I applaud the commendable courage you demonstrated braving the cold and the omnipresent Delhi pervert to gather and show solidarity to the victim of brutality. Sacrificing your precious time, that too on a winter weekend, is a sacrifice like no other. I got goosebumps when I heard that you faced the wrath of the Delhi police and their water cannons and yet, you stood strong. And when you did all that, people noticed, and the country watched.
I asked a good friend who was with you on what the protest meant for her. She walked for hours around India gate holding a placard that read, “We want justice.” She wants justice to be served to the victim; she speaks with so much passion that I can hear a voice from inside her crying “death to the accused.” It struck me- death for them while the other pervs roam around free? “No,” she says, “this is symbolic; it’s about sending a message to all those other perverts that this will not be tolerated.” And then I read- the pervs were right there! Among them, roaming around, and groping around. Delhi police received approximately 42 calls of harassment during the first day of protests. Apparently the pervs saw this as a free-riding opportunity of a lifetime. Ah Delhi!
I’ve been living in the city now for over 10 years now, 6 of which in the coveted satellite town of Gurgaon. I graduated from a small town in Assam with an engineering degree, post the 2001 global slowdown. Like most others in my batch, I graduated on an indecisive note- without a job and no clue of what to do with life. And like most others, I knew I had to move out of home. I faced the tough choice of deciding between Delhi/academic opportunity and Bangalore/employment opportunity. While I wouldn’t get into what tilted the balance toward Delhi, my next phase in life was the pursuit of a Master’s degree from a DU establishment. I remember my first ride in the city from the New Delhi railway station to my accommodation in Kingsway Camp near Delhi University. I saw big roads, fast moving cars, DTC buses, and good looking people. One thing, in particular, struck me- the hoardings. Apparently the Delhi government was engaged in some kind of austerity drive at that time to educate people on the ills of dowry. On my way, I saw at least 3 large hoardings written in Hindi with messages ranging from “humaare betiyan humaara bhavishya (our girls are our future),” to “dahej lena kanooni apradh hain (taking dowry is illegal).” Who on earth needed these? This kind of stuff happens only in movies. Why on a hoarding? Hoardings are for detergent powder and life insurance ads. Needless to say, I was creeped out. What kind of a place looks at women like that?
With time, dawned the realization of how the creepy eve-teasing-skirt-hunting-molester brain worked. I had many among me. And no, the molester wasn’t just the young lad cleaning my toilet, or sweeping the road in front of the house. He was in my class, he was the middle-aged landlord of the private girl’s hostel next door, he was the old guy in the queue. It wasn’t about social stature, economic condition, or occupation, it felt like an association. A secret society with standard operating procedures and a sense of camaraderie and collusion like no other. He had predator instincts and knew exactly when and how to pounce on the prey. He could see and identify another of his kind and nothing, absolutely nothing, could daunt him from doing what he did. It was in his DNA, a kind of a response to stimulus like wincing after touching a hot cup of tea.
So what are you trying to achieve through these protests? Do you think a conviction will stop him from looking at women like objects? I doubt it! Capital punishment and life imprisonment are not alien terms for the society. But has it stopped murder? Is it about strong policing? C’mon be serious! Why, with every stray incident, so I get convinced that this is a vent for you? You’ve been reading about it, you’ve seen the suffering of a friend who has gone through the trauma, you’re subjected to some form of assault every day; and your anger has now imploded. The people in power know that; don’t let them use this as your weakness. And for the almighty’s sake, have a cause! There is no point wasting a single candle from your box or a single ounce of calorie if you don’t know what you’re fighting for.
But fight you must! Fight for the root cause. Fight for education. Take that mass of people and go around. Tell a parent how to give the lesson of civility to his/her child. Ask the government to introduce civic living as a part of the school curriculum. Teach people the meaning of stopping at a red light. Show how a civilized person stands in a queue. And above all, teach people the lesson of spirituality. After all, your protest is not against the system. Remember, the system is what you create of it.