She lit a flame. But almost a year after the Delhi braveheart was brutally raped while onboard a bus, has India's attitude towards its women changed?
HT Leadership Summit took up the issue at a panel discussion on Saturday. With sitarist and composer Anoushka Shankar, actor and political leader Khushbu Sundar and national vice president of Smriti Irani as panelists, the debate was robust and took up the issue in all its dynamics.
Passing a damning comment on how the police are seen in India, Anoushka said, "I fear that the Indian police will rape me rather than help me if I am in trouble". During her opening comments, she said the film industry and misrepresentation of religion were two aggravating factors in the issue.
Holding the Indian film industry responsible for objectifying women, she said, "Bollywood can help change the mindsets of women but they are too busy making money. I am sick of the misogyny and sexualisation of women in the industry."
The artiste said atrocities are also committed on women due to misrepresentation of religion. "We talk of moving forward but religion is an impediment. Improving human condition will never go against any form of spirituality, we need to question such religious customs," she said.
BJP leader Smriti Irani struck a more personal note. "I feel helpless every morning when my 23-year-old daughter leaves home to catch a local train. She carries her bag in front of her chest and is getting prepared for the groping, jostling and comments she will be subjected to. An MP myself, I cannot help my own child," she said.
The former TV actor confessed that she broke down at home one night after being a part of a TV debate over the Delhi braveheart. "I saw my daughter coming home once again with a bowed head and I knew someone has again passed a lewd comment in the local."
Smriti, who played an important part in passing of the stringent anti-rape legislation in Parliament, said women are characterised by their will to survive. Taking a widely divergent view from Anoushka's, she said it was not TV or film industry's job to mould the children. Instead, parents need to make sure that they are instilling the right values in their children.
Also taking on Farooq Abdullah for his Friday's comment that one is afraid to talk to women these days, she said, "If a man is without malice, he has nothing to fear. Women are not hired so that they can be joked with or hit upon."
Khushbu, meanwhile, discussed India's hypocrisy in worshipping goddess Lakshmi while killing a girl child in the womb. She said along with men, women's mindsets need to be changed as well.
"A woman of the new India needs to speak her mind and call a spade a spade. She will ask her Ram to jump into the fire to prove his fidelity. She needs to be an individual and have an identity of her own."