“Didi has always made us proud. Aisa kabhi nahin hua ki hamein unki wajah se kuchh sunna pada. Woh hamare parivar ka garv hai (We never had to hear anything on account of her. She is our family’s pride),” say the two brothers (18 and 20 years old respectively) of the girl whose rape and brutalisation a fortnight ago has stirred the whole nation. They were seated outside her ICU room at Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, hours before she was flown out to Singapore for further treatment.
It often takes one crime or individual to be the pivot of an issue that had never hitherto received its due attention. The young girl, who was the victim of brutal gangrape and savagery has become just that: a hero for thousands across the country. As Jagruti continues to fight for a life that will have to be reconstructed with a lot of medical help and her own tremendous will, fighting alongside her is a whole gamut of Indians: from big towns and small, students and professionals, middle-class individuals to activist groups, women, and men. They are marching in protest, holding candle-light vigils, and venting ire on social networking sites. We at Outlook have decided to name her Jagruti: the awakening. She is our woman of the year.
“I feel for this girl from my heart,” says Valerian Santos, father of Keenan, who was killed last year after he and his friend Reuben tried to intervene in a sexual harassment case in Mumbai. “Perhaps more than my son.... I was crying for her.”
Singapore-bound Jagruti being taken to the airport. (Photograph by Hindustan Times)
Till the other day, Jagruti was like any other ordinary girl, who had gone for a movie with a friend and was coming back home by bus. Her friend’s objection to lewd comments by six men on the bus visited upon her a nightmare from which only death seems to promise an early exit. If she fights off the physical odds, which we hope she will, full emotional recovery will likely take longer. Gratifyingly, Jagruti has shown immense determination so far, telling her friend who was with her through the ordeal, “mujhe sangharsh karna hai (I have to fight)” when he went to Safdarjung Hospital to meet her (see interview).
Rape is a sordid reality in India, in all its gruesome manifestations (see column by Meena Kandasamy), so routine that, most often, it evokes no notice. Jagruti’s case has brought the reality closer home, shaking the indifference of middle-class India, reminding them how vulnerable women are in a world both modern and traditional, a world with antiquated attitudes towards women, a world of strange predators in the guise of men, a world of perverts who prey on children....
Photograph by Jitender Gupta
And so the anger erupted. There was the genuine citizen came to express his or her solidarity, along with the curious onlooker, the rabble-rouser and those keen to get a piece of the political and human action. The media kept a constant vigil as well, both outside the hospital where Jagruti lay and with relentless coverage, in print and on television.
But the statistics remain depressing. The young Akhilesh Yadav, on assuming the chief ministership of Uttar Pradesh, had promised to deliver better law and order. In the 10 months of his leadership, 35 cases of minor girls being raped and killed have been registered. There were 1,895 rapes in the state in 2011. “There is no denying that men are getting increasingly insolent in committing crimes against women,” says Arun Kumar, the state’s additional director-general of police. “In fact, the women’s powerline service that we launched to curb harassment of women through crank calls received 61,000 complaints in just one month.”
In Mumbai, the Maharashtra State Commission for Women has been without a chief for four years. “It’s meaningless to have a commission without a head as no one can put pressure on the government to act,” says a former chairperson. “Women actually have no one to go to now.” In fact, fed up with the inaction of the administration and the corruption of the police, victims of sexual abuse in Lucknow have organised themselves under the banner of what they call the Red Brigade. Comprising largely of young girls in the 17-25 age group, they wear red kurtas and black salwars and help victims fight rape cases in court.
Felled by the mob? Grieving family of Delhi cop Subhash Tomar. (Photograph by Jitender Gupta)
Jagruti’s case has become a lightning rod for all such women across the country. There is outrage in Calcutta as well and as sociologist Bula Bhadra there says, “The act of rape, as the one that happened in Delhi, is the manifestation of a complex social problem which does not have a ready solution. It requires a complete overhaul of the system where we look at many different aspects of society. From the patriarchal content of our children’s textbooks to the manner in which advertisements portray women, society is perennially conditioned to treat women as subservient. Rape and molestation of women in our society is a reflection of this.”
