Kavita Krishnan, Secretary, All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA), protesting in front of Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit 's house, against the gang-rape in a Delhi bus on December 16.
Today, we demonstrated outside (Delhi Chief Minister) Sheila Dikshit’s house. We are deamndin her resignation. And there is need to understand Why we are demanding her resignation.
It is true that Ms Dikshit made a statement saying the incident (gangrape) occurred on a private bus, not a DTC (Delhi Tourism Corporation) bus, so how could it be her responsibility? This is what we are here to teach her: If a bus containing iron rods and such barbarians is plying openly in the city with no rules and regulations, if it can pick up passengers any time, anywhere, then madam, you alone are responsible for it, no one else is.
If that girl is fighting for her life today, you are responsible for it. Why was that iron rod in that bus that day? It is something that only you can answer, no one else can. You can't blame anyone else for it.
But there is an even more pressing matter than this, something that we have been talking about, that we are here to talk abut today: When that journalist Soumya (Vishwanathan) was murdered, Sheila Dikshit had said, “If she (Soumya Vishwanathan) was out at 3 am in the morning, she was being too adventurous.”
We are here to tell her that women have every right to be adventurous. We will be adventurous. We will be reckless. We will be rash. We will do nothing for our safety. You don't tell us how to dress, or when to go out at night, in the day, or how to walk or how many escorts we need.
There's another thing. When Neeraj Kumar was newly appointed as Delhi Police Commissioner, he held a press conference and said: Look, how can the police do anything about incidents of rape? Most rapes, he said, are committed by people known to the woman. This is true; it is a fact. But shouldn’t that make it easier to catch the rapist? If the woman knows who raped her, apprehending the rapist should be that much easier. Our question for the police is not why they didn’t prevent rapes from happening, but what we want to know is this: Who is responsible for the fact that the conviction rate has gone down from 46% in 1971 to 26% in 2012?
The fact is that there is a huge gap in the police’s investigation, there is a dangerous lack: there is no procedure in place for how to deal with an incident of rape. All the women here know that the Delhi Police has only one way of dealing with such a situation. If you were to walk into a police station today and complain that you have been a victim of sexual violence, the first thing they will tell you is not to file a complaint. All sorts of people will suddennly materialise in the police station out of nowhere to “explain” to you, “Beta, don’t file a complaint”. Until you don’t directly speak to the DCP and say that you are from a student body, or a women’s organisation, nothing will be done.
I think this is a fairly routine matter. I doubt that there is a single woman in Delhi who has gone to the Delhi Police and found otherwise. I don’t know which rule book says this, but this procedure exists.
Another statement that Neeraj Kumar made at his press conference was that women shouldn’t roam around alone, that they should take some escort along, and that if you walk around the streets at two in the morning then how can you expect us to come and save you? This is what he said. But what has happened is obviously a contradiction: It did not occur late at night; the girl was, in fact, with a male friend.
But that is not what I wish to argue. My argument is that whether it is late at night or not, women should not need any justifications for walking out on the streets alone, such as, "She has to work late hours" or that "She was coming home from a BPO job or a media job". If a woman just wants to go out at night, -- to go out and buy a cigarette or go for a walk on the road -- is this a crime? We do not want to hear this defensive argument that women only leave their homes for work, poor things, what can they do, they are compelled to go out. Regardless of whether she is at home or outside, whether it is day or night, for whatever reason, however she may be dressed, women have a right to freedom. And that freedom without fear is what we need to protect and to guard
I am saying this because I feel that the word ‘safety’ with regard to women has been beaten far too much, we women know what this ‘safety’ refers to, we have heard our parents use it, we hear it from our families, we hear it from our communities, we hear it from our principals, we hear it from our wardens. We women know what ‘safety’ means. It means: You behave yourself. You get back into the home. You don’t dress in a particular way. Do not live by your freedom, that is what is meant by "you are safe". A whole range of patriarchal rules and laws are served to us in the guise of keeping us ‘safe’. We reject this entire served up notion. We don’t want it.
