We are believers, a renowned haematologist oncologist told me recently when asked what was his worst moment with patients. Faith, I asked him. “Yes…otherwise, we’d be dermatologists,” he said, smiling. Believers are people of faith. They have faith in their capacity to lead and learn from the young and old. They have faith in their pursuit of knowledge that they nourish and challenge everyday without fear or favour. Believers are people of passion drawn to excellence, their one quest being fired by what they can contribute to do as much good to as many people at all times.
Most of our lawmakers are not people of faith. As I watch events and comments, outrage and stupidity chase each other in India following the rape and murder of a doctor and a few more adolescents and women since her death last week, my faith in India’s young is reinforced. They, not tired, treacherous and corrupt politicians, will bring us the answers. They, not the malicious and the evil will bring the house down. I believe they are now beginning to see that rape is not a woman’s issue. It’s a people’s issue- we the people of India have to push back all the evil and malice that has been baked into our systems to save a protect a few.
Our lawmakers, some of who face allegations of rape and sexual misconduct are not hyperventilating because they care. They are terrified that crime and criminality is washing up closer and closer to them. They are fearful of their own shadows now dancing in daylight and the sound of their own voices, hence the need to shout inanities in Parliament. They are fearful that their abominable language has deserted them so they are left with nothing but their own nakedness which neither grammar nor justice can couch.
We were so shocked it happened so close to us, we parodied proximity and privilege into a pathetic commentary on us. Nirbhaya, the fearless we called her. Like she woke up that fateful morning in December 2012 fearlessly ready to be brutally raped and thrown on the streets of Delhi near when we live. No one stopped to help her. We ran instead to buy candles, holding fake Guccis and fake hands sing songs after which we returned to our gated communities and shared our fears on Twitter. Whipping up a frenzy, wanting to belong to the blood and gore, but only that much so that we could go from conference to conference saying “I was there” and here I come to empower you, the other Nirbhayas.
My faith in my country and the honour and respect I have for so much of it does not depend on what status decrepit politicians and their touts give women and men in India. I will not allow them to roll me into cynicism now, no more than they tried when equally dreadful murders and unspeakable crimes were committed against children. Mine is a country where dead rats and lizards surface in school meal programmes and where children going to and from school in India’s villages are kidnapped and killed, their organs traded in international markets on a daily basis. I have never given any politician the right to destroy my life and that is the kind of people I surround myself with. It s not about courage- it is about faith and belief in a greater good.
Nirbhaya two. Lynching. Murder. Mayhem. Ring 100. Make the woman feel ashamed, why did she not go to a police station? There are super swanky patrol cars in Telengana with flashing blue and red lights and sirens. Like in America. I know of no Indian woman or man without connections who would walk into a police station and file an FIR for rape. The reason is simple- police stations are not safe places in India and CCTVs are fig leaves even in the most posh localities and roads. It’s not as if police people are bad people. They have been treated without any respect for decades.
The many lakhs and jobs and flats and grants that will be given to families of women who were raped is a public transaction that politicians make to buy themselves out of their own muck. It’s their way of saying take the money and get lost. If you come back, I’ll throw judicial reforms, police reforms, prison reforms at you as if it is the fault of the electorate that lawmakers have failed to do over the past 70 years. Blame the victims. Ask them some more questions and they will throw legalese and some poor interpretation of the law. These are the same politicians who carry shoes of their seniors in public and shout at their staff in public. There’s a name for people like this. We cannot allow them to speak for justice in India.
After Nirbhaya was raped and killed, I met a few political leaders across the spectrum with some ideas for advocacy at the top levels. Most did not respond and the few who did said such things don’t happen at their level and the problem is in the villages. A few even said it was “too political” meaning they were sitting amidst rapists and rape accused in Parliament. I don’t expect much from politicians and I don’t want to get into the ridiculous logic of we are not a vote bank. That would be strengthening the very people we are fighting.
A judicial system is not built on vengeance- in fact, justice is not vengeance. Till such time we think it is, we, the people of India will continue to destroy our institutions from doing what they are supposed to do- deliver speedy justice. We have to work together to push conviction rates to rise. Taking a life is a crime. When a society turns a blind eye to children being raped and killed and reacts only when it happens to one of “us” it’s a commentary on us. When we the people of India walk and drive past people in distress without even stopping to ask if they would like a glass of water, we are contributing to conditions that favour violence of which rape is one dastardly manifestation. When we beg for that with criminals in public life, we’re ceding precious space and sanity.
India is a democracy and there can be no place for careless talk about lynching and mob justice. We are facing a predicament today, one that shakes us at the roots of who we are as a people, a culture, a country and what we want as our right. We are looking for people with integrity to lead and guide us as we grow as a democracy with so many warts and bumps.
Integrity does not come in bits and pieces. Either you are or you are not. I keep the faith.