In Hyderabad, a young woman — a veterinarian — is the newest victim of India’s relentless, shameful rape epidemic.
The description of the crime is so grotesque that I do not want to do it here. Basically, four men gang raped and killed her, and then burned her body, and left the remains on the street. And media, to sell the news, published that picture, and disclosed the victim’s identity widely.
So, point is, women’s safety is zero in India today. If such a violent and grotesque crime can happen in a big city like Hyderabad, and that too, around 9.30 P.M., then imagine what is happening across the country in remote, rural areas — in dark. We’ve had many examples.
Of course, the people in power vehemently deny that the situation is grim. Worse, BJP’s driving engine Hindu supremacist RSS’ top leader Mohan Bhagwat has said that such crimes only happen in big cities, and never in villages, because big cities have Western influence that is causing these crimes.
So, we know their position.
Second, when the much-publicized Delhi gang rape (nicknamed “Nirbhaya”) happened a few years ago, there were a lot of liberal outrage and candle light vigils. Since then, India saw rape and murder of hundreds of women in every corner of the country, and yesterday’s Hyderabad tragedy is another incident which got some media attention because of its very grotesque nature.
Both Hindu and Muslim men are responsible for it: police just caught all four of them. Women are in such precarious situation that I believe it deserves international intervention.
I have compared India’s rape epidemic with the gun violence epidemic here in USA, and have wrote series of articles on this website. If you want, you can visit one of the articles, and find related links there.
I am not sure what else I can do. Those of you who live in India might think of possible action plans. In my opinion, India is imploding on all fronts — economic, social, and political.
To understand the enormity of the problem and why we must address it as a plague, small pox or cholera-like epidemic, let us revisit the shameful, horrific situation of rape and violence on women in India.
I am quoting the following numbers from Outlook India magazine, their date of publication January 14, 2013. Their web link is here. The information below shows how all-pervasive the epidemic has become over the years — encompassing all races, castes, religions, geographical areas, economic classes or ages. Just like any other epidemic, rape and violence on women in India have now impacted them ALL.
20 Horrific, Landmark Cases Up To December 2012
•1973: Aruna Shaunbag: A junior nurse at King Edward Memorial hospital in Mumbai, tied with a dog chain, assaulted and raped by a ward boy. She lost her eyesight and has been in a vegetative state since. Supreme Court turns down mercy killing.
•1978: Geeta and Sanjay Chopra were kidnapped for ransom in Delhi in the infamous “Ranga-Billa” kidnapping case. The culprits raped Geeta before killing them both.
•1982: Tulasa Thapa, a 12-year-old Nepali girl, was repeatedly raped before being sold into prostitution. Ten months later, she was brought to JJ Hospital in Mumbai where she died of brain tuberculosis and three sexually transmitted diseases.
•1990: A 14-year-old school girl was raped at her residence in Calcutta and killed by a security guard. Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed in August 2004, the country’s first hanging since 1995. [Note: India uses capital punishment sporadically. Now, facing public anger over the Delhi rape case, both the ruling Congress Party and main opposition BJP are trying to amend the constitution so that rapists are also subjected to the death penalty. There is hardly any discussion now about the various aspects of the punishment.]
•1996: A 16-year-old girl was sexually harassed and assaulted continuously for 40 days by 42 men in Kerala. In 2000, a special court sentenced 35 persons to rigorous imprisonment but the Kerala High Court acquitted them in 2005. [Note: Kerala is a southern Indian province where education rate is very high, many people are Christian, and the society is by and large matriarchal — extremely rare in India.]
•1996: 25-year-old law student Priyadarshini Mattoo was found raped and murdered at her house in Delhi. Ten years later, the Delhi High Court found Santosh Kumar Singh guilty. [Note: it shows even in the very few cases where there is an ultimate criminal conviction, the law and justice system drags on forever. On the other hand, in case of foreign nationals’ rape cases — now more frequently than ever before — justice is served promptly.]
