(Image souce: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31698154)
This has been a tough week for India- at least the secular, modern, egalitarian India of my perhaps impractical dreams- and it ain’t getting any better.
Usually I start these letters-to-a-stranger thing with a “hi” and a “how are you”, but today, I’m honestly not in the mood. When you think about the fact that Nirbhaya’s rapists- remember that girl that the nation fed off, and then forgot, because there are a hundred others like her every day?- blame her for the rape- “We killed her because she tried to fight back. She shouldn’t have done that.” – you might see why. When you think about the fact that one of their defence lawyers said, and I quote, ad verbum, “A lady is like a gem. If you put a gem in the gutter, it will get dirty. If you put her out on the streets, the dogs will eat her. That is why in our home, girls do not go out alone after 6:30, or 7:30, or 8:30 pm. Our culture is the best culture: where ladies have no place,” you might see why. When you think about the fact that his buddy said, “If my daughter did anything to cast slight on her character before marriage, I’d take her to the farmhouse and in front of all my family I’d pour petrol on her and set her on fire, without hesitation,” on national television, you might see why. If you knew that Leslee Udwin’s documentary film on the Nirbhaya rape (“India’s Daughter”) has been banned after an FIR was lodged, not against the lawyers for making outrageous statements, but against her, you might see why.
And I haven’t even started on the fact that possession of beef is now punishable in Maharashtra with incarceration of up to 5 years if found guilty.
It makes my skin crawl to think that India has now sunk to this level. That the section of the national consciousness I thought to be inviolable can make a blatantly discriminatory law, and then flaunt it in the faces of the very people who freedom it stole and whose way of life it judged to be “wrong”. This “law” is so incredibly biased and pro-saffron-ite that I had trouble believing it to be a real thing- I genuinely thought it was someone playing a joke in very, very poor taste. “Aghast” is a word that falls short of how I now feel.
I wonder if those who passed this law will feel the same way when they hear what my father said- apparently young Brahmin boys were fed calves’ tongues in a coming-of-age ritual, during his childhood- even as he laughed incredulously, still disbelieving the actual existence of such a law. I wonder if those who took my right to be a human being away, because I happen to have breasts and a vagina, will feel the same way when they learn that my mother, shuddering, called them “Beasts unfit to inhabit human society.”
All I can think of, in the face of all of this, in the face of a “legal” “justice” system crumbling before my eyes, is the new India I know to be emerging from the ignominious, vile ruins of the present- the India consisting of my friends, my seniors studying law in various parts of the country. The India I know to be independent, active, cerebral, powerful- and numerous. The India I know has been exposed to thoughts that speak of dignity, and self-respect, and of snatching back what is rightfully ours: our independence as free-thinking individuals, bodies and minds in a society that runs without fear. The India, that I know, can not only think but also act. The hope that I stubbornly refuse to let go of has rested its weight on your shoulders, my peers… and mine- for I too am one of you, however insignificant my abilities are.
And I am lost. I have no idea where to begin, what to do and how to do it. I have no idea how to balance my ideology against both a society and a resistance that challenge it. I have no idea how to maintain my self in the tug-of-war of identity, responsibility, hypocrisy and truth.
But I suppose one has to begin somewhere, and soon- because time is running out, and if we don’t act, I fear it’ll be far, far too late- the rotten stinking flesh will already have given in. And I believe we can heal it, make clear the life-blood racing through its veins again- because if I don’t, all that I hold dear- hope, faith, the vision of a world where I can be unfettered and unafraid and me- will be lost, and I will never find my way back from the quagmire of despair staring me in the face.
I hope your week has been better than mine. See you on Saturday.