Around 11 at night, approximately 24 hours after a 23-year-old student was beaten with an iron rod and raped by a group of six men in a moving bus and thrown off with no clothes, a man calls a radio station to explain why more men are turning against the women in the city.
“Back in the village, people from my parent’s generation would get married when they turned 20,” he says in a mix of Hindi and English. “Today by the time you finish all your diploma and degrees, you are 26-27. You don’t have a job. You can’t possibly think of settling down. You’re in a city like Delhi where girls look and dress attractively. Sometimes you can’t help but go crazy when you look at them. Your mind gets messed up."
“Does you mind get messed up, too?” asks the radio show host somewhat alarmed. “Only sometimes… But I think of my family and future... I try and think of other things. I don’t want to justify why rapes happen. I am just trying to air my thoughts on the matter, that’s all.”
If you are a woman in Delhi, you don’t need someone to tell you how unsafe this city is. You know exactly how the nightmare unfolds. You have already had more than your share of experiences to tell, possibly from a very young age, when you’ve been either teased, ridiculed or molested in the city you call home. You know how these stories go.
You’ve felt cold and unremorseful eyes follow you around; you know very well it’s not because of how you dress, what time is it, and where you are. Someone is always staring at you at every nook and cranny, or making lewd gestures. Not a day goes by, you miss it.
You’ve most likely felt offended, broken, outraged and insulted. You’ve talked about it to others and carried the hurt whenever the subject is raised. It has also changed the way you look and interact with men. You distrust them.
And, if you’ve lived in this city long enough, you’ve probably got used to this life of fear and submission. You’ve learnt how to deal with it by bottling it inside. You’ve learnt to best avoid it, and not let it get to you.
But what happens when you’re not from here?
Is it time we officially declare this city as a capital of sick-minded and repressed savages? Should there be a travel advisory that Delhi can’t control its urges and will hurt you? That it will pounce on you and make you regret for being a woman?
A few months ago, a friend from Germany, landed for the first time in India. Within 15 minutes of leaving the airport, she had the first of many horrible experiences in Delhi. A man drove up to her and asked her to hop in. When she said no, he began to talk dirty. He asked her for a kiss. She said she felt scared, tired and alone all at the same moment. She started to regret her visit before it began. Fortunately, a fellow traveler came to her rescue.
A few weeks later, she was in a bus and felt about a dozen hands crawling all over her. She told them to stop, but they wouldn’t. She points to her legs, breasts, back and buttocks to show not a spot on her body was spared. She says she had to jump off the bus. She was in tears.
Another friend had the bizarre experience when a man barged into her auto one evening. When she asked the man, where he wants to go, he said where ever you’re going. She asked the auto driver to stop, but he kept driving on. She began to panic, started to scream, so he halted, and she ran out. It was late. There was no one on the street. She was scared.
She says there are days when she loves this city and then there are nights when she is so upset that she hates it with all her heart. The more you talk about the issue of women’s safety in the Capital, the whys start to outweigh reason, sense, morality and civility.
Delhi, please stop molesting and raping your women.
In 2011, the city reported 572 cases of rapes, the highest it has ever recorded. To make things worse, it was a little more than double the number of cases reported in Mumbai. This year, the number in all likelihood has shot up. If current crime against women trends among top metropolitan cities is to go, Delhi has become the rape capital of India. (This figure does not even reveal half the cases that go unreported, and cases of molestation and eve-teasing, which make them sound light and trivial.)
It’s time to deal with this social malaise in a different light. We need to make punishment for crimes against women much harsher than what they are. It should be able to fill criminals with trepidation and hatred of their own actions. They should be dealt with so severely, that for generations to come they can’t imagine lifting a finger on a woman.
Rather than simply award death penalty, we need to beat this demon out of our culture, value and belief system. Nothing worse than solitary confinement, flogging and castration needs to be considered. Something so inhumane, so debilitating, that it’s humiliating and shameful, that it permanently scars the soul, and instills a stern warning.
The same fear every woman in the city is facing for her safety right now, the same fear a molester or rapist should feel about the consequences of his actions. If we don’t act now, we’ll be setting a dangerous precedent where the safety of women will continue to be compromised.
The brutality and savagery inflicted on the bus gangrape victim reveals how low demonic frustration and brutal crime in the city has plunged to. This wasn’t just a rape case. It was cold, insane and blood thirsty act of crime.
Let us not blame class differences and congested housing spaces with no privacy, or push young people to early marriage, to solve this crisis. By doing so, you’re only covering the monster with sand, till it rises again, stronger and mightier than before.
These are dangerous times; the nation is undergoing a bitter transition, the future looks bleaker with each passing day. If the law and justice system wants to be taken seriously, now is the time it needs to crackdown, rather than its usual three-legged dog approach. Don’t look away, it won’t go. It’s going to get worse, each and every time.