•1999: The estranged wife of an Indian Forest Service officer, Anjana Mishra’s car was stopped at a desolate place on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. She was gangraped in front of the friend she was traveling with.
•2002: A fourth-year medical student was gangraped at knifepoint on the terrace of the Khooni Darwaza monument situated on the busy Bahadurshah Zafar Marg in Delhi.
•2003: Shari S. Nair, a teenaged girl hailing from Kottayam, Kerala, was sexually abused after being promised roles in TV serials. Shari later died after giving birth to a daughter.
•2004: 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama was tortured and allegedly executed by personnel of the paramilitary force of 17 Assam Rifles stationed in Manipur, after being picked up from her house. (Below is a picture of the historic “Manorama” protest by Indian women in the nude — just to put it in perspective.)
•2005: 28-year-old Imrana was raped by her father-in-law in Uttar Pradesh. The village elders and Sharia courts nullified her marriage saying her husband was now her son.
•2005: A Delhi University student was gangraped by four men inside a car for several hours and dumped in south Delhi, unconscious and without clothes.
•2009: Two young women were raped and murdered in Jammu under mysterious circumstances, allegedly by CRPF (military) personnel. One of them was two months pregnant at the time.
•2010: A 30-year-old tech employee was raped by five men near her home in south Delhi. The woman was pulled into a mini truck, raped repeatedly and thrown out two hours later.
•2011: A nine-year-old mentally disabled girl was raped on a Mumbai train in front of five other passengers. The child could not scream or shout or speak because she was disabled.
•Feb 2012: A 37-year-old woman was gangraped in a car on Calcutta’s Park Street after coming out of a bar. Mamata Banerjee (Bengal’s current chief minister) had said the case was cooked up to embarrass her government.
•Dec 2012: An eighteen-month-old baby, the daughter of pavement dwellers, was found by her mother one morning covered in blood. Doctors said she had been raped and tortured.
•Dec 2012: A two-year-old was raped, allegedly by her maternal uncle, and thrown into a thorny bush in Baroda, Gujarat. She died after being taken to the hospital.
•Dec 26, 2012: A 20-year-old woman was allegedly gangraped by 10 people on the banks of Manimuktha river in Tamil Nadu, according to police.
EVEN AFTER the December 16 Delhi gang rape tragedy that has rocked India, the country has not seen any respite in the number and frequency of rape and violence on women. The following news from India’s NDTV tells the story. Link to news here.
Amid nationwide furor over the gang-rape and murder of a paramedic student in Delhi, five fresh cases of crime against women were reported on Wednesday in neighboring Punjab, prompting the state police to constitute specialized investigation teams. [Note: this is how the news was reported — focusing on the state of Punjab.]
A six-year-old girl from Singhpura Munnan village in Moga district was raped, Senior SP (Moga) S S Grewal said. The accused Soni Singh took the victim to his place about 20 days back and raped her, Grewal said, adding that Singh had confessed to the crime about which police came to know only on Monday. The accused has been arrested, the SSP said. Medical examination of the girl confirmed rape.
In a separate case, an eight-year-old girl of a migrant labourer was allegedly raped and killed by a 25-year-old youth at Simbli village in Hoshiarpur district. Mehtiana police booked a youth, Sanjay Kumar, of district Purnia (Bihar). The accused is at large.
Both, Kumar and the victim’s family, were living at a farmhouse in Simbli village. On Wednesday, the girl’s body was found in nearby fields.
In the third incident, a 14-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by three persons at Talwandi Kalan village on the outskirts of Ludhiana city. Police Commissioner Ishwar Singh said that all the accused, aged between 28 to 30 have been arrested.
In another crime against women, three villagers were on Wednesday booked on the charge of teasing and beating up a woman of the same village. The accused Ladoo, Sonu and Kaka, all residents of Bassi Mustafa village were booked. The girl alleged in her complaint that while she along with her sister was returning home from work, the accused first teased her and then later thrashed her up.
