Monday, May 9, 2016

Rape combines with cruelty of the extreme kind to shame India and its moral pretensions

We are no longer a moral nation. May be our cultural heritage is 5000 years old, may be our moral codes were the noblest in civilisation, but today India is a nation that sees rapes mounting by the day. Not just rapes, but rapes of extraordinary cruelty. Among countries with the highest number of rapes, we come after the United States, South Africa and Sweden. But if there were a list of countries where cruelty ruled, we should be at the top.

The way a young law student was raped and tortured to death in Perumpavoor (Kerala) saw the country rise in anger and disbelief -- disbelief because it had happened in a supposedly progressive state, literate and socially advanced, God's Own Country. The girl had 30 stab wounds on her body. A sharp knife was used to pierce both her breasts. A hammer-like object hit her face, severing her nose. A pointed rod was driven into her and her stomach kicked until the intestines came out.

This was reminiscent of the way 'Nirbhaya' was tortured in Delhi in 2012 by her rapists. The cruellest of the gang was the youngster who raped her, then raped her again after she became unconscious, then, as the papers put it, "ripped out the intestines with his hand". This brute was virtually spared by the law because he was "under age" by a few months. He must be looking for his next victim.

Was the Perumpavoor criminal drawing inspiration from the Delhi criminal? Was the Delhi criminal copying the Gujarat criminals who famously cut open the womb of a pregnant woman during the riots in 2002? The urge to imitate is high among perverts because, obviously, these rapists are not out to merely satisfy their carnal desires; they are making declarations of power, assertions of invincibility over helpless victims, celebrating triumphs of the male ego. Psychologists will be able to explain the workings of these minds that seek savagery for the sake of savagery.

But we need no scientific expertise to realise that the spread of extraordinary cruelty against women across the country is a recent phenomenon and that it is directly related to the general fall in standards. There is a loss of faith in political leadership across the board and since politics affects every aspect of life in India, political deterioration means a general deterioration in life's values. There was a sense of values and morality during the days of Gandhi, Jayaprakash and the first generation of government leaders such as Nehru-Patel-Morarji. Today power wielders resort to any means to sustain power; government wheels do not turn unless lubricated with bribes. In a culture of greed, rapacity and abuse of power, those who cannot flaunt money or authority to massage their ego, resort to cruelty against the weak and the lonely. Fathers violate daughters, boys violate old women, boyfriends help their pals to gangrape their trusting girlfriends.

Add to this the mass influence of our television serials. In every language, these running shows highlight illicit relations, violence, cheatings, atrocities and in-family ruthlessness. These are avidly watched in our living rooms, the audiences gradually coming to the conclusion that illicit relations, violence and ruthlessness are the ingredients of real life. The media's intensive coverage of rapes and other crimes must also be spreading the impression that these are everyday happenings. This explains why statistically Kerala has higher rates of rapes than UP; in UP fewer cases are reported by the media.

The devaluation of religious orders has also significantly contributed to the rise of crimes against women. Some outrageous crimes have occurred inside Christian convents of nuns, madrassa schools and the ashrams of self-styled gurus. Many of them have been booked by law, but only a handful punished. Add to this the procession of netas who insist on visiting the relatives of the victims. The Perumpavoor girl's mother was so harassed by VIP visitors that doctors had to call for an end to it. The cynicism of politicians is as condemnable as the sadism of the rapists.

The only possible solution to this national disease is strict laws and their strict implementation. Justice J.S.Verma had worked out model laws following the Nirbhaya case. His recommendations were watered down by the Government. Political influence is often brought to bear, especially when ranking politicians are the rapists and killers. Courts take years to pronounce judgments. If these crippling problems are not solved, all talk of Indian culture and Sanskritic glory will remain sheer hypocrisy.