Friday, 28 December 2012

The real prey

Recent news in India has the media focusing on a heinous crime, involving sexual assault in the capital city of Delhi inside a bus. The public have raised their voices in protest against the inability of the state machinery to stop the crime while the victim herself is fighting for her life while her own privacy has been threatened. The perpetrators of the crime have been condemned by several people through social media, blogs, newspaper articles and vociferous protests to have acted in the most inhuman manner ever. While the Police have apprehended suspects, the nation is erupting with more and more crimes against women getting reported and being given nation-wide attention.

The question to ask, under these circumstances is, "Who is the real prey?"

Narendra Modi, leader of the BJP in Gujarat with his eyes set on the Center for 2014 had a sweeping victory in assembly elections in his state for the third consecutive time, a considerable feat. His victory has been somewhat drowned by the severity of the crime on which the media has shifted focus. I have not read in detail, his views on this other than a complaint on central governance.

Troubled Perception
Men and Boys roaming in groups without female company are now being seen negatively as "possible" elements capable of such criminality in a mere act of public perception. Any boys or gentleman walking with Water bottles or driving with them are immediately suspected of having had alcohol. This too, is pure perception with nothing to back this fact.

Couples in Anxiety
Young couples are being viewed with suspicion as to whether they are in a legitimate relationship or are attracting undue attention of criminal elements who may harm them. Although the moral police has not taken a strong stance against women and their friends of the opposite gender, public perception is now looking at such couples as possible people inviting trouble.

The Independent Woman
Working women and girls, who are waiting at bus-stops or at public places to be picked up by their company-cabs or relatives are being viewed negatively and are being judged on account of their dress as if they are inviting trouble. Perhaps worse labels are also being applied by the onlooking public who are less used to seeing women standing unaccompanied by men. This social scotoma is perhaps the most nefarious.

Disabled Police Force
The police are immediately assumed to be a inefficient, corrupt or in extremes a malevolent force in an increasing aperture of public perception. The police begin to defend themselves against the general public especially failing at changing the perception; which in many minds is thought to have been built over time.

Ironically, society is slowly preying upon the individuals who are its keystones. Assumptions and Perceptions are taking precedence over fact. These perceptions are being magnified by powerful elements of media augmented by social media in today's world.

Media Tunnel Vission
So who are the predators in this game? The lens which magnifies incorrect or unjustified perceptions of society is granted by the media who are omnipresent in the modern scenario. They select information that inflames the heart of society, never anything that confirms them. I  have never seen a news post or a television rating that does not talk about famine, death, pain, crime, assault bringing in the strongest negative verbs to usage on frequent basis.

Social media, as predicted quite some time back, has become a herd - either retweeting or sharing or reflecting on the same viewpoints with too few counter-positions.

Co-Education: "Not a Panacea, but a good start!"
Boys and Girls in countries like India, with a deep rooted culture must study in co-educational institutions. The educational sector itself requires a huge revamp to improve the quality of education offered. Society must relax its strictures on interaction of younger teen and adolescent children across genders. This will create better understanding. These measures along with better surveillance by the police (which is happening,) will protect the working-woman and the working-man - especially the middle-class of today.

The Middle Class, but not every woman ...
As Arundhati Roy clearly mentioned, the furor created by this specific deplorable incident in Delhi shall perhaps result in bolstering the middle-class. An additional step of compulsory co-education (which is no easy achievement) will also alleviate the troubles of the scholastically educated, working middle-class.

Yet, discriminatory pockets will exist like Chattisgarh or Jammu-and-Kashmir where such crimes will be perpetrated even by governmental authorities on the people with impunity. For the other kind of discrimination, I will refer to them as the downtrodden, the neglected and the disrespected.

However, the downtrodden, be they classified as scheduled castes or tribes or in financial scales will continue to  be away from the limelight of the media. They have fewer opportunities for a full fledged education and shall fall prey easily to such crimes in the future.

Cautious Action
While everyone (including men and women) should respect women and do our best to uphold them, we must take care not to be victimized by falsified reports (which too are not uncommon) especially when there is a social frenzy, however light or intense at play. Justice is still in the hands of the judiciary. Non-violent protests by angry people are unfortunately not truly non-violent. They are expressions of violence without its physical domain. This too should be avoided. Unless one can be calm and address the problem, and therefore protest nation-wide - wear black badges - increase our respect for women as a daily exercise - we will be doomed to return to where this problem came from.

These are my views, perhaps amateur. I have learned that anger itself is violence, and we must not respond to this with anger, but with compassion to the victim. Most see such response as a weakness. If we fall prey to the anger that flows through society, such crimes will increase due to social dynamics of pressure created on those upon whom a negative impression has been created. Caution is our best way forward. Repairing all that is broken takes time and no amount of impatience will resolve this. Let us together hope for a better country, free of crime, where men and women can go about their business together or alone, without sneers or leers or fear of physical abuse. Courage and Caution is the best response for all of  us to move forward.

Laws and Rules not implemented that laid the stage for this terrible crime!
  1. The bus did not have a permit to ply on Indian roads for two (2) years and had multiple revocations
  2. Dark film on window panes is prohibited on most vehicles including buses, especially this one. This too went unchecked.
  3. The crew of the bus was reported (to the police) in a mugging incident barely two (2) weeks before this incident after taking a passenger and mugging him in similar manner.
  4. There was no legitimate public transport plying to ferry people along the route.
  5. The bus was not to ply (even if the permit were valid) after school-drops and certainly not at night.
  6. National Highway Patrol was supposed to ply at least with higher frequency where the two assaulted individuals lay for over forty (40) minutes without attention.
  7. Noise pollution was so high that the screams of the victim nor any call for help could be discerned in crowded roads through which the bus plied.
Individual errors have compounded into the most ugly scenario experienced. All of the above need to be resolved while this crime is addressed in a court of law. Each of the above is what we must stop.