In another case, police on Tuesday booked ten persons in connection with the alleged abduction of two sisters at Jalala village of Hoshiarpur district. The accused went to the victim’s home on the night of December 29 and allegedly kidnapped them, police said.
I dedicate this multi-part article to the memory of Jyoti Singh Pandey, the brave 23-year-old Indian woman who gave her life to wake us up from our slumber and inaction. Jyoti means light. Jyoti means radiance. Let her ultimate sacrifice be our light and radiance to find the path of human rights, dignity, justice and equality.
(Note: I am disclosing the name of the victim woman ONLY after I heard in British and Australian media that her father wanted the world to know her identity. I believe the father is brave and right in his judgment.)
This barbarism is India’s new epidemic: just like cholera, plague or small pox. Make no mistake about it. This new low of violence on women is India’s new apartheid where an extremely patriarchal and feudal society with its corrupt and sick leaders treats Indian women just the same way South Africa treated its black people, or America treated its slaves. There is NO difference at all.
How does the Indian society treat its women — right from childhood? In case you want to know, I wrote about it using my long, real-life experience in India. Please read And Then…God Created…Indian Men!
I invite all my sisters and brothers — both in India and abroad — to come together and rescue India from this horrific epidemic and calamitous apartheid.
I shall continue to write and talk about this issue in the coming days. I made a pledge to my sisters on January 1, 2013 that I shall work to stop this violence. I need your help, support and solidarity to make it possible.
This is my first post in 2013. I want to write about a pledge.
I wish I could write about something happy and cheerful. But I can’t. Given what is going on in India, where sisters and mothers and daughters are going through a calamitous horror every single day, and given that the horror is going to hurt or kill my own family some day soon, I could not write about anything else.
I am writing about a dark and tragic episode of human civilization.
In India and countries like India, rape and violence on women have now reached an epidemic proportion. Both the number and frequency of rape, beating, torture, acid throwing, female infanticide, bride burning and many other “ordinary” and unspeakable forms of violence have shattered the society and particularly its women. Young women, even little girls, have been raped and abused all across the country, and unless we accept it as a massive epidemic and address it exactly the same way we’ve addressed any other epidemic such as plague, small pox or cholera, it will wipe out countless women and families — thousands of them physically and millions more psychologically.
Unless we cure India of this epidemic now, it will permanently traumatize an entire nation of one billion people, and cripple many more generations to come.
My 2013 pledge is this. I wrote about it on my Facebook page on January 1.
TO MY FIGHTING SISTERS. — I SHALL stop violence on you and I stake my life on it.
I salute you: as I wrote in my post And Then…God Created…Indian Men, “for the first time in modern Indian history, the entire country exploded against rampant, all-pervasive violence on women.” Do not let this precious moment slip by. You are making history.
I have asked sisters and brothers who showed their support on the pledge to send us ideas and suggestions. I shall keep putting them together and come up with more, articulated thoughts in the coming days. I want to spend as much time as possible on this one, more urgent issue this year. I need your help and support to stop this epidemic of rape and violence on Indian women.
I have also done some research on this subject and used my years of experience as a science teacher and researcher to think through this subject.
Over the past ten or fifteen years, I have dedicated a lot of my time to work on the subjects of violence and politics of violence — both in the American and Indian contexts. I have worked against post-9/11 hate crimes on immigrants here in the U.S. and spoke and wrote extensively about them. I have written about gun violence and terror in America. I have continued working on the politics of social and religious violence in India and Bangladesh.
I have published numerous articles on the above subjects in various types of media and gave interviews to newspapers, radio, TV and online news outlets.
I did not say it only to support my credentials and expertise on these issues. I wanted to show you how passionate and dedicated I am — to analyze the various aspects of violence on one hand and create mass awareness on the other.
