Friday, 11 March 2011

Delhi’s Many Shayan Munshis

The candles are out once again. This time they are for Radhika Tanwar, the Delhi college girl who was shot dead by what is presumed to be a stalker or a rebuffed suitor. Students are going to take out a protest march about the rising crimes against women. Police inefficiency is being blamed.
There’s nothing wrong with all of that. But let’s see things in proper perspective.
Radhika was shot in broad daylight as she was descending from a foot overbridge to go to her college. It was morning and there were a large number of people on the foot overbridge. They heard some noise, saw a girl collapsing, saw someone running away.
No one stopped him or even tried to.
No one came forward to help the girl. Not even when the police arrived.
No one came forward to give a statement.
No one saw anything. They stood around watching.
Maybe if someone had rushed her to a hospital, she would have been alive and been able to say who could have shot her. Right now, there are conflicting statements, with her friends saying she was being harassed by someone and that her family had beaten someone up and the family denying it completely. The truth may never be known because no one is cooperating. And yet there will be demonstrations and Facebook pages on Justice for Radhika.
It’s easy to blame the police for everything. Sure the police isn’t the epitome of efficiency. It is, on the contrary, the epitome of callousness and corruption. But let’s face it, the police cannot be present on every kilometer every minute. You cannot blame the police for the shooting. The police can be blamed if it had not acted promptly. From all accounts of the current case, there was no delay on the part of the police once it was informed of the incident.
This time the callousness and the delay was by all of those present when Radhika was shot.
A name flashes in my mind. Shayan Munshi, the model and aspiring actor who was a star witness in Jessica Lal murder case. His initial testimony nailed Manu Sharma, who has been convicted for Lal’s murder. But he later turned a hostile witness. He did it because he must have been either threatened or browbeaten. Or simply because he didn’t want the hassle of police questioning and court cases. Maybe he thought, `is jhamele mein kyun padun (why should I get involved in this mess?)’, a typical Delhi reaction.
Munshi has been criticised and ridiculed for backtracking the way he did. He is now going to be tried for perjury. But what about all those people on the foot overbridge where Radhika was shot dead? When they stood around watching, didn’t they also think, `is jhamele mein kyun padun’?
I have dealt with this subject in two earlier posts, Middle Class Angst and Nithari and Us.
Delhi chief minister Shiela Dixit is right. Civil society, she said, cannot remain mute spectators to such incidents. The police cannot act without our help. If we are not going to vigilant and helpful citizens, we should stop demonstrating against the police. And demonizing Shayan Munshi. We are all Shayan Munshis.