You see the coefficient of the linear, is juxtaposition, by the hemoglobin of the atmospheric pressure in the country!

- Amitabh Bachchan (Amar, Akbar, Anthony)

Given the level of political and social acumen our secular mainstream media displayed in recent years, they might as well have uttered the above line on the issue of love jihad and would still have made as much sense as their entire coverage did.

In popular memory, the issue first surfaces (officially) in 1998, with Sikh organizations complaining about “sexual grooming of young Sikh girls by Muslim men” and later this BBC documentary on it. In India, it pops up on the official radar from time to time, from UP (2007), to West Bengal, and later Karnataka and Kerala (2009). The controversy that forced people to debate this phenomenon was that of a teacher in Meerut claiming she had been kidnapped, gang-raped and forcibly converted to Islam (ironically the woman in question has recently done a somersault, denying all charges). And the noise reached a crescendo with the case of national level shooter Tara Sahdev in Ranchi – who was duped in a marriage with a Muslim (Rakibul Hasan) who pretended to be Hindu – tortured, raped and pressurized to convert to Islam. Since then the official lid on this has been blown with cases from everywhere across India coming to light. Particularly tragic was a case of a girl from Darjeeling where a Hindu girl eloped with a Muslim boy, only to fall victim to human trafficking. She later committed suicide in Ajmer.

The level of attention this issue has grabbed can be judged by the fact that even national media was forced to report and discuss it. Check episodes on Love Jihad by Zee News here: Part-1 and Part-2.

The proverbial excreta has really hit the fan with the Rotherham horror in Yorkshire (UK), where about 1400 young white girls were raped, abused and trafficked for about 12-years by Muslims of Pakistani origin. While closer home, non-Muslim girls in Pakistan and Bangladesh routinely get kidnapped, forcibly converted and married off to Muslim men.

Clearly the issue is serious, or at least serious enough to engage in serious debates … but for the political realities of India.

Continuing with the glorious tradition of viewing only individuals rather than events, we have a set of people whose idea of India basically savages the problem rather than bringing up any solution for it. The strategy is called mixing up grain (Love Jihad cases) with chaff (regular marriages / relationships). Sample this.

In Leftist eyes: A right winger talking about love jihad

In Leftist eyes: A right-winger talking about love jihad

The leftist (I do not call them liberal as a matter of principle) strategy is based on a denial of the problem – with mixing up such cases of normal interfaith marriages with cases of crime. The idea is to make the love Jihad issue entirely about interfaith marriages – pretty smart since it does tend to put the other side on the defensive.

A section of the far right-wing seems to fall for the same interpretation – although the reason here is a subconscious reaction to attrition i.e. losing ‘our’ girl to ‘them’. At a deeper level, the psychological burden of a long history of Hindu persecution prompts that chain of thought, but regrettably such interpretation only ends up playing into the hands of leftists.

The output of such analysis is a muddled representation of issues In the name of balance, which serves up ideological rhetoric but kills any hint of a real solution based on facts.

Now there could be a genuine argument of considering such cases as a regular law and order problem. However, as it generally happens, when crimes of a particular nature get repeated over a significant number of times, its pattern has to be recognized (as our moral compass holders like to do in secular matters like caste violence).

The real problem Love Jihad suffers from is lack of the clear definition and terminology among large sections of society. Many in the far right view Love Jihad as an organized conspiracy; which may not get adequate serious attention unless proven by a government-sanctioned investigation. However, check out cases of Islamist attacks on Kashmiri Pandits which included slogans like “We want our Pakistan, without Pandit men, but with their women.”, or the genocidal history of medieval and modern Islamic invasions (ISIS for example) that included taking women as slaves and war booty, and its possible existence starts to make sense.

In my view, Love Jihad is a gender crime or a fraud committed on a non-Muslim girl; which involves attempt for a religious conversion to Islam or has an Islamic motivation behind it – individual or organized.

While there is no official report of an organized international conspiracy, even casual observations throw up interesting facts. In Kerala for example, as per figures provided by CM Oommen Chandy, 2667 young non-Muslim women converted to Islam (2195 Hindu + 492 Christian) as opposed to 81 young Muslim women leaving Islam (2 to Hinduism and 79 to Christianity). Now unless you term it as more than a 1000 Hindu women spontaneously developing an informed love for Islam compared to 1 Muslim woman going out, kuchh to gadbad hai. If it is indeed only about love, why are statistics so strikingly lopsided towards non-Muslim (specifically Hindu) girls getting married to Muslim boys?

Looking more closely in reported cases (we have to assume the same for cases not being reported), some clear patterns seem to be emerging. Mostly the cases involve identity fraud (Muslim man pretending to be non-Muslim, at least for a good part), rape or sexual exploitation of the girl (before or after the marriage). The girl being in her teens (or fairly young) in many cases – one who is not likely to be legally or socially informed. One interesting aspect of many such cases is Muslim men being helped by Muslim women (1st wife, sister etc.) in trapping Hindu girls – demonstrates the focus on religion over other temptations.

Clearly there seems to be a problem. Question is, what can be done about it?

Answer: A lot of things, if we – as a society and a state – are ready for them.

“If you desire healing,

Let yourself fall ill

Let yourself fall ill.”

Hindu society has three options:

Option-2 explained (Picture courtesy National Geographic)

Option-2 explained
(Picture courtesy National Geographic)

  1. Do nothing and depend on Hindu politicians to form scores of laws.
  2. Get inspired from glorious traditions of Taliban and restrict choices for women even further.
    Or
  3. Be mature and empower your own.

My way: The counter to every social issue has to be twofold – legal and social, and both have to focus on the same thing – women empowerment.

