The language of farce!
Nirbhaya, Anamika, Damini, Amanat. Why?
PADMA RAO SUNDARJI
The last 15 days of 2012 bore all the elements of Shakespearean drama: villainy, tragedy, comic farce, bawdiness, a horrendous beginning, a hope-awakening middle and finally a tragic end, when the rape victim died in hospital this morning.
The dramatis personae: the rulers, the ruled, the privileged, the wretched and several court-jesters. The narrator: the media.
Cruel irony abounded.
We marry off, or worse, sell off our ‘burdensome’ daughters (our love for dowry actually makes it one and the same thing). Yet, the father of the deceased girl, a loader at Delhi airport who earns 5000 rupees a month, was a one-in-a-million Indian father who, despite having two younger sons at school, used up all his savings to put his bright girl through a course in physiotherapy.
Absurdity too, was in full evidence.
-In the heart of any national capital, tight security is a given. But in the heart of a democracy, spontaneous dissent at a place of public choice, must be a given too.
Repeatedly, the capital was paralyzed by sealing off the India Gate hexagon, the already-choked metropolis's thoroughfare between South, Central, East and North Delhi, finally prompting an exasperated lawyer to file a PIL asking how the Delhi Police, after its abysmal track-record against crime, can have the gall to invoke Section 144 (banning gatherings in public places) to prevent people who are protesting the very failure of –among others –the Delhi Police itself? But since the police take their orders from ‘above’, obviously the bright idea to gag all demonstrations or try and restrict them to spots like Jantar Mantar, just because ‘convenient’ and ‘safer’ for the high –profile occupants of Lutyens Delhi was not the police’s alone.
So then, where were those ‘above’? Why couldn’t they communicate with the people who voted them to those bungalows and mansions that they had now sealed off to the outside world ? Given the level of public emotion and outrage, surely it was not too much to expect early visibility and – at least - the promise of swift and concrete action from our netas?
Though he issued a statement, the President, whose wrought-iron gates thousands of angry, young people tried to rattle, did not emerge even once, not even on television. It took the Prime Minister all of a week, and the President of the ruling party two weeks to date, to tell the country how horrified they were by the crime.
When are our political classes going to realize that it is outdated and ridiculous to treat protests in 2012, held by a new era, a new generation, one connected to the entire world in a way we never were in our youth, in exactly the same way as in the dreary, Congress-heavy sixties or seventies, by simply increasing police presence, banning public meetings and - saying nothing ?
How could Rahul Gandhi, being groomed as a ‘youthful’ PM-to-be, merely meet a clutch of people (who chose these particular people to ‘represent’ all of India for the select audience at 10 Janpath remains a mystery), reportedly only to mouth the platitude that ‘decisions cannot be driven by emotions”?
Had Rahul chosen to address the crowds at India Gate, with his 4 armed bodyguards - as opposed to the ratio of 1 policeman for every 700 citizens of Delhi – in tow, he would have been greatly appreciated and stored away in public memory, even for future elections.
- Meanwhile, Delhi CM Sheila Dixit, and Police Chief, Neeraj Kumar, too, had their own vaudeville. The crime in question had all the usual reasons behind it: lax laws, lax enforcement, corruption. (Hilariously, the Daily Pioneer reports that the only way the police could identify the bus used for the crime was by checking a ‘hafta diary’ that all beat cops maintain). Not all of it was because of the failure of the police alone. Yet, and though CM Dixit repeatedly emphasized her powerlessness over the Delhi Police (which takes its orders from the Home Ministry), hers was the loudest and most strident demand for the resignation of police chief Neeraj Kumar, almost as though one resignation would wash away an entire six decades of corruption, crime and mismanagement at the hands of successive Delhi governments and its law enforcers.
- The demonstrations were marked by overwhelming, genuine anger. But they too, had their share of lunatics: those who waved crude drawings of men under nooses to every passing camera. Even in this tragedy, our frustrating national tendency to raise the bar of every incident to a fevered pitch and ignore the dangerously unpredictable nature of mobs, prevailed.
- When the Delhi Police floated the word ‘hooligans’ after tear-gassing and lathi-charging demonstrators, not a single Delhiwallah was surprised. Anyone who lives here knows the tendency of all political parties without exception, to plant ‘student wings’ in otherwise peaceful gatherings that are getting too ‘hot’ for our netas, for the sole purpose of causing a ruckus and therewith justifying police action and evacuation.
- But what is a farce without language? Last week’s tragedy also brought out the worst of cheesy rhetoric from both our media as well as our politicians.
Much in the way hurricanes are named and in the utterly myopic and meaningless tradition of some sections of the world media, various media houses immediately gave the victim a poetic, pathos-inducing name: Nirbhaya, Anamika, Damini, Amanat. Why?
To you, me and the politicians up on Raisina Hill, and for all her short life, this girl was a nameless, faceless, powerless entity. When we, as a collective society, let women die a thousand, silent deaths every day, what kind of a dumb idea is it to give a woman a name, only when something happens to her? Why can’t we let her die a dignified death with her own identity in place, not as the best-selling protagonist of mushy reportage sandwiched between giant advertisements ? Why must we try to salvage our conscience by suddenly elevating her to an entity, a Joan of Arc, a Rani of Jhansi, when we gave two jots about her existence all these years ?
- Finally, there was comic relief. First, when the quiet, meek Dr Singh nervously asked the cameraman recording his statement : “Theek hai”? The agency forgot to edit it out, leading to thousands of Indians chorusing : “No, Mr. PM, kuchh bhi theek nahin hai.”
There was also President Pranab Mukherjee’s son, Abhijeet’s sleazy remark on woman protestors at India Gate. According to the elected West Bengal MP, they were the kinds who are “dented, painted and visit discotheques.”
As Outlook magazine pointed out in a timely compilation, Mukherjee was only following in the footsteps of several other netas. From the Congress’s Sanjay Nirupam telling BJP’s Smriti Irani that she used to ‘shake her hips on TV” to the BJP’s Narendra Modi referring to Shashi Tharoor’s wife as his ’50-crore girlfriend”, our male politicians have always worn their disdain for women especially educated ones in the public eye, very brazenly.
And yet, the Congress had the audacity to ask us to ‘forgive and forget’ Mr Mukherjee’s remarks, the underlying assumption being that intemperate language, even leering at a woman, is an inherent Indian malaise, ergo: may as well forgive and forget.
It is precisely this approach (“chalta hai, yaar, we are like this only”) that has always been India’s undoing.
Yes, and while thousands of crimes against women go unreported and unadressed, this tragedy was highly-publicized because it took place in New Delhi. However, and though our much-maligned media has its absurdities, we should be thankful that 24-hour coverage has ensured that the issue remains in the limelight. Responsible print journals, too, have started running daily, nation-wide tallies on rapes and crimes against women.
Those people on the streets all over India were not just out for a weekend jamboree. At India Gate, youthful anger blazed brighter than the pale, cold unlight. It is a new, collective wrath, of a determined, powerful generation that can, and will bring about social change. Despite my overall frustration, I am convinced that hundreds of years later, December 2012 will go down, in the annals of India’s history, as the month when it first began.
(The author is a senior freelance foreign correspondent)
Lastupdate on : Sat, 29 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 29 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 30 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST
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