This appeared on the front page of the Mumbai Mirror today....
Death to rape…. or rapists???
So, the four will hang. When? Where? Don’t ask. The only thing we know right now is that the Judge, Yogesh Khanna, took under ten minutes to announce what India had anticipated. The second he finished reading out the short judgement, spontaneous applause broke out inside and outside the court. Frankly, I was a little sickened by that. The ghastly rape and murder of an innocent young woman was horrific enough. Then came the applause. I have to add here that I am opposed to capital punishment. Having made my position clear, let me explain why the public’s reaction distressed me. It was a grim case to begin with. For nine long months we had hungrily fed on gory details about the crime – which of the men did what, who did it first, why was a metal rod involved, what did the rapists actually do with it, did her male companion watch all this, how come the juvenile rapist turned out to be the most sadistic, did Nirbhaya, a paramedic, lose consciousness at some point, for how many hours were the two victims lying stark naked on the road after being flung out of the bus…. and some even more intrusive queries that cannot be printed in a family paper. Were we genuinely concerned about their pain … or acting plain voyeuristic? The girl was dead. Did it matter how precisely she had been sexually assaulted? Is our society really that sick? We refused to spare the memory of a woman who’d suffered what no human being ( man or woman) ever should. We just blabbed on and on…. demanding a death sentence…baying for the blood of Nirbhaya’s killers. Hooting and howling like crazed beasts ourselves.
Tomorrow, we’ll demand these men are hanged in public. We will talk idiotically about ‘closure’ ( as if there can ever be closure in such circumstances).We will speak airily about the death sentence sending out a strong signal that will deter other men from committing such a heinous crime in future. Even as I key this in, just a few short minutes after the judgement, there must be an equally ‘heinous’ rape taking place in some part of India – perhaps in your own backyard.What has changed? If and when Nirbhaya’s rapists swing, do we really want to participate in the actual hanging, even as bystanders? Come on, which country are we living in? And in which century? Next we’ll start stoning criminals to death at Flora Fountain, and attempt to justify the barbarism on the grounds that public stoning discourages crimes. That is absolute rubbish! Even in countries that accept this medieval style of delivering ‘justice’, the crime rates are comparable to the rest of the world’s.
To call Nirbhaya’s rape, the ‘rarest of the rare’ is in itself misleading. Every rape is just as terrible. In this case, Nirbhaya succumbed to her serious injuries. Survivors (male and female) will tell you, they die a little every day they are alive after being violated. Nobody ever ‘gets over’ rape. There can be no real closure. Judge Yogesh Khanna must have faced a tremendous amount of public pressure, no matter how impartial and objective he tried to be. He is human, after all.If every future rape judgement is going to be measured against this one, we are asking for trouble. It raises a very disturbing issue in a larger context. As it is, the judiciary seems to be in charge of India (just as well). If the judiciary starts taking its cues from public sentiment and emotional issues, we too will start behaving like we are in a banana republic – let the mobs decide! This is dangerous in the extreme.
Four men will go the gallows soon. So be it. One juvenile from their gang will walk free a few years from now. So be it, too. And the violence against women will not abate. I certainly won’t say ‘so be it’ to that! The fight must go on. But in a more meaningful way. Let’s revisit dated laws and demand change. Constitutionally. And quickly.
Meanwhile, can we please keep that uncivilized applause on hold?