Indeed, women in India regularly deal with objectification, trivialisation and different forms of sexual harassment. Jagruti is typical of the young urban woman in modern India—educated, ambitious, wears western clothes, visits malls, watches movies, uses public transport—yet struggles to negotiate her space in a society ruled by archaic values.
The eldest of three siblings, Jagruti had just finished a four-year course in physiotherapy at a private medical college in Dehradun. Her father, who has a modest job in the aviation sector in Delhi, had sold his ancestral land in his UP village to ensure an education for all his children. He thought himself a “lucky man” as his children were the first generation to be educated in his family. His daughter was doing her internship before she would start her career as a paramedic.
She was alert, say doctors, when she was brought into emergency at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences before she was taken to Safdarjung Hospital. Her state had left even the hardened doctors shaken. The unspeakable acts of bestiality had ruptured her intestines and damaged her reproductive organs. The doctors did not think she would survive the night. At the time of writing, she has survived a fortnight.
Her condition looked “positive” in the first three days, with her being able to communicate clearly with the doctors through writing. She told the doctors that her throat felt itchy with the ventilator. She had written—“there is irritation in my throat, please clean it with suction”—according to Safdarjung Hospital medical superintendent B.D. Athani. A paramedic herself, Jagruti perhaps understands her situation better. She has had to give her statement to the subdivisional magistrate twice, partially in writing, with gestures and responding to questions.
However, once the infection spread, her condition deteriorated, with doctors claiming that the iron rod inserted into her body could lead to septicemia. She has already been through three major surgeries in the last 10 days, one in which most of her large intestine had to be removed. Then she developed respiratory problems and suffered two cardiac arrests. She was critical before being flown to Singapore for organ transplant.
Although her family is grateful for all the support and help, they are upset over the problem between the SDM and the police over taking their daughter’s statement. Says D.K. Mishra, uncle of the male friend who was with Jagruti, “This fight between the police and SDM has been very disappointing and diverts the focus from the issue. One should not go after publicity in such sensitive issues wherein every word matters. It would have been encouraging had it been handled more responsibly.”
The Lucknow-based Red Brigade, of whom we have spoken earlier, also admit to vigilantism. “Yes, we believe in public thrashing of people who indulge in physical exploitation of women or sexual abuse with minor girls,” asserts Usha Vishwakarma, the brigade’s ‘commander’. Basically, it speaks of a yawning deficit in justice delivery, which the people are themselves seeking to fill.
The rage in Jagruti’s case has been unprecedented. But it should not make us blind. The outrage has touched various strands of society. But there cannot be a kneejerk reaction to a complex issue. Even on the night Jagruti was being flown out to the state-of-the-art Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, a 42-year-old woman was gangraped by three men in a vehicle and then dumped in Kalkaji in south Delhi, some kilometres away from the mall Jagruti and friend had gone to and returning from where they had boarded a bus that was to become a chamber of horrors.
Rape And Our Politicians
No sitting member of the Lok Sabha faces a rape charge
Source: Individual affidavits/Association for Democratic Reforms
20 Horrific Cases Up To December 2012
By Amba Batra Bakshi and Chandrani Banerjee with Prachi Pinglay-Plumber and Prarthna Gahilote in Mumbai, Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow, Madhavi Tata in Hyderabad and Dola Mitra in Calcutta
Apropos your cover story Rape Happens (Jan 14), according to figures compiled by some agencies, every hour two women are raped in India. It’s a cultural disease. During riots, Muslim women have been raped in Gujarat, Sikh women in Delhi. Rape of Dalit women is commonplace in our villages. Even nuns have been raped in some parts of the country. I wonder then why the rape and murder of one girl in Delhi, brutal and egregious as it was, has become a major issue. Why has the middle class suddenly woken up to what has been common in India for such a long time? I think rape will decline only if we cultivate a culture that celebrates womanhood and also justice and righteousness.
J.N. Manokaran, Chennai
The brave girl who ultimately died after being gangraped and brutalised on a bus in Delhi will inspire us all in the fight to bring justice to all women who face harassment, molestation and worse.