Why have we come here to say? We are here to say that if the Delhi Police is running an ad campaign about violence against women -- you must have seen the large hoardings near ITO and everywhere -- why is there not a single woman in these ads? They have instead a Hindi film actor, Farhan Akhtar, saying, "Be a Man, join me in protecting women". I want to ask, what about the brother who cuts his sister’s head off when she dares to marry into a different community? Is he not playing the role of a brother, a male protector too? This machismo is not any solution but the root of the problem of violence against women. It is the root of the problem itself. This is what we need to think about.
Other than the women’s movement, everything else in this country -- the government, the police, the political parties, the judiciary -- when they speak of women’s ‘safety’ they are speaking from within a specific patriarchal perspective of the term. No one is talking about protecting her ‘bekhauf azaadi’, the unqualified freedom, or the woman's freedom to live without fear.
I hope these protests on the streets today continue and grow, because this is where the answer lies. The answer lies not with CCTV cameras, the answer lies not with the death penalty nor with chemical castration. I am saying this because even though our anger is justified, I am very afraid of some of the solutions that are being offered. If the conviction rate for rapists is low, how can death penalty be the solution to the crime? In your entire procedure, the one person you have failed to take seriously is the complainant who was raped. It is an entirely different matter that the laws for rape are also extremely weak and flawed. For example, if an object is inserted into a woman’s genitals, it is not included within the definition of rape. A bir part of the recent incident of the rape on the Munirka bus when it is tried in court, will not be covered -- that the men inserted an iron rod into the woman's vagina, which is one of the big reasons for her life-threatening condition today.
I heard Sushma Swaraj say something in Parliament yesterday on television that I found abhorrent and highly condemnable. She said, “If this girl survives, she will be like a walking corpse,” Why? If this girl survives, I believe she will live with her head held high, just as she fought off her assailants with her head held high. She struggled, she fought against sexual violence and that is why she was raped-- to teach her a lesson. We all know, and there would hardly be a woman here who would not have at some point fought and struggled on the streets of Delhi, or in its buses or not found herself alone in such a situation, and not been told that to do this is to do this is to invite trouble and run the danger.
But to me it seems, or at least I have read –- and I don’t know if this is true -– that when the girl regained consciousness in the hospital she asked if the rapists had been caught. Her will to fight is still alive. It is not dead. Her will to fight is alive. She is not a living corpse. We salute her will, and say that those who survive rape are not living corpses. Rape survivors are complete, strong, fighting women and we salute the spirit of all such women.
I want to say another thing. There are many people who say not to mix politics with rape and that we should not bring politics into such incidents. But I feel that politics is not a cheap commodity, we cannot dismiss it as insignificant. I feel we do need to bring politics into it. Because I feel that the culture of our country justifies rape, as it defends the act through the words of people like many senior police officers of Delhi such as KPS Gill who said that women who wear tight clothes invite rape. And there are many other senior high ranking officials like him, all over the country. If we are to change any of this, we need to make rape into a political issue. We must articulate what women are saying about what is being done to them and force the government to listen. Coming into the Parliament and shedding some crocodile tears is not enough, it is not enough to scream ‘death penalty’ as that would not help solve the problem. I find it laughable that the BJP talks about death penalty for the rapists, but where it runs its governments, its own goondas chase down girls for wearing jeans or falling in love with Muslim or Christian boyfriends, saying that women must adhere to ‘Indian sensibilities’, or else. We need to create a counter culture against this goondaism and create a counter politics, one that asks for the right for women to live freely without fear. We are asking for that.
I don’t want to say more. But I do wish to say something about the police which seems ready and waiting to fire water cannons at us here. After witnessing protests everywhere in the city today, shouldn’t the government have learnt at least this much that our anger will not be doused by water cannons, or beaten out of us with lathi-charge. It is shameful that the government and the police who are ever willing to provide arguments defending the actions of rapists should now be ready to attack those fighting for the rights of women.