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Change: Will it happen?


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A girl lights candles during a candlelight vigil for a gang rape victim who was assaulted in New Delhi, in Kolkata
Let this anger lead to something.

That’s the only tribute we can pay to the bravery of an anonymous, unnamed 23-year-old-girl, who fought long and hard to save her dignity, self-respect and body.

As the anger and rage festers, the question remains a simple one: will India become a safer place for women?

It’s likely that the Delhi police will file a quick charge-sheet (unlike in other cases of sexual violence) and the judiciary, too, will show a sense of purpose in dealing with this savage rape-and-murder.

Many Indian newspapers appeared with black borders, usually reserved for VIP deaths, on Sunday morning, the day her body was brought from Singapore and cremated in Delhi.

In an unprecedented development, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi were at hand to receive her body at the airport at 4 am in foggy, cold Delhi.

In injury and death, she became the cynosure of all attention, with millions in India praying that she win the battle for life over death.

But sadly, despite a belated effort to treat her at a Singapore hospital, that was not to be.

In life, she was an ordinary girl living in Delhi – studying, being with her friends and family and completing her studies. But she had big dreams and was working hard towards realising them.  

In life, she got nothing extra from state and society.

Like other girls living in this city, she would have faced lewd remarks, been groped in public spaces and, given the fight she put up after being attacked, may have well resisted previous efforts to violate her dignity.

Inside the building where I live in Gurgaon, there were a bunch of young girls lighting candles on Saturday night. We spoke about using public transport and as one they said the experience was TERRIBLE.

“In an auto, I am pretending to talk to a friend. So, that the guy knows that someone is waiting for me. I am always on my guard,” one of the girls said.

The “daily” no longer shocks us or moves us.

As a society, we are inured from “ordinary crimes” – child rape, murder, custodial torture, encounter killings by the State.

Only the “extra horrific” shakes us out of our slumber.

It’s just part of life. We are “okay” with how nearly half this country lives – in fear.

Still, even if we are moved only because of the barbaric nature of the violence used by the rapists, the anger is welcome.

The protests, the taunts, the mocking of the rulers will, one hopes, have some effect.

But will it change attitudes and mindsets?

Will fathers and mothers tell their sons that it’s not okay to beat your girlfriend?

Will fathers and mothers tell their sons that it’s not okay to brush against women in public transport?

Will fathers and mothers tell their sons that their sisters are JUST AS EQUAL?

Will fathers and mothers tell their sons the import of the slogan we saw on the streets of Delhi – it’s a dress, not a yes?

Will fathers and mothers tell their sons that it’s not okay to grope protesting women on the streets of Delhi or anywhere else?

Will khap panchayats, or self-appointed custodians of morality, stop announcing death sentences on women (and men) who marry out of choice?

Will all the right-wingers stop telling women what to wear and ban the use of mobile phones for women?

And, what about the State?

The machinery is MOSTLY MALE, corrupt, contemptuous of women, arrogant, self-serving and not built to deal with people.

It has a momentum of its own. And, as long as you serve the minions of the State, you can get away with pretty much everything.

So, will the cops start registering complaints when women make them?

Will women (or even men) ever feel safe inside the confines of a police station?

Will the horrible, arrogant attitude of the policeman ever change towards the ordinary woman?

Will Delhi and the rest of India get public transport that is safe for women?

In the last two weeks, what we have seen in Delhi is the helpless rage of ordinary people, women and men.

Now for the reverse mindset.

Public hanging, castration and shooting are only some of the solutions that have been loudly suggested on television screens and on the streets.

Lynch mob justice can never be a solution to acts of extreme violence.

The law (even better and stronger ones) must follow its course. Even the accused are entitled to a defence – that’s our law and it should stay our law.

We are not in the business of setting up people’s courts and going by the verdict reached there.

The people must prevail, peacefully and lawfully.


Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of Dateline Islamabad and reported for The Hindu newspaper from Pakistan.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Author Image

Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of Dateline Islamabad and reported for The Hindu newspaper from Pakistan. He tweets @abaruah64.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (35) Closed

