The census counts ’urban agglomerations’, and the Census of India says that Mumbai is India’s largest urban agglomeration. This includes Mumbai’s suburbs. In counting Delhi, the suburbs are not added because they are separated by state boundaries. If you were to add suburbs of the ’National Capital Region’, Delhi’s population would be not 16 million but over 22 million, making it the world’s largest urban agglomeration after Tokyo. This bustling urban centre is made of its people. Today’s Delhi cannot be stereotyped as just the seat of power. There is more to Delhi than the endless roundabouts of Lutyens’ capital.
Delhi’s core – the Partition refugee Punjabi – is not xenophobic like the Marathi ’manoos’ of Mumbai. In fact Delhi today is what Bombay once was, India’s foremost cosmopolitan metropolis. It is the city of choice for people from across India to migrate to with dreams of riches.
A lot has been written about 'the Delhi gang-rape'. December 16, 2012 started a conversation that doesn’t seem to end. This conversation has largely been about rape, not about Delhi.
The city hasn’t been given its due. Rape is a global issue. It is not as if women are not brutalised anywhere outside Delhi. But the protests that Delhi saw non-stop for thirty days after December 16 were so inspiring that it is hard to explain what it felt like. We were out there, in the morning and at night, without police permission to protest, and not limiting ourselves to the designated protest areas. We, the people of Delhi, deserve our due for making that moment historic. Not that we were doing anyone a favour: we were only reclaiming our city for ourselves.
The only person who seems to have paid a tribute to Delhi is the feminist writer Eve Ensler, famous for her 1996 play, Vagina Monologues. "This is mind blowing," she said of the protests on a visit to Delhi in early January, "There is an incredible spirit at work right now. To see men and women coming to the streets to demonstrate against rape is a breakthrough in terms of human consciousness. I cannot think of a country in my lifetime where thus has ever happened including the United States… We have a rape problem in the US. Why are we not doing what the people in Delhi have done?"
When the story first broke, a friend who works in the city pages of a local daily told me the papers had played up the story because it had happened in elite south Delhi. "Rape cases with as much brutality happen rather often, but they happen in places like a slum in east Delhi. Our editors confine such news to a single column in the inside pages," she said.
Even so, as the protests gathered momentum, my friend gave up that cynicism. The December 16 girl became a symbol of the fear women face to do something as simple as go out for a movie with or without a boyfriend.
But some Indian radicals weren’t happy. How would they be radical left if they approved of a popular movement? To be radical you must ’take a position’ that is unpopular and marginal. You don’t need to do anything substantial such as face water canons or march in the cold. Facebook is good enough for position-taking.
The cast of such characters is as predictable as their positions. There is the homesick PhD student in the US, the Bengali bhadralok still mourning the shifting of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi, the Brahmin publisher of expensive books in English about Dalits, the academic in a small town, and the Kashmiri azadiwallah. All of these people are elites in their societies and locations, but their claim to fame is that either they don’t live in the national capital, or even while circling the inner Ring Road they pretend to live in some subaltern marginal place of their imagination.
They think that the 22 million people in Delhi NCR are the power elite who run India. They all complained that Delhi was protesting only because the girl was a south Delhite, urban, upper caste, Hindu, middle class and so on.
All of these people ended up with egg on their faces when it turned out the girl was working class, daughter of rural migrant labourer, lived on a far edge of Delhi and belonged to a peasant caste.
Identity politics is a powerful tool for the marginalised and the oppressed but its appropriation by the radicalitis-stricken is worrying. Identity politics is the new last refuge of the scoundrel. It needs to be saved from the Facebook radical who, sitting in an Ivy League university in the US, lectures us that we should worry about rape in Jharkhand, not Delhi. Are we the denizens of Delhi allowed to have a city identity? Are we allowed to care about our neighbourhood? How is it that adivasis are allowed to take to arms for their rights but if the people of Delhi shout a few slogans for their city their protest is illegitimate?
The armchair critic whined that the protests in Delhi were by elite upper class people. While this is not true, does it mean we should not do something about violence against women until we can politically unite the migrant labour with the bank officer?
How can the self-appointed Brahmin messiah of Dalits say that people are protesting because the victim was upper caste, when the protesters didn’t even know her caste? How can the Kashmiri azadiwallah simply choose to ignore that the 'Indian' protesters were invoking Shopian and Kunanposhpora in their slogans and posters, and keep saying that they don’t care about rape in Kashmir? And when a girls' rock band is forced to disband in Srinagar because of rape threats, the same azadi radicals tell Indians to shut up?
How are the people of Delhi responsible if the people of Ranchi or Allahabad or Ohio do not rise up and raise a voice against rape in their city? Why must Delhi bear their burden?
Why do those who live in Delhi – repeat, migrants all – need to carry the burden of the nation on their shoulders? By asking that of them, aren’t you seeing them in the very framework of nationalism you claim to question? Why, for instance, do you even expect the Delhi media to be 'Indian media' when you don't buy the Indian national project?
One may be dismayed by the death penalty granted to the December 16 perpetrators, but if the December 16 case has become a turning point in fighting crimes against women, then some credit must go to the people of Delhi.
This was first published in the Kafila
This is a case of murder, which the media has hyper reported as 'gang rape', for the convenience of dehumanising the males involved and males in general.
Shivam Vij may love his Delhi and claim that there is no xenophobia but I have experienced it whenever I have been to the capital city. Overtly racist snide remarks are made by people who assume that I do not know Hindi.
In Delhi, there is overt male agression everywhere. Anyone who is not from the north can immediately sense it, especially women. I would like to invite Shivam Vij to the south and see the difference for himself. Kolkata too has a woman-friendly ambience. Mumbai, notwithstanding the recent incident, is a safe place for women. Delhi has a long way to go before it can even claim parity with other metros in this respect.
Delhi has its problems. Admitted. But, the author has a point when he talks about it as a city of migrants (though many of its problems stem from that fact). No one ethnic group can claim Delhi as their own. That was what Bombay (oops...Mumbai) once was; but now marathi man(h)oos has claimed it. Calcutta will always be a Bengali city and Chennai's long lived, glorious and divine Tamil pride is a bit stifling.
Xenophobia is not absent from Delhi, various regional ghettos in the city attest to the fact that Indians like to stick to their own community, but there is no sustained, political campaign to label anyone as an outsider. Of all the Indian cities I've been to, the only other place which I felt was as much of a no man's land as Delhi is Bangalore. But now Kannidaga regionalism is kicking up there as well.
Instead of endless debates, on TY and in the press, by self proclaimed intellectuals, so called smart anchors and well meaning but foolish NGO,s we will be better placed to tackle the problem by getting down to the basics:-
1.The mushrooming bush fires of rapes are a direct result free access to pornsites. The less educated you are the the more the tendency of porn to drive out rational thinking from the mind .Free access to porn in Scandinavia may reduce sex crimes in Scandinavia as it serves as a an outlet. For uneducated persons it acts as an incitement.
2.with excessive coverage of a juveniles rights in the delhi rape case, every youngster is now aware that till he is 18, nothing really drastic can happen to him .All he has to do is carry his birth certificate in his pocket and he can freely start raping at the age of 12. The assam case is a pointer to what we can expect in geometric progression in the future. the juvenile protection was meant for advanced countries with scientific correction methods.Our correctional homes are in shambles.Any wise bird who thinks differently need to answer just one question! what if kasab was carrying a certificate proving he is only 16???!!!. its a matter of time before terrorists start recruiting 15 year olds as bombers and supari executors.
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