Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Particular and the General

It often happens that a particular incident turns the much-needed spotlight on a larger issue that has been swept under the carpet for long. The brutal gang rape in Delhi on the night of December 16, whose victim is now unfortunately dead, did that to the issue of safety of women and laws relating to sexual violence.
There are the stray voices asking why the rape of a girl in Delhi should do this, and not the many rapes in other cities or in the deep, dark interiors of the country. There are also people saying where was such outrage during the Gujarat riots when worse was being done to women.
That is not a relevant question. There have been other shocking rapes in Delhi earlier – the gang rape by members of the President’s bodyguards in Buddha Jayanti Park, the rape of the medical student in the afternoon in a Mughal monument on the busy Bahadurshah Zafar Marg, the abduction from Dhaula Kuan and gangrape of a call centre employee – but they have not evoked the reaction that this one has. The `why now’ does not matter. What does matter is that the issue has been highlighted as never before and the focus on it should remain.
But when the particular and the general start getting mixed up, there’s a problem. There is serious danger of that happening in this case.
Let’s take the particular in this case. A girl was brutally assaulted and raped in a moving bus on the night of December 16. Her male friend was also beaten up badly. They were stripped of their clothes and dumped on the road.
The crowds thronging Vijay Chowk and India Gate started with calls for justice for the young girl and steps to ensure safety of women in Delhi in future. All the rapists were arrested in less than a week (four of them within twenty-four hours). The case was given to a fast track court, which is to hold hearings on a daily basis. Now after the girl’s death, they will also face the charge of murder.
The government also announced some steps to ensure safety of women in Delhi – more policing, more buses at night, removing dark films and curtains from windows of buses and making it compulsory for them to keep lights on inside at night. Three police personnel who had been on duty that night were suspended. A man the rapists had robbed earlier that evening had approached them and they had brushed him off. If they had acted, that young girl would not have been battling for life. So they were rightly punished.
The particular incident, therefore, has been addressed.
So why are protestors out there demanding justice for the braveheart, death for the culprits? I’ve got bizarre sms-es saying the culprits should be hanged by the end of the year.
So then we are told that this is about the larger issue – harsher laws, better enforcement, changing the medieval mindset, judicial reforms, police reforms. Sure that needs to be put into focus. But it can’t be done overnight. The protests will help if they keep the pressure on to get these issues addressed, as they must.
But why make it a Congress issue? Why ask for chief minister Shiela Dixit to resign? Why mock Manmohan Singh for not shedding tears like Barrack Obama did after the school shooting in the United States?(Let me hasten to add that I am no supporter of the UPA government or of the Congress party.). How will this larger cause be helped if police commissioner Neeraj Kumar is sacked?
They may currently be the symbols of al that is wrong with the way women’s issues and law and order issues are handled. But concentrating on attacking them will take the focus away from the need to address far more fundamental issues.
We need to separate the particular and general for any lasting solutions to emerge from our anger.

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