Ram Krishan Sharma Jan 02, 2013 04:26am
An innocent women was raped by 5 Pakistani men during the Mushraf era . what sort of punishment has been awarded to the culprits?
malik nawaz Jan 02, 2013 07:39am
Change needs to come from all corners not just in streets or buses even rules should be made when women and little girls get raped and killed during riots because human animals are every where.
kets Jan 03, 2013 03:42pm
@abbastoronto: absence of temple and bollywood made Paksitan safe for woman ???? and in general any human? most of the Pakis are trying to run away from know the reason, why???
Santosh Jan 01, 2013 07:47am
Wow - You should be in Saudi not in Toronto.
kets Jan 03, 2013 03:37pm
If all people were sane like you..
SUNIL Jan 02, 2013 12:33am
India should have law like gulf countries and allow jat khaap panchayat rules to avoid this type shameful incidence. Sunil Thakral India
ashok Jan 02, 2013 08:34am
This kind of incidents are bound to happen no matter how educated or progressive we become.It might sound awfull but you can not keep a check on all the loose canoans in our society.Even in countries like USA where I live.We must unite against this evil brheavioure and pray to the God to give wisdome to every man in the world that praying on little children,little girls and little boys and young girls is lowest of the low crimes and if proved should be punished by death.
Cherian (Melbourne) Jan 01, 2013 02:29am
As an Indian I hang my head in shame. Sincerely hoping that this brave soul's departure result in a positive change.
abbastoronto Jan 01, 2013 03:28pm
Soul of Manto, Brass, Sumit : Greetings from Dearborn MI My original post was not an attempt at India bashing or Pakistani breast thumping, but an invitation to find a rational solution to the two extremes at Bollywood desire to see a woman nude, and Taliban desire to wrap her in a sack. Women may be nude in the West, but that is because of the West having abandoned Christianity. Have you ever seen Mary the mother of Jesus in the nude, like you see voluptuous Indian goddesses? No priest here would condone what Hollywood parades. Go to any sermon by Bible Thumpers and you would find modestly clad women. And even among the non-believers, the higher your status in society, the more modest the dress. I have rarely seen the Queen of England or European nobility with head uncovered or in a short skirt. No. Scantily clad women are not safe in the West. Toronto Police are on record is saying that revealing dresses invite trouble. Best wishes in the New Year
Tahir Alam Jan 01, 2013 03:21am
"You play with fire, you get burned", Well said! This is the reality.
naren Jan 01, 2013 06:22am
Change will have to happen. No option to it. But there is an option for " Dented & Painted" mentality politicians either change or perish.
raghunath Jan 01, 2013 08:08am
IF YOU, agree are not India turned much westnized in culuture which makes room to this kind of act, too much of freedom is not arguably unsafe in any place of world. no law, no camera, can make/ bring difference
Jasmeet Kukreja (@Jaszy18) Jan 01, 2013 05:04am
I know amendments are not easy but possible. The first step we can take is to change our own society rather being demanding to change Government. Changes are not sudden act but the gradual movement that whole country should evolve together. This cruel act is not the first time but we are coming together for the very first time for such heinous incident. Where were we earlier? Why we could not raise voice against rapists? Women are considered weak and the statue of forgiveness. We Indians forgive easily that's why those butchers gain strength again and again to counter attack. I wish the amendment we are asking from the government would start from our own " Corrupt Society". The change should start from "I" then "We". I wish the new year year brings some amendments we could proud of and healthy society we specially girls/Women can live carefree life. Wish u all blissful new year!
Hassan Jan 01, 2013 05:20am
Its really very important to quickly do the justice and deal with the culprits accordingly. No one will have courage to look at a woman with ill intentions if he is sure that he will immediately get punished afterwards.
Tahir Alam Jan 01, 2013 03:29am
@Brass: Two reasons for less sex crimes in the areas you mentioned: 1. Because law enforcement is better 2. Because women are easily accessible
Doctor Jan 01, 2013 12:32am
You live in Toronto but talk like someone who hasn't left Pakistan. Certainly you haven't shed the attitude you were taught during early years in Pakistan. Your comment about religion and temples are in a bad taste and ill informed. Please explain why in Pakistan which is an Islamic state Hindu girls are kidnapped and converted. Unless of course you accept that it is part of the teaching. There are bad apples in every society.
abbastoronto Jan 01, 2013 03:44pm
Zimbo_Indian: Namaste Rapes occur only for 1 reason
vijay singh ivory coast Dec 31, 2012 10:58am
one thing is clear that society has not become totally in sensitive.whenever such an incident of rape or terrorism occurs we are touched in our hearts and rise above religion and nationality to which we belong.our problems of subcontinent are common like illitracy,poverty,malnutrion and un employment.this all leads to social frustration.
