Remove Claptrap from discussion on Rape
Ravi Shanker Kapoor
Like each of the blind men who could only tell about an aspect of the elephant, opinion makers are mostly grappling in the dark in their comments on the Delhi gang-rape. While those who lean on the Left are pontificating about the evils of the ‘patriarchal system,’ those on the Right can’t go beyond sanskaras. Both groups refuse to see―yes, refuse rather than fail to see―the elephant in the room: the total collapse of law and order.
Feminists and other intellectuals claiming to champion the cause of women primarily hold patriarchy responsible for the much of the problems women face in this country. As Subhashini Ali, president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association and a Communist Party of India (Marxist) Parliamentarian, wrote in an article in The Hindu, “This most reprehensible aspect of patriarchy helps to create and perpetuate the societal conditioning and circumstances responsible for the horrors that are visited on the female sex from the time of conception to the time of an often unnatural and brutal death. It permeates consciousness at all levels. Ministers, politicians, administrators, policemen and members of the judiciary all subscribe to it in varying measure.”
That may be true, but the “most reprehensible aspect of patriarchy” did not rape and assault the 23-year-old physiotherapist; six thugs did. And they did it in the heart of the national Capital because they had no fear of the law.
However, Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, couldn’t agree more with Ali. Talking to a Canadian newspaper, Kumari, who has been admirable in castigating the ministers and officials in the recent case, rightly pointed out that there are approximately 40,000 cases of sexual assault pending before courts across India. The cases have dragged on for eight or nine years. Most of the accused are out on bail and have little reason to believe they will face serious punishment for their crimes, she said.
After the statement of facts comes the ideological positioning: “The higher level of mobility of women―more independent, self-minded, strong women―their presence is very overwhelming for some set of people who are totally patriarchal, in a macho culture.” Kumari went on to mention the retrograde verdicts imposed by khap panchayats in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, including ban on women wearing jeans and using mobile phones, and getting girls married at a young age. “There is a lot of intolerance growing to women’s new-found independence, and women will have to confront it,” she said.
While Left-leaning activists blame abstractions like patriarchy, social conservatives bemoan the decline in traditional ideals and culture, the diminishing emphasis on sanskaras―thus making irresponsible, deracinated, and Westernized women out of cultured bharatiya naaris, and concomitantly transmogrifying authentic Indian men into monsters who become slaves to their own passions.
Pinkish and saffron explanations have nothing to do with the reality. The rapists in the current case were in an inebriated state and, we now know, at least one of them had a criminal bent of mind. Patriarchy, macho culture, sanskaras, etc., have nothing to do with their actions. What apparently drove them to act in such a barbaric manner was their belief that they would not be caught.
We live in a country where more than two-thirds of the milk sold is dangerously adulterated; some of it is not even milk but a concoction of urea, detergent, and other hazardous substances. Everybody knows about it; in fact, everybody has known about it for quite some time, yet nothing has been done. The most heinous and violent crimes―including child-trafficking, organ trade, and terror funding―are carried out with impunity; often, the officials concerned are hand in glove with the culprits. It is common knowledge that anybody who loots enough and knows the right people at right places gets away with murder. In their line itself, the rapists must have seen corruption everywhere, from getting the licence to running a bus service. It’s a jungle out there. And in a jungle, the right of the predator is unquestioned.
With the police is busy protecting politicians and collecting hafta, the state has practically given up its prime responsibility of maintaining law and order. Ordinary citizens are forced to live in a state of nature where life is, to use Hobbes’ words, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
As I mentioned in an earlier article, what is required is the rule of law and the fear of law. The same men who go around molesting women at, say, Noida in UP, behave properly in Centrestage Mall. They know that while in the crowded markets they can touch and feel women, this would not be tolerated at the mall which is owned the Ponty Chadha family.
And lastly I would like to point out that if our focus shifts from law and order to abstractions like patriarchy and sanskaras, this opportunity to effect some good change would go waste. At any rate, it may take years, if not decades, for the patriarchal mindset and sanskaras to change, but better security measures can be and should be taken at once. Better measures don’t mean new laws, commissions, or talking shops; they mean the implementation of the existing rules and regulations.
As compared to the clamor for new laws or death penalty for rapists, this sounds surely unsexy. Administrative, judicial, and police reforms are not considered grandiose from a political point of view. This is the reason that politicians have avoided these reforms; they are happy discussing grand abstractions. Opinion makers should not give them a chance to revert to baloney. Politicians need to be told about the elephant in the room.