s wounds are never healed. The legal system is so slow and sluggish that such a case runs for years to meet any end. It is shameful that many cases (some are even unheard of, because they never came under the media spotlight) have been dismissed only because of the fact that there was no prima facie evidence to suggest rape or molestation. Apart from this, our social psyche needs an overhaul. Even today there are many families where girls are made to believe that their only destiny is marriage. In this way, their self-reliance, educational quotient are jeopardized from the word ‘Go’. Our social backbone is so weak that the victim of such an act always fears retaliation in case an FIR is registered against the wrongdoers. The self-courage to fight all odds, the capacity to confront injustice will only be ushered in if education and self-confidence are instilled alike. In middle-class circles mostly, this is a common question faced by the parents of a daughter, “Hey, when is your daughter getting married?” And as a direct fallout of these behavioral traits, a girl or a lady who excels in life is looked down upon by many in an average society. It’s time all of us – the political class, members of the civil society, people in the administration, the fifth estate and most importantly, members of the middle class come together and flush all the prejudices down the drain. It’s time we fight together every social menace. The middle class once made India move into confrontation with her colonial masters, it is their responsibility to make it again and at least make the society powerful and self-reliant enough to fight against injustice and social stigma.

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"Rape and the city" by @bongbuzz

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  1. Rajarshi thanks for taking the time to write this down. When I read the news of police solving the case, bashing the chief minister’s outrageous claims, I was seething in rage, like any sane person would. I was shocked at the chief minister’s irresponsible behaviour! Her comments were nothing but arrogant. A shame to have this high handed lady as the chief minister of Bengal! In the same breath, I would like to add that she must make a public apology. In any case, I think she has made a complete fool of herself and wish to see her resign.

    In recounting the Park Street saga you have not only pointed fingers at the politicians, you have blamed a section of the metropolitan society for character assassinating the victim lady. I am afraid that is the grim reality. We are far away from becoming a truly educated society.