I hope in the coming days, I get your urgent help and support and share to eradicate violence and bloodshed and hurt.
I hope in the coming days, I get your urgent help and support and share to eradicate this new epidemic of rape and violence on women that is destroying the Indian society.
Death penalty is NOT an answer. In fact, it is counter productive to stop and eradicate this crime.
Just think about it: other than India, only a handful of socially backward countries practice capital punishments. These countries include USA, China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even here in the U.S., states such as Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin have amended their own laws and abolished it.
The entire Western Europe and its most advanced countries, most of Latin America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and much of Africa have abolished death penalty, after serious and careful research and political and social movements on the ground. Here is a link to find out the countries with or without the death penalty. The countries that do not have capital punishment have mass murderers and rapists too. In fact, just a year ago, an extremist terrorist gunned down more than one hundred young boys and girls at a recreation camp in Norway. The convicted killer was not hanged on put in an electric chair: Norway abolished the death penalty long time ago.
I’ll give you more reasons why hanging a few criminals would not do anything to bring justice — either to the family of the young woman whose gang rape exploded India, or to address the horrible epidemic that is engulfing India.
Or, He did it on a day around that time, when He was exhausted and did not really want to do anything. He should’ve taken some rest at that time after all the major work He did before that. But He thought, well, I am God, ain’t I? I can handle it: I can do some more creationism.
And so He did not take the rest He should have taken. And then He created something only He knows why. Honestly, and I’m truly sorry to say it, with due apologies to Him, it was not His best creation at all.
He created Indian men.
We shall explain.
See, Indian men — Hindu, Muslim, Bahai, Buddhist, Christian or communist — are lifelong kids. When they are small and young, they get too much attention and pampered to an extreme. In an Indian family — rural or urban, low caste or high, middle class or poor, a little boy is always treated like a little prince — a Raj Kumar; the same family would treat a little girl very differently (even though she might be called a little princess — a Raj Kumari). Boys get the best food, best dresses, best toys, and best lullabies. Girls get the leftover food, leftover dresses, leftover toys, and little lullabies.
(And in many cases, a girl child would not even see her mother — live; chances are, society would force the mother to abort her. India has perhaps the highest number of such abortions; but we’re not going to talk about that violence here.)
Then, Indian boys — if their families can afford it — get “education.” For those families who can afford it, boys always get to go to better schools and get new school uniforms and new books — if their families can afford it. Girls — even if their families can afford it — may not be sent to the best possible schools even when the girl is smart and able to pass the entry exam. They will not get the best books; they will not get the newest uniforms.
Now, at this point, there would be some readers vehemently opposing my narration. If they are women, they would say, no it did not happen to me; my father sent me to the best possible school all along, and I also got the newest uniforms and new books. If these protesting readers are men, they would say, look, the situation has improved a lot; your tale is totally outdated. They would say, look, I had a sister, and my father found the best schools, best uniforms and best books for both us — with no discrimination.
Well, I’m happy for you. I’m only talking about my personal experience — with people I have seen in my life. I guess, I’m talking about a particular class or species of Indians (note: by Indians, I also mean Pakistanis and Bangladeshis). And by the way, oh dear protesting reader, look, you’re drawing my attention to your father who did it for you and your sister. I guess, you mom did not play a significant part in the decision-making process, did she?
Anyway…on with our story. Then, the boy grows up (or so they say) and becomes a teenager. Remember, in India, there is practically no sex education: even now, talking about sexual development and sexual relationship either at home or in school is practically a taboo. Co-ed schools are still relatively rare, and even the few and far between co-ed schools do not have a modern and transparent and age-appropriate sex education curriculum. The society is largely feudal. Gandhi’s feudalism did not help to bring up a modern nation at all. No, truly, it didn’t.
