Saturday, 29 December 2012

Don't sleep

She died. The girl who was gangraped in Delhi earlier this month. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but something in me balks at calling her Amanat or Nirbhaya or whatever name the media has chosen over the last few days. I don’t need to know her name and I don’t need a nickname. If one is too lazy to spell out who she is, one shouldn’t even be talking about her. I also can’t bear the hollow thoughtlessness of calling her India’s Daughter – if at all we must be viewed as someone's daughters or sisters, should that not apply to all of us equally? And Delhi’s Braveheart – isn’t the city full of brave people – men and women – who have faced crime, cruelty, injustice, terror? Frankly, isn’t every citizen of this country brave simply by virtue of living in it and dealing with its sometimes amusing but often cruel insanity? The people of Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Chhattisgarh, who see violence every single day; the people who live on the streets, who try so hard to make some kind of a living - are they less brave because they’re not on the news or trending on Twitter? Since this girl's story, we know of five or six more girls across India who were raped, even gangraped, and not one of them has been called a braveheart or been so readily "adopted" by the country – why? 

Yes, something about this girl’s story touched all of us. It could be the sheer brutality of the attack on her, the fact that it was not that late at night and she was not alone, the fact that the bus was going through South Delhi and past several police checkposts. But it could also be the fact that the media chose to highlight this story and so it seemed worse than any of the others. We don’t know what finally pushed us over the edge but we’ve been badly shaken and we all hope that this horrifying incident and its aftermath will lead to social and legal changes that will prevent such monstrous crimes from ever being committed again. Yes, it's a good thing that we were shaken. But again, I hesitate to subscribe to the popular media-sponsored laziness of calling this girl a hero, a martyr, a shaheed. She did not die for a cause; she died because she was so badly injured that she could not be saved. I also don’t think calls for a state funeral, the national flag flying at half-mast, or a bravery award are at all rational. Because by falling for such tokenism, we will be mistaking her trauma for bravery and patriotism, and we will be helping those in power absolve themselves of any further responsibility.

No, we don’t need to know her name or any personal details about her. We don't need to know anecdotes about her as a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, or friend. Let’s give her family and friends space and privacy to mourn their loss. For us, her story has been a wake-up call, and the best way to fight – for her, for those who’ve felt violated in any way, for those who feel the fear of being violated – is to not be lazy and not go back to sleep.

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