Sanjay Ranade, Pune
It might be said that the behaviour of the men who raped and tortured the paramedic and beat up her friend who tried his best to protect her was abnormally bestial and hence a rare aberration. But what difference will that make to the suffering of the victim, her friend, their families? Nothing about the perpetrators or their social circumstances should be seen as an attenuating factor. It isn’t about class. The only way to bring down crime against women is to ensure that police do not delay registration of cases, that the cases are tried in special fast-track courts which conclude cases within three months, and that the punishment for rape is death.
Dr G.P. Tiwari, on e-mail
The only long-term solution to bringing down instances of rape in India is to change our attitudes to women and sensitise people to human sexual behaviour and gender issues through education.
Dr Karan Thakur, Delhi
This well-written article unfortunately does not touch upon the social factors that allow men to adopt a casual, indifferent attitude to rape. Political parties have to take up this issue and make changes in the penal code to effect stringent punishment of rapists.
Sanjiv Pandey, Delhi
Our system, instead of giving exemplary punishment to rapists, makes the victim’s life an exemplary warning against enjoying the freedom that is every woman’s right as much as that of every man.
Vani A., Hyderabad
It was disappointing to note that, during the spontaneous protests against the Delhi gangrape, there were few politicians to be seen showing solidarity. The three powerful women in the capital—Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj and Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit—cannot run away from the humiliation and the bad name the incident has brought to our country.
Ramachandran Nair, Oman
Our former president, Pratibha Patil, pardoned four men convicted of rape-cum-murder on death row. We all clamour for tough laws against terrorism and rape. For what, I ask, when terrorists and rapists walk free in the end.
Kiran Voleti, Chennai
Given the gravity and frequency of shameful episodes of sexual crime across the country, your reporters are perfectly justified in hitting hard at the male chauvinistic social order. However, it was in the same land that a movement like the one in Vachathi, Tamil Nadu, spearheaded by the Marxist party, ensured justice for the rape victims after nearly two decades. The 214 accused, all police and forest officers, have been sentenced to rigorous imprisonment. Vachathi has shown the way. Let's hope Jagruti will awaken the government in Delhi from its eternal slumber.
C. Chandrasekaran, Madurai
Bollywood and our censor board should be made co-accused in the Delhi rape case.
Aruna Chaudhary, Jaipur
The sealing of India Gate and the closing down of 10 metro stations by the government in the name of security when people were protesting peacefully was most unfortunate. India Gate is the ideal place for peaceful protest as it commemorates the martyrs of the nation and this girl was no less than a brave Indian soldier.
Mahesh Kumar, New Delhi
Will this furore over the rape and killing of a girl in Delhi change our misogyny, ingrained over centuries?
Fascist and rapist minds can never accept the truth that exposes their real colour. Rape is rape, whether it happens in Delhi, Gujarat or Kashmir. Meena Kandasamy is right when she says that mainstream media turns a blind eye to crimes committed by upper castes, the army and police (How Do We Break the Indian Penile Code). One needed to mention alcoholism and the role of Bollywood as well.
E.V.R. Naiker, Chennai
A brutal rape and murder takes place in Delhi and subsequently we see unprecedented crowds on the streets protesting. One would assume these protests are not for this one rape but driven by people's frustration and disgust at the total lack of governance and the consequent lawlessness prevailing in our capital and across the country. However, this does not stop Meena Kandasamy from pushing her own hate agenda. She attributes the real cause of rapes as “cultural sanction”, and we all very well know which culture she is talking about. She even breaks it into different categories. Yet, apart from the caste Hindu rape she mentions, all others are not specific only to India. Even in that category, she does not tell you it’s mostly obcs against Dalits. She also conveniently misses out one category of rape: “recruitment rape”, which Maoists use to induct minors into their terror camps.
Novonil Guha, Delhi
Who is Meena Kandasamy? An average poetess who managed to achieve some degree of victimhood claiming she was harassed during the Telangana agitation. Based on this, Outlook has taken it upon itself to promote her hate-filled polemic in the guise of scholarly outrage.
Ankush Poddar, Calcutta
Can Meena Kandasamy explain why London, with half the population of Delhi, sees 3,000 rapes a year? Is there a rape culture there too?
Shubhang Shankar, Delhi
What will it take for Outlook to spare us Meena Kandasamy? Please. She should confine herself to a private blog, and spare us her rants in a national newsmagazine.
