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Nature of the beast

Published Jan 03, 2013 03:02am


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 I HAD a fight with my daughters, or was it the other way round? They both wanted to drag me kicking and screaming to a late-night march from somewhere to somewhere in Delhi to assert the right of women to walk freely in the city that is otherwise known as the rape capital of India.

They said it was important to be part of a movement that seeks to make women more secure in Delhi. I said I didn’t dispute the need to make every city and, equally importantly, all the villages unequivocally safe for women, more so after the recent rape and murder of a young woman by six beasts.

The gender-rights lawyer-activist stressed it was my duty as a citizen to join the debate and to stop being the sceptic she claims I am. The history student on the other hand ignored my experience of failed movements from at least 1977 onwards. She accused me of being inattentive to a different perspective. I don’t believe they heard me out either, and this is what I had wanted to tell them.

What happened in response to the assault on the young woman was initially a spontaneous outpouring of outrage and anger. The urban fury soon became a TV spectacle. That brought in more of the middle classes on the streets.

They vented their spleen at the government’s numb response to the outrage. Political parties from the left to the right joined in. It soon began to look like an urban microcosm of the JP Movement of the mid-1970s, minus, of course, anyone who remotely had the appeal of Jai Prakash Narayan to lead it.

I tried to tell my daughters who were not born then about the inbuilt flaws of the JP Movement, which rose as a tidal wave against Indira Gandhi’s dictatorial rule but petered out soon after dethroning her briefly. It eventually led to a rightwing consolidation over India, not left or liberal, certainly not secular. Yes, it was an earnest battle for democracy, one in which everyone saw an equal stake.

An influential cluster of communists saw it as a conduit to an equitable order. The obscurantist twins, the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, joined hands as they often do over a range of disparate issues.

Her alliance with the godless Soviet Union abroad, her attempts to wrest India’s financial institutions from the clutches of a usurious private sector at home, her campaign to forcibly sterilise men, her suspicion of and aloofness from Washington — these were some of the features of Mrs Gandhi’s early rule that brought together diverse and contradictory groups against her.

India’s private TV studios have evolved as unthinking clones of their American mentors. They fanned the rape agitation with far-fetched imageries of the Tahrir Square in Cairo quite unaware that Delhi’s Ram Lila Grounds preceded it by decades where a stinging coup de grâce was delivered against Mrs Gandhi’s undemocratic yearnings.

In fact, the likeness is worrying. After New Delhi in 1977, when the neo-fascist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh got the grip on the levers of power in India for the first time, we saw secular dictators getting replaced by theocratic autocracies — in Tehran, Tunis, Tripoli and Cairo among other venues.

What does all this have to do with the anti-rape agitations in Delhi, my exasperated daughters might have wanted to ask. And I would have striven to indicate a possible link. Rape in India derives from a private-public partnership between the state and society. The state’s agencies are let loose on restive regions or groups of people as a tool of social control in which abusing women is both a permissible tactic and a perk.

The Intelligence Bureau cop who came to arrest him told Kashmiri journalist Iftikhar Gilani how it was their duty to rape criminals on behalf of the state. The publishers of Gilani’s book deleted the descriptive sentence.

In the private sphere, the intrinsically violent and regressive caste system assures the votes just as it shores up political stability too. The stability as well as the votes would disappear if someone tinkered with say the Taliban-like khap panchayats, the breeding ground for caste-propelled gender bias.

Similarly, try to dismantle the upper-caste Ranveer Sena militia in Bihar that stalls through rape and massacre the Dalit yearning for change, the chances are the state would collapse.

Structural violence pays. That’s the nature of the beast. The mobs that lynched thousands of Sikhs in 1984 gave Rajiv Gandhi an unprecedented landslide majority in parliament. My hunch is that the Delhi rapists would have easily found a place in the mob.

In fact, they did in Gujarat. The same story was repeated there when Narendra Modi presided over an orgy of rape and murder across the state. The mob went on to elect him not once but thrice since the fateful days of February/ March 2002.

