How many countries could there be where children of four or elderly ladies in their 80s are raped? No doubt a few but which proud Indian would wish to be compared to them? Yet here it happens not just regularly but, even, it would seem, frequently. Astonishingly, wee babies under one have been raped as well as women in their 90s! It could hardly be worse.
What sort of man would rape a child or a baby? What sort of human being would rape a woman in her 80s or 90s? And not just rape. The little girl of four who was assaulted in Keshav Puram earlier this month was so badly injured she needed an immediate colostomy. Now she will have to undergo multiple surgeries and faces a minimum six months in hospital.
Those of us who thought that what happened to Nirbhaya in 2012 would be a turning point have, I fear, been proven right for the wrong reason. It wasn’t a moment of catharsis, of change, of correction. No. It simply showed how deep the rot runs and since then it’s been steadily, if alarmingly, pouring out.
So it’s time to ask what this reveals of Indian men and of the way we’re brought up and permitted to behave by our parents, families and society. Because the truth we cannot escape or deny is that rape happens when men do it. And if a man is determined to rape a baby or a nonagenarian no amount of police and no application of severe laws can stop him.
The answer is simple: we’re beasts, monsters, demons. There are multiple words in English — or any other language — to adequately describe us. It’s not the language that’s lacking. The problem is: Do we recognise — and then accept — what these words tell us? Alas, I think not. Because I also believe no man wants to deliberately behave like a beast, be seen as a monster or be called a barbarian.
We do it because those around us accept or condone or forgive. They permit us. They indulge us. They don’t punish us. And who is the ‘they’ I refer to? Our parents, our siblings, our families and, ultimately, our society.
It’s mothers who bring up their darling sons as if they are little gods, whilst treating their daughters as a curse, who are perhaps the first to be blamed. It’s the aunts and grandmothers who spoil and cosset that come next. And let’s not forget the fathers who treat their sons as champions even when they cheat their sisters, lie to their neighbours or steal from their friends. Their blame is no less.
To put it bluntly: we as parents, families, society are to blame. Our attitude — and, yes, I’ll go so far as to say our culture — has created these rapists and given them the confidence to rape with impunity. The Indian male has terrible faults but alongside him his mother, father, grandparents and, then, finally, the society they’ve created is to blame.
So, today, let’s look at ourselves in the mirror. But not at the self-pleasing visage we want to see. Instead, let’s search deeper for the moral cancer that’s spread throughout us. It’s there. Make no mistake about that. But are we willing to see it?
If not, we’re turning a blind eye to our faults even as we clamour for the government or the police to act. And let’s not kid ourselves, we’re doing it knowingly. Deliberately.
The views expressed are personal.