THE latest report from Thomson Reuters Foundation has revealed that India tops the list of countries most unsafe for women. In the global netizen’s domain, New Delhi has already become the rape capital of the world. According to Thomson Reuters Foundation, “The world’s second most populous nation, with 1.3 billion people, ranked as the most dangerous on three of the topic questions — the risk of sexual violence and harassment against women, the danger women face from cultural, tribal and traditional practices, and the country where women are most in danger of human trafficking including forced labour, sex slavery and domestic servitude,”. As reported by NDTV India, war-torn Afghanistan and Syria ranked second and third in the Thomson Reuters Foundation survey, shaming India at global scale. Why a country with secular system should become the most unsafe country for womenfolk?
I had highlighted the miseries of women in Indian society in my article tiltled, ‘India Rape and Trash bin Babies’ published in 2013 in the Nation. I had argued that Indian social system has a serious problem and womenfolk cannot thrive in such an atmosphere. The data provided by official sources in India indicates that on the average a women is raped every 10 minutes across ‘Incredible India’ (this does not include the three out of four cases that are not reported, making it one rape in every two minutes).
Of all the gruesome incidents happening to womenfolk in India, one happened on March 15, 2013, when a Swiss woman was brutally gang raped right in the presence of her husband. As reported by the journal, “a Swiss female tourist was gang-raped in central India in front of her husband, police said today, renewing the focus on the issue of sexual violence against women in the South Asian nation. The woman was on a cycling trip with her husband in impoverished Madhya Pradesh state, when seven to eight men attacked the couple on Friday night while they were camping, sexually assaulting the woman and robbing the pair, the police said. The attackers ‘tied up the man and raped the woman in his presence,’ local police official said that they stole Rs 10,000 ($185) and a mobile phone from the woman. The attack comes just months after thousands took to the streets to protest against India’s treatment of women following the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus in New Delhi in December.”
In my opinion, there is nothing surprising; we have, probably, not realised that the Indian culture has undergone transformation over the last two decades or so. The Eastern culture was abandoned and lead to westernized culture copied without much thinking and soul-searching. Half of Bollywood films and TV soaps have been cultivating the culture of hooliganism and rape mentality, where the villain or Khalnaik was eulogized as something big and symbol of muscularity. For the immature youth searching for jobs and identity in the poor neighborhoods of Indian cities and villages, rape has become an expression of anger and frustration. As the yawning class gap between haves and have-nots is reaching a breaking point, the bewildered youth is becoming disillusioned and frustrated. On one side, we have some cultural warriors disguised as Hindutva moral flag bearers, beating innocent young girls for not following norms of prescribed morality; whereas on the other side, are gangs of youth committing heinous crimes like the few described in this article.
New Delhi is unofficially known as the rape capital of the world and India is becoming notorious for being the rape haven of the globe. One of the commentators on the news of this rape, in The Hindu, had the following to say: “Disgusting beasts are roaming everywhere. We are getting the reputation of a filthy society where women are raped, tortured and killed. Gone are the days when we were boasting ourselves as a very old civilization. If the things will continue like this, nobody will venture in our country. When will there be tough law to protect girl child and stop infanticide of girl child?”
Although India champions the women rights and democracy, the tradition of Sati has lived till not very distant past. As reported by RT, “India’s most infamous Sati case took place in the village of Devrala exactly 30 years ago. Eighteen-year-old Roop Kanwar committed Sati on the funeral pyre of her husband right in the centre of the village in 1987. It shocked the entire nation, and it strengthened the laws against Sati. Yet, the villagers of Devrala have erected a makeshift shrine to Roop Kanwar. So even though the practice itself is banned, the glorification of Sati lives on.”
The question of women rights and women equality in India appears to be eyewash when cases of rape are combined with infanticide of the girl child. The Atlantic in its article published on May 25, 2012, described the female infanticide as, “thousands of baby girls are abandoned each year, an extension of sex selection practices that, according to a 2011 study in The Lancet, include half a million abortions in India every year. Most abandoned babies die, but a few are rescued. While the statistics on the number of babies killed or abandoned at birth are murky, the vast majority goes unreported – the radically skewed sex ratio of children under six years of age is an inescapable indication. One study concluded that Indian households actually killed three million girl children through systematic infanticide from 2001 to 2011.” The question of women rights and her ability to breathe freely in ‘Incredible India’ is deep rooted in Hindu culture and history. From Rajput women burning at the pyre of their dead husbands in the inglorious tradition of Sati to onslaught of a naked culture prescribed and promulgated by Bollywood to mass scale infanticide of girl children, India has to not only clean up its past, but also find a way out into the future, as the present is laced with the minefield of suffocating space for Indian women.
Gender inequality; especially in Hindu population of India is a known fact. The dwindling women population due to female infant genocide has created an imbalance in the demographic structure of Hindu community; add to it the difficulty of getting married out of caste and one finds that Hindu boys are finding it difficult to get spouses of their status and class. The Saffron terror launched by Doval-Modi-Yogi circus has further squeezed the breathing space for women: especially those belonging to non- Hindu communities like Dalits, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.
Daily reports of public lynching of non-Hindu communities on one pretext or the other has created an environment of terror all across India. Despite Social Media activism by non- Hindu communities, RSS Cyber goons, who now number anything between 800000 to one million, have created an atmosphere of cyber terror on the internet. Recent episode of Priyanka Chopra being harassed by RSS goons through cyber terror is a case in point. So where do we go from here? India is not expected to come out of Saffron Jinx in near future. Doval-Modi-Yogi circus is convinced that communal vote in a majoritarian political system is the trump card for success in elections and this is the only short cut to absolute political power in India. Unfortunately I don’t see any light at the end of this long and narrow tunnel of Saffronized India.
— The author is a freelance journalist.