Thursday, March 22, 2012

Of Rape, Protest and Our Selfishness

‘Mard bano aurat ki izzat karo (Be a man, respect women)’, read a poster at a protest against harassment of women. An incident of gang-rape of a young woman working at a bar triggered a lot of anger and protests in Gurgaon, by the people of Gurgaon… or so they claimed. The incident was horrific. I completely stand by the woman. The perpetrators of this heinous crime must be punished… all seven of them. The irresponsible cops, who were informed immediately but instead of acting on the information took a dig at the girl for working late at a bar, must not be let off the hook for this massive dereliction of duty that allowed a rape, that could have been prevented, to happen. I am not sure who angers me more - the seven boys who raped the girl or the three policemen did not prevent it from happening.

Then began a series of protests. Various groups, various places… everyone venting out their anger… and rightfully so. The demand is to make Gurgaon safe for women. Now that is ridiculous - something as basic as safety has to be demanded? Should it not be provided proactively? We have the police, the government and departments and hundreds of officers and a whole paraphernalia to handle everything. Yet we have to struggle and fight for something as basic as safety? How is it possible that even when authorities are being paid to run a state (even the country, for that matter), people keep suffering from a lack of basic necessities - food, shelter and safety? What are those, supposedly running the system, doing and getting paid for? That answer isn’t that difficult to guess. The more difficult question is ‘WHY’. Why is it that things don’t work in this system? Why is it that people are discriminated against, and most remain poor and helpless, while a few keep getting richer and more powerful? The answer is not too difficult to guess but pretty difficult to digest.

In the façade of being civilized and educated, we ourselves are responsible for the way things are. Discrimination begins right here. The power (in)equations are supported by us with a smile as we bow down to please those whom we fear.

We have it all ingrained and drilled into our head. We remain incapable of thinking beyond what is fed and of looking inside our own horrible heads. For example, and coming back to Gurgaon, we love to believe that we, who live in the high rises are ‘the’ people of Gurgaon. Are we really? What about those who actually owned these farmlands and grew crops here for ages till laws were bent and the land was bought over. Where are those people today? What was their culture? Do they have any place in this circus of beautiful words and apparent display of wealth, modesty and altruism?

Read the opening words again and think for a moment what is our own understanding of this system where patriarchal and economic concepts of disparity fuel most inequalities. ‘Mard bano aurat ki izzat karo (Be a man, respect women)’. Does this not follow that very patriarchal concept of being a ‘man’ that makes us believe that a woman is a ‘possession’ or a ‘property’ and thus lesser than man? Should it not have read, ‘human’ instead?

And this was just ONE such poster among various other things. Why do we miss out on the fundamental issues that lead to the problems… be it of safety or women or children or poor or whoever? What prevents us from analyzing our own thoughts and looking deep within? To top it all, one could even smell a silent race (of being on the top with more media coverage and headcounts) among some groups protesting for the issue.

We may believe we have evolved, but in the end we remain little selfish creatures who completely miss the point of understanding both life and humility. To sum up in the words of one of my favorite film makers, Charlie Chaplin, “I am at peace with God. My conflict is with Man.”

Parvez Imam
Dated: March 20, 2012

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