In this pervasive climate, the sex-education-less growing man knows he is strong and his hormones are on high. He realizes he can start flirting young women and perhaps, with some indulging friends, taunt and tease neighborhood girls passing by (see picture). If the girl is self-righteous and has some guts to not accept the taunts and teases passively (and speaks up!), the boy and his male-hormone friends know it’s about time to teach the insolent, audacious girl some lesson she can remember. Just like my teenager friend Subh did in North Calcutta, there would be some verbal and physical boundary crossing — shaming her and traumatizing her in public.
Of course, if the girl comes from a rich or powerful family and/or has a number of muscular brothers or uncles, it’s going to be a completely different story. That girl can walk freely anywhere, with her head up. Nobody would touch her; in fact, the same boys would now retreat back home with their tails tucked between their hind legs, and have wet dreams, dreaming about her over and over again. Let them.
Pardon my explicit word choice here. Again, this is my life’s experience, and that too, from twenty or thirty years ago. I have left India ever since; I wish the situation had changed (and I know, apart from some cosmetic changes, it has not — much).
[Update 1: The Delhi gang rape case, December 2012. — A young woman was gang raped and violently beaten to near death on a moving bus. Perhaps for the first time in modern Indian history, the entire country exploded against rampant, all-pervasive violence on women. Now, as of December 29 India time, she has died. You can read more on the latest development here.]
[Update 2: Very recently, there were two gruesome “honor killings” in West Bengal where a father and a brother hacked two young women to death in broad daylight because in both instances, the girls married their boyfriends without consent of the families. The so-called honor killing NEVER happened in the state of West Bengal before.]
Anyway, enough digression. On with our story.
Then, the Indian boy becomes a man (or so they say), and marries. He now owns a real woman to toy with. He can do anything he wants with her, with active indulgence from his parents (here, the mother in-law also becomes a big part of the oppressive patriarchy, for reasons social scientists could explain). The eternal boy child, now a husband, may love his new bride, or he may not love her depending upon the day, time, whim, mood, status of the bride’s family, or his own parental instructions, likes or dislikes. He may ridicule her, throw acid-like sarcasm at her. The Indian man has special expertise in ridiculing the Indian woman; or for that matter, anyone who he considers inferior (a teenage son quickly learns and follows his father: now he starts throwing sarcasm at mom — I have real-life examples if you need some).
The man may make her woman cook and clean (depending on his economic status and affordability), or he may put her in charge of the cook and clean maids (with his secret, sporadic examination of their bodies if the maids are young), forcing the wife to stay at home to perform her “traditional, social, religious” Indian duties.
Such duties often forces even a brilliant woman to sacrifice her brilliant student- or professional career; I personally know scores of Indian women who after marriage had to give up their singing career, medical practice, teaching job or employment as an entrepreneur. The husband — the Indian man God created on the 13th or some day — with help from his family or himself, would not allow it.
They say it’s too un-Indian for a married woman to work outside. Well…maybe…if I’m liberal…I’d let you do some part-time job…close to home…and you’d be ready to quit and move with me if I have to move. My career comes first: that’s what he says. (Again, readers, I have real-life examples if you need some).
(Gist: It doesn’t make a difference if the family supports liberal or conservative politics. But the husband or in-laws would bend the rules — and bend them a lot — if the men in the family are jobless or incapable of making money.)
Then, the Indian boy child, now a full-grown man (or so they say), becomes a father and does his sacred fatherly duties by touching the cheeks or hands of the sleeping child. He even smiles at the child or may I dare to say, sometimes sings! Then, he leaves for work or to meet friends or relatives. Or, he resigns back into the living room, where he draws his favorite chair and cushion, and watches his favorite Bollywood movie, cricket, soccer, cooking, wrestling, fashion or talk show. Bollywood is traditionally traditional; fake wrestling is…ah well…we all know.
(Why does he watch the cooking show? Ask him: I have no idea.)
These days, he would even bring a friend or two (male friends, that is), close the living room door, drink beer, whiskey or smoke a cigarette or two, and have a serious, stressful debate on terrorism, politics or the collapse of American capitalism. And sing praises of Indian nationalism. (Or, they would watch the cooking show together.)
