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