To a nation inured to daily news of molestations and other atrocities, it was still a massive jolt to read about the rape of a tiny infant by her cousin in Delhi. How do we deal with such dregs of the society, and how do we console ourselves after we have failed to protect the most vulnerable amongst us? G. Venkatesh introspects.

Early this year, towards the end of January, a 28-year-old father-of-two raped his father’s younger brother’s 8-month old baby girl in Delhi. Such rapes and incestuous acts are not unprecedented or unheard of in our glorious country. For that matter, they may be happening even as I pen these words, in many parts of India, and of course, all over in this great world of ours. You sense frustration as you read these lines? Well, yes, you are not mistaken. After discussing about what had happened on WhatsApp with my classmates from 1987, I hit the gym, pumped iron in utter disgust at the inability and ineffectiveness of our overstaffed police force, of course with some rare gems in it who do not see eye to eye with the burgeoning governing bodies – both in the city where this shameful event happened and all over the country, and the hopefully well-meaning-but-encumbered judiciary. I returned home and could not resist writing down this piece late into the night.

If man dares, God supports
Many victims carry dark secrets which they do not wish to reveal, not so much to shield the criminal who may be a close relative, but to avoid being shamed by society for the rest of their lives. And the perpetrators? Well, they go on from strength to strength, eat, drink, make merry, and live to ripe old ages, and pass away and become ‘dear departed’. After all, in a world like the one we live in, a good man and a worthless rascal are one and the same when their bodies are cremated and reduced to ashes! Correct me if I am wrong.

One may say that there is a law of Karma which takes hold and Lord Krishna said so in the Mahabharata. But for this law to manifest itself, one needs brave and virtuous (tricky combo) Pandavas to declare war on Kauravas so that God can lead the former to victory. And talking of law, here, if the lawmakers and the law-keepers do not do their bit diligently, as Krishna advised Arjuna to do, the lawbreakers will have a whale of a time! Twenty years ago, if I said or wrote such things, I always said, ‘Chotimuh, badibaat’. But I am 46 years old now and know what I am saying, all the more clearly than I did when I was 26. And it is always better anyway not to at least have a ‘Badimuh, chotibaat’…if you get the drift. Referring back, by ‘lawmakers’ I mean our honourable politicians, who drive around in comfort, escorted by their Z-security officers (I cannot but help think about that photograph of the Norwegian king – not the current one but his father – travelling by tram with commoners in winters to ski). By law-keepers, I refer to the policemen and the judiciary.

When things like the one referred to, at the beginning of this article, happen, uproar is witnessed, anger aired, and news channels work overtime. Readers may read, nod, and turn over to the next article, which may be about a woman who has transformed an entire village by organising the inhabitants into forces of good. The invisible and unstated link between this story and the next one would never be comprehended.

This brings us to the thought-word-deed trio, which for me is verily the Trinity of existence – Father, Son and Holy Spirit; or Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva. One needs all three for sure. There cannot (and should not) be Deed without careful Thought. Thought and Word are ineffective if the Deed does not follow. How many of us can claim to consistently – 24 by 7, week after week – be doing what we say, and saying what we think. In other words, displaying a tremendous sense of integrity, both to ourselves and the outside world? Honestly. None, I would say?

Thought and word futile without deed
Thought and emotion may trigger anger. Verbal venom is spewed against injustice – as one sees the thespian Nana Patekar do in his movies. Graduating from the former to the latter itself is a great step forward. But if things come to a halt there, and the embers cool off, well, the thought was unnecessary and the words had better not been uttered. It is the last jump to focused action which completes the series. Policymaking is on the thought-word level. Sans implementation, it is useless. The sheets of paper on which the policies are typed are better off being recycled as toilet paper and put to some use at least. As sheets of paper, on which policy statements are typed and documented, they are meant to be aids in cleaning up and restoring order, sustaining welfare, and facilitating development. If they do not serve those purposes, cleaning some other muck would be a much better option!

