By Saeed Naqvi
11 Jan, 2012
The anonymity of the New Delhi gang rape victim must be counted as a factor which has helped sustain remarkable youth mobilization to this day. If names were revealed at the very outset of the gruesome incident, it is just possible that caste differences would have come in the way of the unprecedented upsurge. Anonymity enabled 'Braveheart' to transcend the limitations of caste and creed and be transformed into an icon, and then into an idea.
The idea cannot be erased. But it became increasingly difficult to shield the victim's name. This evolution from total anonymity to a locatable identity should be kept in mind while taking up Shashi Tharoor's suggestion that the new law should be named after the victim - now known to be Jyoti Singh Pandey - whose tragedy compelled the nation's attention in an extraordinary way. It was rape accompanied by unspeakable brutality and amplified by the media, which has, in the popular imagination, imparted a new meaning to the word 'rape' itself - a terrifyingly gory act.
Anger across urban India, spearheaded by the youth, has been directed against the government, more specifically the law-and-order machinery, i.e. the police. The scale of mass mobilization has already resulted in a fast-track court to be set up.
In the momentum of some good that has been initiated, there would be no harm making some more gains in all the States. Of course politicians at all tiers, with any criminal record of which rape is one, should be run through speed courts. Those with convictions who are already in panchayats, assemblies and parliament should, under new, stringent laws, be asked by the Election Commission to vacate their seats which will be filled up in by-elections.
Anger across urban India, led by the youth, has been directed against the government
The police has been criticized, on occasion excessively, and I have only one or two observations to make about it here. In September 2011 when the police shot dead six Meo worshippers at the mosque in Gopalgarh, two hour's drive from Delhi, all the policemen at the station were Gujjars. Gopalgarh is in a Meo majority area. Supposing there were two women constables and two Meos in the police station, would the incident have been averted?
People, including rape victims, in need of police help would approach a police station with a greater sense of confidence if the thaana were something of a microcosm of the society where it is located.
In their anger, the youth have targeted policing as the only reasons for the ghoulish incident overlooking the reality that it is primarily a social issue.
In the 1960s, driving around Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, I visited villages where it was proudly proclaimed that "we have never set up a 'mandap' in our village". Which means "we" have never had to arrange a daughter's marriage because no daughters were allowed to survive. They were given a dot of opium and buried in the sand at birth.
Studies show that a negative female-male ratio in parts of rural areas of neighbouring states is sometimes 6 girls to 10 boys. Societies in the past made a virtue of their regularized cruelties. But imagine the problems of adjustment that boys and girls reared in this outlandish supply-and-demand circumstance now face in the cauldron of the big bad city.
Delhi is settled on countless villages where land value has in recent decades shot up. Young men from these villages which are now posh residential areas have enough money to buy BMWs and join expensive nightclubs but they come across as brash and are incapable of the sort of chemistry which would enable them to make contact with women who are city-bred for a generation or two.
In the 1969 classic film Midnight Cowboy, Joe Buck comes to New York to fulfill his dream of taking city-bred women to bed. A third-rate pimp, Enrico Ratzo (Dustin Hoffman), plays on Joe's failures and leads him into a fetid life of pornographic stench. Enrico could be the bus driver of the current narrative.
I often suggest to my friends from the city's fancy addresses to occasionally visit the old city of Jama Masjid to experience a parallel lifestyle, even if only as a sociological study. Women will not be leered at nor greeted with lewd remarks. This is true for all areas where people are settled for generations.
This is Delhi's biggest problem. It is surrounded by socially backward states like UP, Haryana, Rajasthan and beyond, attracting migrations constantly. The youth in the migratory populations occasionally suffer from the Midnight Cowboy syndrome. More prone to emotional maladjustment is a large population that transits through New Delhi's razzle-dazzle.
The agitation is led by the educated youth, which has grown up in an era of the market economy boom. Is it not ironic that this youth is so angry with a government that authored this era?
The vehicle for this economy is advertising. Carefully watch the ads between overs in any primetime cricket match. A girl in see-through lingerie sits on a commode, which is what the ad is promoting. Virat Kohli, the cricketer, says "main ladki pataane ke do tareeqe jaanta hoon." ('I know two tricks to seduce girls.') He is promoting a mobile phone. A young hostess is so violently turned on by the perfume wafting from her elderly guest that she tears his suit off, leaving him in his underwear. A girl in black bras and panties swoons on a particular condom even as she approaches a man in bed... and so on.
Should someone not be agitating outside the ad giants and media houses which vend this ware? Is it wrong to assume that a surfeit of this stuff titillates hundreds of thousands cast in the image of the six in that ill-fated bus and who must repeatedly be brought into focus as the bleak villains of our history?
Saeed Naqvi is a senior journalist, television commentator and interviewer.