Sunday, December 30, 2012

How a Twenty Three Year Old Brought a Nation Together

“Hang the Rapists” and “We are sorry Damini”, read posters held up by people at Jantar Mantar this morning. I went to the protest at Jantar Mantar today after church service, not knowing what to expect, but knowing that at twenty three you’re too young to die-for no fault of your own.

Looking at the posters and listening to slogans being chanted by protestors, I felt an enormous surge of sadness for a girl who had no desire to make headlines, to become a symbol of our shame, to become a candle flickering against the monstrosity and injustice and lack of system of our society, but who just wanted to watch a film and go home and maybe tell her friends what she though of it. She was one of us, wasn’t she; a girl who loved to watch Bigg Boss every night at nine and who relished her mothers simple cooking and whose face would light up each time she’d open a present which contained something she was probably saving money to buy.

She died painfully in Singapore, but in her death a nation came together and it was comforting to see that people in this country still have a heart.

In her death, we have hopefully learned some lessons. We have learned that it is possible to shake people out of their cynicism, that if enough people come together and raise their voices it is hard for the government to ignore us, that it is not “Eve Teasing” but sexual harassment, that a short skirt is not an invitation to rape and that men need to stop looking at women as objects.

Her death has also left us with questions. What about those other thousands of women who have been raped and who have been harassed by the police and society? What about cases of rape that go unreported because of the fear of humiliation? What about marital rape? What about Dalit and Tribal women raped by men from the Para- military forces? What about a stronger punishment for rape? What about a faster trial?

I don’t have answers, but I do know that there comes a time when a nation cannot afford armchair activists anymore and that time has now come for India. Tweeting and blogging about this won’t be enough; you need to walk out of your house and onto the streets so that we know you’re more than just a Twitter handle, you’re someone who knows that what happened to Her, could just as much have happened to you or to women you know.

I know it was early for a Sunday morning and maybe more people came to Jantar Mantar later in the day, but I couldn't help but shake my head at the irony of it all. When India won the Cricket World Cup in 2011, most of Delhi collected at India Gate, dancing atop cars, hooting and cheering for India. But when a girl, who was one of us, was brutalized, raped and left to die on the road and who eventually did die painfully of the inhumanity inflicted on her, it’s sad that it's taking us time to “think” if we want to be a part of the voice she didn't get to raise. I didn't know her either, but I felt like I lost someone I knew yesterday.

Image Credit: The husband and his iPhone 4S.

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