Women’s safety is a hard battle. But we can’t give up | Analysis
To keep the Hyderabad rape victim alive in our outrage is to breathe life into our right to exist and feel safeUpdated: Dec 02, 2019 06:41 IST
On Thursday night, I shared a news story on the murder of a Hyderabad veterinarian. It was a crime so chilling, not only for its brutality, but also for how easily relatable it was. The breakdown of transport on the road, the sheer helplessness of being stranded, cars whizzing past with people barely noticing you — it can happen to any of us.
The victim was riding a scooter, and must have moved out of the way of oncoming traffic with relative ease. Those men must have approached her, finally. They filled her with an inexplicable anxiety, as was clear from her last call to her sister, who detected a note of tension as she spoke of their approach. It must have been that brief moment of anxiety before an interaction with strangers, before fears are alleviated or intensified. Being a female alone in the world is an experience that is disturbingly familiar.
At 9:44 pm, 22 minutes after she spoke to her sister, her phone was switched off. During that last call, she had received the familiar advice — go to the toll plaza and wait there. Well-lit, crowded with booth employees, it would have been a safer option. But it was also one in which one felt as though one were on display and, therefore, vulnerable.
The victim decided against it. It was driven by that familiar awkwardness, the one that makes us self-conscious when in public and in need of assistance. She could have been you, and she could have been me. She made the “wrong” choice. But was there a right one? Should she not have been safe on the roadside as well?
Instead, she trusted those who offered help. Her somewhat routine problem, which left her sister wondering but not too worried, was about to take a gruesome and deadly turn.
On Thursday night, when I shared her story, her image was on display — a bright, attractive young woman. Later, I saw that her image was blurred. That could mean only one thing — rape. The violation that her charred body spoke of in death had also occurred in life. And it is terrifying and infuriating.
Was she alive when they set her ablaze, erasing all presence of her being? She had to be identified by her clothes. One’s senses are numbed at the thought of her last few hours, the sheer terror she must have experienced.
She would have been a teenager when the December 16 (2012) Delhi gang rape and murder shook the nation.That one incident was supposed to make life safer for women. Our collective outrage was meant to protect the young and vulnerable. We failed.
Parliament is in session, and the Hyderabad victim should have been spoken about; what happened to her should be etched in the minutes of the House. But, instead, politicians argued over flippant statements made by their peers on social media and in the House. Petty point-scoring dominated the proceedings.
A media channel located the December 16 Delhi rape victim’s mother outside a court house. This has become her life. First, it was seeking justice; now, it is seeking the carriage of justice. All but one of the men who brutalised her daughter still breathe, and she will settle for nothing less than their death. Who can argue with her? But in the past few years they have.
The outrage only lasts this long. After that, its agenda and politics.
But we have to hold on to the anger, to the outrage. We have to continue to feel the immediacy of brutality, even if it means we will have to hold ourselves hostage to dread. But it is a bargain that we must make. To keep the Hyderabad victim alive in our outrage and despair and recollection is to breathe life to the right to exist and feel safe.
It is to be able to step out in the dark.
Advaita Kala is an author and columnist
The views expressed are personal