Meena Kandasamy and one of our own regulars need to be locked up in a room and the key thrown away. They can then mutually resolve their gender bias issues. May the best man (or woman) win.
Cdr Arun Visvanathan, Chennai
An excellent piece by Meena Kandasamy. The sexist, personal and vitriolic reactions online only prove how right she is, and how deeply entrenched misogyny is in this country. Not to mention, of course, a tragic lack of empathy and understanding.
Simran Chawla, London
In our country, a woman is safe, praised, even worshipped if she respects boundaries. Boundaries to what she wears, to what she says, who she talks to, how loud she can laugh, the subjects she can talk about, boundaries to how much she can sway her hips when she walks.
V.S. Naipaul once called India an area of darkness. After the black shame the Delhi rape has brought upon India’s name, one wishes he hadn’t been so prophetic.
Divya Kumari, Delhi
Apropos Rape Happens (Jan 14), the gangrape of the 23-year-old medic in Delhi was no doubt a ghastly act, a reflection of the degradation that has crept into our society. Violence against women is a psychosocial problem, but the cultural sanction of rape in India has made it worse. The state, in order to humiliate the collective consciousness of dissenting peoples or to teach a lesson to a population seeking self-determination, has allowed its security forces, who enjoy immunity, to use rape as a ‘tool’ against them in Kashmir, Punjab, Assam, Nagaland as also against Dalits and tribals. Why, frenzied mobs dishonoured hundreds of Sikh women during the 1984 genocide, while Muslim women were raped in Gujarat in 2002 and nuns sexually assaulted in Orissa in 2008. And we won’t see an end to this atrocity till we do the following:
Ranbir Singh, Hoshiarpur, Punjab
In the last couple of weeks, one has read, heard and seen all gory details of heinous crimes against women across the country. This has left many women like me mentally stripped of honour and dignity.
Amrita Muttoo, Mumbai
The Hindware Italian Collection ad on page 16 shows a model exposing cleavage and thigh. She, as I understand it, is enticing people to buy the shapely commode by association. When women don’t respect their own bodies, why do they expect men to do the same? Why do we have to have a woman for a bathroom accessory ad? The same magazine has ads for Hero Cycles, Sparx shoes, Exide batteries, HCG et al which exhibit fully clothed male models depicting power, strength and ruggedness. Can’t a beautifully clad woman be beautiful or shapely?
Meera Neelakantan, on e-mail
Based on the second law of thermodynamics, which is universal, one can derive that the universal tendency of all systems is towards decay/disintegration, or a move from order to disorder. This is perhaps what’s happening in India, a part of which is the humiliation, indignity and violence being meted out to women. This can only be stopped or reversed with the creation of a positive emotional-social atmosphere towards which all resources and institutions should be mobilised.
Brig K.S. Iyer (retd), Mumbai
Legalise prostitution and then watch rape incidents go down.
Shubhang Shankar, New Delhi
Suresh Kamath @ 80D ,
Ad Hominem attacks never help us to find solutions to a pressing social issue. You and I will never and not ever going to agree on ideologies but is there not a way to find a way to argue a way for a basic human need, which is safety of women in public places?
I have posted quite some suggestions (Even as i remain a NDA supporting, hindoo conservative saffron glass wearing person) to prevent the occurence of sexual assaults - some like how to strengthen the failed judicial processes in India. And guess what, not a single Left liberal has anything worthwhile to say on that.
And most strange thing is to find posts like 51D, which only called for increasing the strength of judiciary/reducing number of holidays for judges getting a few dislikes. I did not know that some of the commentator left liberals over here are legal luminaries/judges who want long holidays and vacations as a birthright !!
Suresh Kamath >> I would blame the extreme right for the attitude of the male towards the female. The chauvinistic attitude displayed by the Indian males is a by product of extreme right whose only want to treat the Indian women as doormats. They want to treat the Indian women as second class citizens.
So my dear friend, you are telling us that only Indian Men are Male Chauvinists and treat their women as doormats? And that rape happens only in Hindu India? Do you have evidence for your claims?
Even as we wait for your evidence, I would want everyone to google for "Rape of Nanking" to understand how Mass Rape can be inspired by even without religion/even by a nation that is Largely "BUDDHIST"in faith !!
