India outraged: A cry to shun communal politics
The outrage that poured over on to the streets of New Delhi - as in many other parts of India - when hundreds of citizens came together to protest the brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Kathua and the rape of a minor in Unnao stood out as a rare phenomenon in an atmosphere ruled by fear and hatred.
By Lekshmi Parameswaran
The outrage that poured over on to the streets of New Delhi - as in many other parts of India - when hundreds of citizens came together to protest the brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Kathua and the rape of a minor in Unnao stood out as a rare phenomenon in an atmosphere ruled by fear and hatred. The show of solidarity came as a ray of hope at a time when even the most bestial of all crimes are communalized and trivialized. But the sense of apathy was hard to overlook, and it was humanity that stood defeated even when the clamour for justice is getting louder and louder.
The fact that it took the nation three months to raise its voice against a murder so brutal is a sign of the changing times. The deafening silence and the resulting helplessness that has come to characterize the nation raises important questions on whether the country is still ruled by the values of democracy and secularism. In 2012, when the Nirbhaya case - the gangrape of a young medical intern in a commuter bus in Delhi - came to light, the anger witnessed on the streets made the then ruling UPA government sit up and act on the demands put forth by the people. It showed the innate faith that Indians had in the country’s constitution and its custodians. Six years since that incident, the nation is no longer mourning the loss of lives or the sheer banality of what has happened. It is faced with a situation where the value of each and every life is decided by the community and religion that one belongs to.
The pre-mediated murder of an eight-year old just to give a message to a particular community would perhaps have never happened in an India if it was not for the ruling government strengthening the hands of the fundamentalist forces. Instead of seeing it as an act of violence and condemning it, the nation is for the first time forced to get into a polarizing debate where certain sections are made to fight for their very existence. And it has also happened for the first time ever that the spokesperson of the ruling party termed the elected representatives as being ‘misled’ for participating in a rally taken out in support of the rape accused in Kathua. If the representatives and upholders of constitutional values can indeed be ‘misled’ by a section of the population, then what is at stake is the very future of this nation.
Human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover, while extending her support to the #notinmyname campaign said, “The women of this country face no threat at the borders but within it”. No words could have summed up the feeling of dejection that every responsible citizen of this nation is facing at present in better words. And this, rings true not just for the women but every citizen hailing from an ideology, religion, caste or community that is different from that supported by the dominant ideology. In the death of an innocent life who was till then unharmed by the barriers created by human beings, what was also lost is the nation’s hope for better times. It has left behind a multiple of questions to which there are no easy answers. The solution does not lie in the call for death penalty for those who perpetrated the heinous crime; it lies in spreading the message of equality and peace. The silent protests seen on Delhi’s streets should be a beginning to achieve this end and the voices that have been raised should not die down with time. If they do, the coming generations will be robbed of a future where they can feel the safety and security that the idea of a nation-state promises.
(Lekshmi Parameswaran can be contacted at email@example.com)
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