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About a people gone wrong

January 07, 2013

“If we are lighting candles to support someone, I feel that we should also help someone who is lying on the road. We were without clothes. We tried to stop people passing by. For about 25 minutes, several auto-rickshaws, cars and bikes slowed down but no one stopped. Then someone called the police. Three PCR [police control room] vans arrived after 45 minutes, before that no one came to help us.”

Lighting candles and helping people go together. That’s what the friend of the Delhi rape victim, who died following a brutal rape and assault after being flown to a Singapore hospital on December 29, told Zee news television on January 4.

“We didn’t have clothes, we were not able to stand and there were people passing by... They could have taken us to hospital, given us clothes in that crucial one and a half hours. For a dying person, every minute is important,” the friend, who was with the victim  and also assaulted, said, adding that even when the police finally took them to hospital, “no one even brought us a blanket”.

As I watched the Zee news interview in the comfort of my home, the horror of what this young couple went through took on a sharper edge. Here was one of the victims recounting what had happened to them. A British newspaper, which claimed to have interviewed the gang-rape victim’s father, quoted him as wanting to make her identity public. “My daughter didn’t do anything wrong, she died while protecting herself. I am proud of her. Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter.”

The brave young man has also pilloried the police and its attitudes, a charge the Delhi police denied on Saturday, marshalling their own GPS data to suggest that their response was quick and assured.

But, this is not about the police. They deserve separate treatment.

It’s about us, about a people gone wrong.

Imagine, on a cold winter night, two young people, wounded and naked, calling out for help, and people watching them, but doing nothing to help.

And, then comes a massive outpouring that SHE was India’s daughter. Protests on an issue, which had more or less (wonder how though?) vanished from our screens of concern, suddenly sprouted.

India lives in an age where the only objective is personal and immediate progress.

An equal society and its reforms were damned as a mainstream objective a long time ago.

There are few dreamers for a better tomorrow.

There are even fewer heroes for young people to follow.

We live in a country and system where personal wealth and ways to add to it is the only ideology that rules.

More and more, we as a people, choose not to react to the pain and suffering of those around us. In the case of an accident, people will stop to stare, but do nothing to help.

Spectacle is all.

So, it took the breathtakingly horrific to move people, mainly the young, to come out on the streets as television screens showed nothing else other than the Delhi gang-rape and social media too focused on the issue.

But, as the young friend of the victim put it: do light candles, but next time also stop and take the wounded, the injured to hospital.

That’s one promise each one of us can make to ourselves.


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.