….the father of one of the victims was informed over phone by the police. The mango tree – the shade of which may have been a respite from sweltering heat, the fruits of which may have attracted little kids, and the leaves of which would fill the air with its herbal fragrance has become a symbol of death and misery.
The gang rape and murder of two teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh has reminded us of the morbidity that lurks into the dark hearts and minds of some men in our country. Sadly, when such brutality is afflicted on one girl, it does not confine itself to that specific case. It sends shivers down the spine of every Indian girl, her mobility is hampered, the darkness in the streets she normally passes through become more pronounced, a random, but diligent stalker becomes a grave threat, and her parents become more proactive in regulating her movement. All these steps do not necessarily contribute to safety, they just close all avenues to women that are integral to a normal life.
In the race for women in this country to elevate themselves above the conventional roles, in the constant struggle to avoid succumbing to the patriarchal authority, in the effort to avoid subservience to the lopsided societal structure, two lamps were extinguished and left to hang on a tree so that everyone watched and absorbed the darkness. I wonder what the final conversation of the girls may have been like- the words they may have spoken in normalcy before they were converted to agitated screams of pain as the men continued to destroy their innocence, moment by moment, movement by movement.
If the Nirbhaya case had faded away from our minds, the image of the the two girls suspended from the tree does more than just remind us of the evils of society. It has given us other cruel visuals to choose from. While Nirbhaya’s case was an open demonstration of sexual violence towards the Indian middle class – a section that she represented, the two girls hailed from a small district that may have had its share of unfortunate circumstances before this incident too.
Once again, the Indian populace is disgusted with the details in the background of this episode. It is a typical case of one despicable situation cascading into another, and this one eventually resulting in death. The two girls became easy targets of this crime because they had ventured into the fields in the shadow of night to relieve themselves as sanitation facilities were unavailable around their settlement. To think about this, what we do incidentally on a daily basis turned out to be a fatal adventure for the innocent girls. In hindsight, the perpetrators would have been at ease too, as the custodians of law and order – the police – displayed their lackadaisical approach to the situations. A response so listless and apathetic, that the officials on duty now face suspension.
If the officials responsible for taking action against the criminals failed to convince people, how could the ones providing lip service from centuries enjoy from a distance? This was a lip service the politicians wished they never provided. When a journalist quizzed Akhilesh Yadav on the brutal episode and women safety in the state, the CM retorted back asking if she herself didn’t feel safe. To an agitated crowd that is forced to reconcile with sexual violence and threat to life, this comes off as morbidity with its own class. This represents a political system bereft of moral values that have guided the country for decades. And in the parlance of a less humble India, the response of the CM is plain rude, uncouth and insensitive. (That’s still very, very humble)
Before the politicians and law enforcement authorities even half heartedly set out to perform their duties, they need to undergo a mental revolution. Take a hiatus, if necessary, and understand their countrymen from scratch. We know they run a diverse country, but their response to the public and journalists should not be an extension of their inability to control the situation. The human heart, especially in such vulnerable times, is often tender and grieved. When confronted with images of girls suspended from the trees like bloated branches, the least one can expect is kind consideration and warm words of reassurance. In their hearts they may be itching to go back to the confines of their plush houses and devour a customary feast, but when given the mandate to run a state and queried about a tragedy, leave the impression that they too are human beings, or had been at some point in time.
Though everyone hopes for a fast redressal of this case and harsh punishment befitting the act, I know that the criminals have outlived their crime. With their hideous actions that they may have managed to wrap up in minutes, they have plunged a family into deep despair, depriving them of days that could have been marked with the activities of the young girls. The girls could have been mentally assuring themselves of rising above challenges, developing ideas or simply indulging in innocent dreams, just the way we do at times while answering the nature’s call. But the aftermath for the girls was far from relief. The two families have been robbed off two mouths to feed each, but for a long time, even the little food at home will go untouched by the bereaved family.
However illuminating the sun may be in Uttar Pradesh, it will be gloomy in Badaun. And even more, under the shade of that mango tree.