Many of Delhi’s agitators wanted Mr Modi to take charge of India. The Congress tried to do its own damage control. I tried to persuade my daughters to look beyond the Congress-Bharatiya Janata Party binary as promoted by TV channels and most urban protesters.

Both parties have harboured alleged rapists and killers in the past not as a policy but by electoral necessity. We can’t stop rape without de-legitimising social violence that runs India’s democracy. We can’t stop rape if it is accepted as collateral damage for protecting the country against terrorism and secession.

My daughters said all this was very well but I didn’t have a clue about what it feels to be a woman in Delhi. We decided to talk again after the next general elections, clues to which I have been looking at in the anti-rape protests.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.


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

Comments (30) Closed

vijay singh ivory coast Jan 03, 2013 09:19pm
i fully agree ravish
mazharuddin Jan 03, 2013 08:33am
The author has shown true picture of Indian society that can be seen through comments in Indian news papers. The society has a hate culture against Muslim minority. This should not have the way to overlook the crime of a large society as this would not be a just way. Atleast that should be condemned by the thinkers and civilized people. However in India the gradual change is coming, I hope so..
raika45 Jan 03, 2013 02:26pm
Oh yeah. And what about the muslim mentality against the non muslims in Pakistan? Or is that not part of this debate.How many Hindus in India carry away muslim girls against their will and married?Think carefully before you make a comment.
Prakash Jan 03, 2013 10:50pm
All the readers upset by Javed's column are not Narendra Modi's fan.
Gulbagh Singh, Los Angeles Jan 03, 2013 10:13pm
What this guy is doing in India? He sees Pakistan as a model country. India with all its faults is a much much better than Pakistan even for hard core Muslim. Why Pakistanis are telling their hosts in Western countries that they are India? Any answer Mr. Naqvi..
penholder Jan 03, 2013 06:58pm
Mr. Naqvi, Your daughters seem more sensible than you do. I think this case has awakened the slumbering youth of India, but you had to find something negative even in this.
Anonym Jan 03, 2013 08:28pm
I have always been critical of your columns. This one though I agree. Protest against whom? Are the laws weak or is it the society? Did all these people grew up in a cave? Did they not see what happened in their homes and neighborhoods? Protest is a way of not taking on responsibility.
G.A. Jan 03, 2013 11:47pm
All Mr. Naqwi is saying is that the revolutions devour its initiaters first. Like a true patriot he is warning people to be mindful of conniving politicians always quick to exploit these demostrations as they have done in the Middle East and elsewhere before. It seems like some Indian readers want to criticize Mr. Naqwi for the sake of criticizing him. I bet they lay in wait to attack any article he writes...much like those conniving politicians.
Rocky Jan 03, 2013 06:03pm
I hope in the end you did not disappoint your daughters and did show your support to the movement by your active participation. With all its faults, India has been a democracy for the last 65 years. Even after occasional riots none of its minorities ever tried leaving the country for the Promised Lands somewhere else.
Deb; India Jan 03, 2013 07:35pm
I meant, I am proud of @Sandip
Ajay Jan 03, 2013 05:05pm
Apart from anti-business, anti BJP views, he also has anti India views; Go through any of his columns and he will twist facts and history and start criticizing India as a country which only kills lower class and muslim people.
Robert Suting Jan 03, 2013 04:37pm
Anti BJP and Anti Modi is fine. But Mr Naqvi is basically anti-India. He exudes hatred for India and Indians in every article of his. Fortunately, this one is more sensible.
Sue Sturgess Jan 03, 2013 03:23pm
I read a curious news item that many women were too afraid of being groped, to attend the protests. Is this true?
Arpit Jan 03, 2013 02:46pm
dude tell me how many politicians have clean image.. There was a thorough investigation and Modi was acquitted.. Understood!
Cynical Jan 03, 2013 11:15am
Bitter he is and getting more bitter with age.
hitesh Jan 03, 2013 10:46am
The whole point is that Mr. Modi shouldn't become PM, come what may ! I see a true binary here. At one end people like you who couldn't become objective and taking all the opportunities to discredit Modi and at the other end people like me whom you made accept Modi in all his colours.