Then, a servant (or his mother) comes in and informs that dinner is ready. They flock at the dinner table and devour the meal, without any curiosity whatsoever as to how it was made.
If the wife is allowed to work outside, she would also finish her “womanly duties” at home returning from work (or even before going to work, waking up very early in the morning) — while the man would hardly lift a finger and help the wife do household chores. Or, in 2012, a well-to-do he might phone-order in Domino’s Pizza or KFC’s spicy chicken: he would not waste time in the kitchen at all. He would not waste time to do the dishes either; either the women would do it, or the dishes would be left unwashed til the next morning for the part-time cleaning maid to show up and do it. If the maid fails to show up the next morning, the women would do it, with the man watching the TV or reading the newspaper in the living room, cursing the maid for her “frequent” absences and the “flowing-like-water” money spent on her.
In fact, today, well-to-do visitors come from India and stay over at our place in New York: we observe them closely. We observe that the female visitor would almost always volunteer to help with the cooking and cleaning during their stay (they know we have no domestic help here in the U.S.), while the male visitor would almost always stay back in the living room watching TV or get engaged in various intelligent debates — on all possible and impossible subjects including Bollywood, cricket, soccer, terrorism, politics, capitalism and stock market.
I could keep going for ever, and express a lifetime of irk and annoyance on God’s one of the weirdest creationism — Indian men — but friends and well-wishers tell me not to lose my head. They ask me to keep my calm and poise. So, I shall stop now and keep my calm and poise. I just want to tell a story — in fact, a fact — we saw here in the U.S. In a way, it summarizes my tale.
[Update: A Facebook friend from Arizona just wrote to me that she had exactly the same type of experience in her own Indian life; I can’t thank her enough for her invaluable candor and support.]
An Indian man who is now an immigrant-turned-U.S. citizen is a brilliant graduate from Indian Institute of Technology — one of the best-known schools India can brag about (PBS did a show on IIT a few years ago). He is a “success story” for an Indian immigrant. He started working for an American engineering company somewhere in the South, and slowly moved up the corporate ladder (think about him as a Bobby Jindal in the field of engineering). Now he makes millions, has a number of nice houses, fancy cars, and a big sail boat. He travels worldwide. His kids went to Ivy League schools and are now employed with renowned companies.
It is his wife who told us this story — in a “funny” way. She said (I’m only paraphrasing):
“I had a C-Section when I gave birth to my first child. I came back home a few days later with the baby. I had severe pain: they still hadn’t cut my stitches. Suddenly, on the first weekend after I returned from the hospital, my husband announced that he’d invited a number of friends over for dinner to celebrate the birth of our child. I was mad like hell. I said: ‘Are you kidding me? I can’t even move I have so much pain, and you already invited your friends for dinner? Like, who’s going to cook and clean — you? Have you ever stepped inside the kitchen, do you know what it looks like?’ So, my husband said, ‘Honey, don’t worry, these are our close friends, I only invited a few people maybe six or seven of them. You don’t need to do much. Just make some fried rice or biryani and make some chicken curry, that’s all. I’ll get the beer.’ So, what could I do? He’d already invited them and I had no choice. I had to cook and clean that weekend with my stitches on.”
See, this man is not abusive or anything. He is actually a very nice man: soft-spoken, educated and highly placed. He is not one of those wife-beaters, dowry-bride-burners or acid throwers. Although he’d once told me he was not too worried about his daughter’s education because she was going to get married anyways, but he indeed sent her to a good school here in the U.S. He is a jovial, warm, helpful guy. He doesn’t drink much. He doesn’t gamble or do drugs. He is faithful to his wife.
We must forgive him for inviting his friends over for dinner when his wife just delivered a C-Section baby and had her stitches on. Right? Like, those things happen in real life: an Indian man’s real life.