Suresh Kamath >> I read some where the Manu smriti says that women is the property of her Father when Born, Husband when he is married and the some after the death of he husband. This is the kind of attitude that the extreme right ( and I am referring to extreme right of all religions) wants to foster on rest of India. High time you remove your saffron colored lens Ramekin..
The essential differnce between Hinduism and other organized faiths is that Hinduism does not base itself on a single religious text/single law book/single god/single prophet.
So for every such regressive text of Manu, we have so many alternatives within the hinduism faith.And Hinduism is the only faith were you can be a religious guy or girl even as you keep worshipping a multitude of female godesses.
So stop spinning fiction that Manus and Kanus led us to rapes in India. In any case, India has adopted a secular constitutino since 1950 and even before that , India has largely been ruled by Christian, Muslim, Jain and Buddhist rulers since 500 BC and so there is no case for blaming the religion for rapes that happen due to failure of governance and failure to enforce law and order .
Suresh Kamath >> Before spouting pearls of wisdom on all of left leaning liberals and tarnishing them all with the same brush, may be you should look in your own backyard. People like you who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
Since 1947, people like wearing saffron tinted glasses have ruled for just 6 years, and that was also part of a coalition with non rightist parties. In contrast, Cultural Marxists and Left liberals have ruled India for over 56 years through the beloved CONgress party. Except may be PVN Rao and possibly Morarji Desai/janata and LB Shastri (apart from NDA) all governments since 1947 have been culturally left leaning. Since 2004 , UPA has been agrresively leftist on social issues and we have a truckload of legislation to protect the weak and deliver social justice. And yes, the only social justice result we got was that in the capital city of India, ruled by UPA for 15 years, we have a gang rape done by a brahmin, thakur, OBC and Muslim boys. So it is the left, the cultural mainstream establishment left that has to explain us as to how governance has failed us in this incident.The ball is on the court of the Left liberals and it is the ruling government and its unlimited supporters including paid media that should be in the dock. Not some RSS shaka or some faceless, nameless long forgotten king or god that is supposed to have existed millenia ago..
>>> If you say you were being sarcastic, I accept it, although it hardly looks like it.;
In the very same post 58 that you were quoting I followed up with this para that you missed
“Before spouting pearls of wisdom on all of left leaning liberals and tarnishing them all with the same brush, may be you should look in your own backyard. People like you who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”
Also is post 61 I responded with
“ I was responding in kind to Ramki when he was making sweeping statements about all who do not agree with his view points.”
Although I did not explicitly say I was being sarcastic I would have thought that the above two paragraphs would have made it clear. Explaining Sarcasm is same as explaining a joke to some one who does not get it. The joke ( in this case the sarcasm) is lost.
Going forward may be I will put in BOLD letter some where that is sarcasm when ever I mean to be sarcastic. I think we have continued on this topic enough. I will not post any more here on this subject. Probsbly we are the only two reading messages here.
Here's the comment you were supposedly responding to:
">>>NUMBER THREE - Our left liberal bleeding hearts want to bring sex education in middle schools."
Tell me, if you read only the above lines, what can one make out of it?
And then you responded by saying:
"I read some where the Manu smriti says that women is the property of her Father when Born, Husband when he is married and the some after the death of he husband. This is the kind of attitude that the extreme right ( and I am referring to extreme right of all religions) wants to foster on rest of India."
If you say you were being sarcastic, I accept it, although it hardly looks like it. But the next time you're trying to be so, please say so at the very beginning of the post because it clearly is not your strong point.
>>>> Umm OK! So when I catch you saying something wrong, do you really expect me to search for every other post and find what is wrong with the other post before I say something?
No, I do not expect you to search every other post. But in my very first post, I pasted Ramki’s comment in which he said everyone on the left promote sex education. So if had read the entire post from top to bottom you would have realized that my message was a response to Ramki’s comment and I was paying back to him in kind. Unless you are wearing the same saffron colored glass that Ramki is wearing you would have realized that I was responding to Ramki’s baseless allegation.
So what is you next excuse? That you did not read the entire post and that you were selective in only choosing sentences that confirmed to your opinion of those who do not agree with you?
People who do not have an open mind do not understand Sarcasm even though it is staring at them in their face..
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