Strength in numbers
Actions set precedents. Consistent actions set stronger precedents. I write about things because I feel that the pen can be mightier than the sword as they say. Is it true? I do not know. Sometimes, I feel that I am just a helpless and neutered individual whiling away time by writing my thoughts down. But is it difficult to pledge that every citizen will look out for every other citizen’s back? That way, miscreants will be deterred. If the police force cannot deter them, we civilians can. We need the strength of numbers and this is where, ‘One India One People’ comes in. If we count out all the potential rapists and criminals, we would still be well above a billion! Do not get me wrong. I am not implying that there are 300 million potential rapists in India. When I say ‘above a billion’, I am counting out little children, but including youngsters in high school, who could play a significant role in fighting crime.

However, let me ask you something. If I take on some eve-teasers (who could ‘graduate’ to becoming molesters in due course of time) in Mumbai – who are harassing a girl who is not known to me, but could be a friend’s daughter – and a fight ensues, how probable is it that a nice, neatly-aligned crowd forms around me, with numerous photographs being taken and forwarded on WhatsApp…perhaps making me a hero instantly? Most probable, right? How probable is it that a dozen men who care for their sisters, wives and daughters, would come to my aid and outnumber the eve-teasers and scare them away, or pin them down? Perhaps not many? How probable is that the policemen who may be summoned onto the scene thank me? Not much, right? I may well be locked up in jail for a night. I stay in Sweden. In Scandinavia, women are well-respected. Gender equality prevails. No doubt the Nordic countries rank among the top ten when it comes to the Global Happiness Index. A country in which women are respected is bound to develop into a happy one, over time…slowly, but surely.

India waits for the verdict
What is going to be the verdict then, in the rape case? Surely, the rapist would get his lawyer…who may perhaps argue that his client may have suffered molestation himself when he was a child at the hands of an uncle and the dear-departed uncle must be punished posthumously. Perhaps, it may be proved that he is a schizophrenic; and Personality B raped the child, while Personality A was not even aware of this (Am I giving the lawyer ideas here?) Human rights activists may come forward to defend the rapist’s right to be pardoned. As if the 8-month old girl was not a human being!

If this rapist is put away for life or for several years at least, in the hope that he would reform himself in jail, after eating and surviving thanks to the tax payers of the country, would that be agreeable to many of us? Recidivist crime, let me remind you, is as common here as in the USA. Is our judiciary well-equipped to deal with extraordinary crimes – perhaps without a clear precedent – with extraordinary efficiency? ‘Hang him’, was the response of many who were interviewed on television. Would that be an effective deterrent? Then, the police force and the judiciary need to demonstrate that they are consistent and would not discriminate between Indian citizens in this regard! An imported-whisky-drinking son of a bigwig must be considered as guilty as a common cabbie. Even if the former is able to hire a clever lawyer who has no values beyond earning dollops of cash, the judge needs to go by precedent, in a clear-headed manner.

Safety first
Yes, India may be saddled with many challenges now, but want of safety and security trumps all other concerns. Health, education and employment make no sense in the absence of security. How do we ensure that the politicians and policemen share our agony? The ballot box has proved to be a dud. Same stories are repeated again and again, quite like film-scripts in the 1980s and 1990s.

Am I provoking my countrymen? Am I inciting them to rebel? Does this make me some kind of an insurgent? Will the blue pencil get to work on my piece, if it is considered publishable? I do not know. Perhaps, this will not be read at all by anyone. Perhaps, those who read it will nod and flip the page. Perhaps, some will be motivated to seek the cooperation of others and build up an army of do-gooders. I would not know.

I rest my pen now, but hope that a strong deterrent will emerge in the next few weeks. At least within this year. There is still a fond hope that the pen with which I wrote this article before typing it in, may be at least as mighty as a sword, if not mightier…and that Lord Krishna blesses it and destines that it contributes a bit at least along with many other pieces which would have been published already. Jai Hind!

G. Venkatesh

G. Venkatesh is Associate Professor, Department of Engineering and Chemical Sciences, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology, Karlstad University, Sweden. He is also a freelance writer for several magazines around the world.