Godman Asaram Bapu said the 23-year-old braveheart who fought her barbaric attackers in a bus in Delhi, and lost her life, was as guilty as the men who raped and brutalised her. She should have called her assailants brothers and begged them, he said. “This could have saved her dignity and life. Can one hand clap? I don’t think so,” he asserted. RSS supremo Mohanrao Bhagwat said such crimes occur frequently in ‘India’, but hardly take place in ‘Bharat’. “You go to the villages and forests of the country and there will be no incidents of gang rape or sex crimes,” Bhagwat said, adding that Indian ethos and attitudes towards women should be revisited in the context of ancient Indian values. Madhya Pradesh industry minister Kailash Vijayvargiya quoted from the Ramayana to warn women of the fate that awaits them if they cross the lakshmanrekha. “Ravana will be waiting,” he warned. ‘Hugging’ godwoman Mata Amritanandamayi speaks her mind on the ghastly rape and on why the leaders dwell in the past. Excerpts from an interview with Priyadarshini Sen:
What do you think has led to growing incidence of rape in our country?
Erosion of spiritual values is the foremost reason. Everything else is secondary to that fundamental problem. Once an individual loses faith in universal values such as love, compassion, patience etc, then negative tendencies take over. Strict implementation of laws against offenders can help to a certain extent, but unless we inculcate these values in our children, no real change can ever take place. Parents, elders and our educational and administrative systems should play key roles.
“For all you know, the girl might have even fallen at the rapists’ feet and asked for mercy. But were the animals in a state of mind to listen?” The attack against women seems to be only getting more brutal. The recent Delhi rape is a case in point.
Perhaps an incident like this and the resultant public outcry can have a temporary impact, but these crimes are rarely calculated. They are born out of a depravity in the human mind, frustration, hatred, a feverish lust and psychological need to oppress others. Such deep-seated tendencies cannot be eliminated just like that. At best they become dormant like a snake in hibernation. When it gets some warmth, it springs back to life. The recent incident has sent out an alarm, but I don’t believe it will last very long. For a real change to take place, we need to instil values in our youth.
Do you think too much publicity has been given to this one incident? What about the many rapes that have occurred in different parts of the country since?
Objective publicity is alright to an extent because it creates awareness and understanding among people. However, the media should be careful not to sensationalise these incidents. Extreme care should be taken to ensure that people with selfish motives do not exploit the situation.
What kind of punishment should be meted out to juveniles?
We should let our judiciary and social systems decide.
Spiritual leaders continue to propagate love and peace. Why then has our society become so prone to different forms of violence?
Mere religious-mindedness will not bring about a transformation. Unless spiritual truths are practised in one’s day-to-day life, a positive change cannot take place.
There are some leaders, and a spiritual guru, who have said the girl was also to blame.
I don’t want to comment on something another person may have said. Everything depends on one’s attitude and the way one perceives things. Furthermore, some societies believe in having their women completely covered, but we still see harassment, molestation and rape in those societies. This shows that the problem is not external, but internal. The problem is with the human mind. But it is only wise for women to be cautious.
One godman has said the girl shuould have fallen at the feet of the rapists...
Do you think she didn’t beg them to stop? There were six of them. They were all drunk or under the influence of drugs. Totally driven by lust, they were acting like ferocious animals, devoid of any rational thinking.
Do you think the legal process takes too long in India?
Countries like Singapore have strict laws against offenders. Being a small country, it is much easier for the government to have control over law and order. In a country such as India, where there are so many divisions and disagreements among people, it is extremely difficult. We should have a clear vision regarding how to lead the country, where to take it in the next 20 years. This vision should incorporate spiritual values. Only these values can permanently uplift this country. Before their sentencing, let the culprits—especially the juvenile—open their hearts out to the public. I believe we, as a country, would learn a lot from what they have to say.
What measures can be implemented to ensure greater safety for women?
Parents need to teach their sons to respect women and be kind and understanding. Women should develop muscles in the heart. But this will take time. Until the situation changes, women should consider travelling in groups of at least three, especially at night.
A shorter, edited version of this appears in print
Excellent answers by Mata Amritanandamayi (‘The rapists were ferocious animals...’, Jan 28). It’s not really about the rules and laws, she points out. Change can only come when it dawns upon the mind.
Apoorv Singhal, Mumbai
Amma’s words are so clear and wise. The incident had left me so agitated and I now feel somewhat at rest after her words. I see some hope that if we all try as a community, such incidents can be prevented.
Sita, San Ramon, US
It is ‘vivekam’ or the ability to discriminate that separates human beings from animals. I hope each of us and society as a whole heed Amma's words.
Rishikesh Pulinholi, Kozhikode
Mata Amritanandamayi is the only leader truly able to read the pulse of Indian society. Accepting the good and rejecting the bad, I pray that India recognises the practicality of its spiritual culture.
Change has to start at home, Respect for women, moral values and ethics have to be ‘walked’, not ‘talked’. Amma nails the problem on its head.
Radhika Menon, Kerala
The only sane stuff coming from the religious fraternity.
Kishore dasmunshi, Calcutta
Why should one compare the lustful and violent to animals? Is rape an animal’s instinct?
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
I hope the Asaram Bapus of the world take lessons on humanity from her.
Ganesh Natrajan, on e-mail
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
30 D why are you asking moderator to ban
chandrashekarans(29 D )rational views. Like you
he also got the freedom of expression.
Manish in such forums you can disagree
but you need respect others point too
But for terming the rapists, ferocious animals, Mata does not give any healing touch. Why should she remain cool over the comments of political leaders and sadhu which rubbed salt on the heinous crime is quite shocking.The interview has demonstrated with no ambiguity that the much acclaimed spiritual leader falls very much short of the expectations of the devotees. Nothing could be inane than her advice to the women to travel threesome to avoid calamity of rape. Whom should we pity? the Mata or the lacs of devotees who throng to the Mutts located in very many countries for getting Mata's blessings sans concern for the security to women?
This woman should hug some animals too. Do not insult animals by comparing the evil behaviour which is exclusively human.
26D-152 Mr Manish Anand perhaps i hav read the article and
understood it more. 'They were ACTING like ferocious animals';
( sorry capital mine).My only objecion is to these six words. I too
hold Amma in high esteem. Male Animals fight each other to win
a female. But never connive to do a rape. Manish i was not nitpicking na ?
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