Sandip Jan 03, 2013 01:37pm
I am originally from Gujarat now in Toronto and I strongly believe Modi should not be a PM. No person who has tainted past (proven or unproven) like Modi should be allowed to even contest election. You are expected to have a clean image for being politician. Kind of stuff that our politicians do should debar them from even running for election.
Raveesh Varma Jan 03, 2013 01:20pm
Once again, an ode to moral and ethical equivalency from Mr. Naqwi. "Since they can, so can I".
Deb; India Jan 03, 2013 03:02pm
I am proud of you. Respect all the way.
pathanoo Jan 03, 2013 04:48am
Fine, Javed. So you made your point of hypocricy in Indian society about dealing with rape. But, are you suggesting we should not even make a start to change the culture just because it is so dysfunctional? That seems to me to be worse than the hypocrites who atleast pretend to be angry about it and claim to want to change it for better. You know what, Javed? You are the most negative journalist I hav ever seen in my life. God Bless you. You are one bitter man.
Prakash Jan 03, 2013 04:52am
Does Author wants to suggest that there should be no public outrage against the rape like what is happening now and we should wait till society should change by itself without going through the churning process initiated after the recent rape incident.
vivek Jan 03, 2013 12:57pm
"What does all this have to do with the anti-rape agitations in Delhi, my exasperated daughters might have wanted to ask." Actually, so do your exasperated readers. Any surviving reader of your columns already knows your strong pro-socialist, anti-business, anti-BJP view. You live in a free country, and are free to have any views, and are free to express them. (Although, this does make your writings prejudiced, and a bit less balanced than what they could have been) But, have you ever considered the possiblity, that maybe.. not EVERY story needs to necessarily include a link with Modi,BJP, Socialists all the time?
Sudheer Jan 03, 2013 04:08pm
Mr.Naqvi, I wonder, if you have any idea about what you write or how blatantly communal your articles sound? It's not Modi, but, people like you, who do irreparable damage to your own community, the Indian Muslims by spewing venom, not only at Hindus, but also at the very land that you live and thrive. Thankfully, however, you are relatively unknown in India and no local newspaper or mag of repute gives space to the crap you write. I wonder why a most progressive newspaper of Pakistan like Dawn keeps tolerating and continues to publish your garbage on its illustrious Op-Ed page?
suneel Jan 03, 2013 04:03pm
I am with your daughters in this and happy that young Muslims are becoming part of main stream in India.
A R BHAT Jan 03, 2013 01:28pm
i agree with your views ,,you can simply check on any leading news paper below in comment box,,,a hate mentality of indians against muslims is reflected,,
G R Jan 03, 2013 11:35am
Typically dampening one-dimensional writing. Yes, there are 2 sides to any event. The writer chooses to see only the dark side and not the brighter side, even when there is one. He chooses to highlight problems only, rarely ever trying to highlight paths to solving these. And it is indeed amazing to read the line 'The mob went on to elect him not once but thrice'...
Cannot Share Jan 03, 2013 01:31pm
Like it or not, there are too many people reading this column. And they are reading it because it has Modi bias through and through. Now as a journalist I can tell you that the worst that can happen to us is the apathy of our readers.We are generally fine if the readers love us (MJ Akbar) or hate us (take your favorite pick). As long as they don't ignore us, we will be able to provide for ourselves and our families. The equation is that simple. So what I don't understand is why do all Modi fans cry foul at each and every column of Javed? Peace.
Anannya Jan 03, 2013 01:12pm
Naqvi ji... The excuse of your inaction is not so strong. After all, it is a basic journalistic principle to raise a voice, even if it is weak, against injustice. And we, in India, expect you to do the same as all of us are doing.
abbastoronto Jan 05, 2013 02:24am
Shame on you Mr. Naqvi. Despair is a sin in Islam. Yes, the progressive forces do take a setback from time to time. Socrates, Jesus, Hussein, Che Guevera, Allende, Bhuttos father and daughter .... But look at the successes. Mohammed A.S., Gandhi, Jinnah, Mandela ... Look at the rights we enjoy today, and the best is yet to come.
Nasah (USA) Jan 05, 2013 02:40am
You should have followed your daughters instead of arguing with them.