Parvez Dec 31, 2012 11:00am
Intelligently and nicely written. For evil to triumph all that is needed is that the good stay silent ...................and the good are not silent.
abbastoronto Dec 31, 2012 11:21am
India is no longer under the Mughals. Or under the Raj. Society and State is us, the people. And the people have a culture, a religion, a training from childhood. If a religion objectifies women by making them dance, and whirl their bodies before unelected men as a part of prayer, then repeats it in art, statues, culture, and films, what else you expect. On the one side there is the Democratic State, and English educated Middle Class, with Victorian values, but then there is Bollywood and the masses. The message sent by a scantily clad woman transparent with wet summer rain writhing her body to titillate drooling man. Cinema wins hands down in training the mind of the young from day 1. Will India close down its temples, its cinema? You play with fire, you get burned. Indian solution is male's total freedom to see a woman
Sumit Dec 31, 2012 02:50pm
Mr Abbas: There is a fine line between patriotism/admiration for one's own culture and dislike/hatred of the other. You cross it in all your comments when it comes to India. There is no reason to close our temples, many are beautiful works of art. The cave temples of Ajanta are the second most visited place by tourists, the first being the Tajmahal. We are not taliban, and will never be. We will get out of this morass and come out with more open mindset, Sumit Mazumdar
Agha Ata (USA) Dec 31, 2012 01:43pm
Hey, what a sight! The hand of mighty Evolution is moves like an hour hand of a clock, slowly, invisibly but surely. And here we are in a unique position to watch a move . . . women getting together for a cause, we don
Pankaj Patel(USA) Dec 31, 2012 05:44pm
Delhi is the worst mega city in India for women to move around.
rich Dec 31, 2012 11:53am
a very ordinary article, more of rambling delhi as evrybode know a higly criminalised state guess bec of the political connection
Not an OCD patient Jan 01, 2013 05:21pm
Irrelevant stuff, vijay. You are only saying this for the sake of saying.
Pratadit Dec 31, 2012 05:04pm
You clearly have not a clue of what you are writing.
Brass Dec 31, 2012 02:27pm
One can see more nudity in the west and yet women are safer. The tribals in the Amazon rainforest live completely nude yet women are safer. The Scandinavians are the least religious people on the planet and yet women are safer. The problem is poor law enforcement, and a tribal culture that has has not evolved in a thousand years. All this hollow talk about the grandeur of Islam and Indian spirituality is laid bare the minute some outsider visits the region.
Zimbo_Indian Dec 31, 2012 05:57pm
Dear Abbas. I don't think rapes occur because of the reasons you mention. They occur (in India) for the same reasons that cause other crimes. It is primarily because of the corrupt polity and police which enables criminals to believe (and correctly so) that they can get away with it. The police is busy collecting bribes from criminals rather than chasing them. Criminals know that it is a remote possibility that they will get caught. If caught, they believe that they can bribe the police and avoid conviction. If convicted, they can bribe the jail authorities and enjoy parole or escape in the name of hospitalisation. Even those who are sentenced to death are confident that they will never be hanged. Please not that in June 2012, the President had commuted the death sentences of six convicts who were guilty of unimaginably heinous crimes like rape and murder of 5 and 6 year old girls. All this has nothing to do with the size of a woman's dress or the fact that she is allowed to do her own thing. It is the softness of the Indian system that emboldens criminals. The present episode has made people come out on the streets and demand a tough response to crime. By the way, one interesting remark on facebook suggests that India should outsource its criminal justice system to Taliban.
Abdul j Sheikh Dec 31, 2012 06:16pm
Blame to Bollywood; selling women as a commodity.
abbastoronto Jan 01, 2013 03:51pm
Practice of converting anyone by force is un-Islamic. There is no compulsion in religion [2:256 Quran}
Soul of Manto Dec 31, 2012 02:18pm
Dear abbastoronto, Will you please enlighten us as to why rape also happens in great numbers in the Western and Muslim world whose scriptures do not objectfy women by making them dance while offering prayer? You are abosolutely free to write a critique on any religion you choose to, but there should be context. Picking on unfortunate (for the victims) incidents like rape, murder etc. and putting a religious spin on to it, to vent your bias and prejudice is of very poor test. I saw a woman among the hundreds of protesters and she was holding a placard saying, 'Nazr teri buri, parda main karun'. Wish I had the literary skill to translate it, but hope you will understand.
Sandip Dec 31, 2012 08:41pm
The solution is simple for you to respect other peoples right to live and right to choose and respect the law of land.
Sandip Dec 31, 2012 08:37pm
kets Jan 03, 2013 03:17pm
whom would you blame for Malala shooting? if you are brave, answer equally honestly...
kets Jan 03, 2013 03:43pm
First sane article from Amit Baruah in his entire life...