Legal counter
  • Police Reforms: Most power-hungry politicians tend to exploit a social problem, not fix it. The only way out is to lessen their influence on Police. Efficient and speedy implementation of law has to be a guarantee, else victims will inevitably be caught in a political fight and will be subject to pressure and in some extreme cases, violence.
  • Air-gaping different legal regimes: When non-Muslim girls marry into Islamic fold, are they making an informed choice? Do they always exactly understand what legal position they are in? One of many disastrous impacts of secularized “Idea of India” laws has been the creation of parallel (and totally different) legal systems for marriage. This has to change – by ensuring that girls are perfectly aware of the legal rights they have; before and after such marriages.
  • Common Civil Code: There is no way around moving towards a reform in Muslim personal law (empowering Muslim women, stopping child marriage etc.) and a final goal of a common civil code. Nothing more can be said than what is said here.
Social counter
  • Why can’t more Muslim girls marry Hindu men? There has to be a level playing field here, and the inconvenient truth is that Muslim girls don’t exactly enter the fray as much as Hindu girls do. Result: The totally lopsided nature of inter-religious relationships. The social mingling (bluntly put, frisking) is mostly one-way; and it feeds a significant part of the Hindu anger. Part of the solution is to encourage education in Muslim society, empowerment of Muslim women – though this alone won’t be enough. Unless…
  • Erase or reform Caste divides in Hindu society: Originally, the four castes in the Hindu society were never watertight compartments – they were more about lifestyles and duties, rather than plain identity by birth. Social restrictions on inter-caste marriages have to go.
  • Why do Hindu girls (or in some cases even Hindu boys) tend to leave Hinduism more easily than say Muslim girls and boys tend to leave Islam? Why should an inter-religious marriage almost always involve conversion of the non-Muslim partner? Hindu parents need to understand the importance of Hindu spiritual education and inculcation in their children (this is in no way contradictory to allowing freedom of life when these children grow up)
  • Hindu society should eliminate (or at least lessen) the social ignominy and stigma for girls who are victims of such activities – allow them to come back and live a life of dignity and freedom – so that they feel emboldened to come back whenever they want to and are not forced to compromise with their predicament. Many girls simply decide to make peace by conversion – why? Because they think they can’t come back to where they belong.
  • Hindu society has to be more accommodative towards Hindu boys marrying non-Hindu girls. In a number of cases, the fear of social ostracization tends to discourage Hindu boys from pursuing such relationships, or in some extreme cases, force Hindu boys to embrace Islam in order to live with their love. Marriage too is a way of entering a society, and Hindus have to be far more accommodative towards Muslim and Christian girls who are willingly entering their society by marriage. Rather than just focusing on stopping exits from their own fold, Hindu society has to also encourage entries into it. Any society that doesn’t reform itself with time, will die out.

Political parties tend to respond to social issues, they cannot create one themselves. Love Jihad or make-women-non-believers-believers-jihad is not a seductive right-wing phrase, created out of thin air by evil armies of the Hindutva underworld. Like Ram Janmabhoomi movement in 80’s, this is an undercurrent of social anger – silently simmering but always ready to break out in bursts. BJP or any right-wing leadership will be forced to raise it due to the enormous groundswell, but they would be well advised to be sincere about it. The primary focus has to be on solution, not exploitation.

P.S. The biggest face-palm for me was ABVP going after couples in live-in relationships – making it even easier for jholas of Jamia and JNU to call all of us sexist misogynist Philistines. I mean fellas, why worry when we have such razor-sharp understanding of real issues?

Brief History

As we know, after India’s independence, we have had a neo Marxist regime starting from Jawaharlal Nehru till P. V. Narsimha Rao.  Implications of this regime on India’s economy as well as national security are well known.
But there is also another aspect in which this regime hurt India, namely social and secular balance. Our whole society was broken up in social groups, fighting to get ahead of each other and get the largest share in the resource pie. Minorityism was made a state policy, social conflict either ignored or encouraged and social imbalance became state practice under a perverse “Idea of India” label.

Hindu Agenda

As Koenraad Elst points out in his article on Swarajya, when the first BJP government took charge for a full term under Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee it was expected by the right that social balance and concerns of the majority will be addressed, but unfortunately the primary focus was given to economy and national security while focus on BJP core issues e.g. a uniform civil code was off.

Right of Center (Hindu Nationalist) issues that need addressing

Now that a newer, modern and stronger BJP government has taken charge under Shri Narendra Modi, the following issues need to be addressed to restore social balance and fulfill the Hindu Nationalist agenda (declared when Hindu Mahasabha was conceived):
Note: All this issues are subject to discussion in our first hang-out.

  • Uniform Civil Code
  • Freeing Hindu temples from state control
  • Encouragement of research, scholarship and start of a right of center narrative in academia – especially history where a vast content of information has been deliberately suppressed by ruling Marxist academia so far
  • Removal of “Idea of India” laws which discriminate against the majority, create a level playing field for Hindus (e.g. IDMI, also check this post – Hinduism vs. proselytizing religions in the market of ideas)
  • Judicial imbalance in treating religious practices of minorities vis-à-vis those of Hindu groups
  • Fraudulent or forced proselytization and steps to check the same (includes discussing the concept of proselytization itself)
  • Propagate a modern (and not protectionist or restrictive) idea of Hindu nationalism

Our Aim

Create a pressure group that creates awareness on intellectual and political Hindutva and builds public opinion on issues mentioned above. Towards that end, we would read and write on intellectual and political issues concerning Hindus. Writing on intellectual issues could start from reviewing and summarizing, with the intent of enhancing the reach of, the masterpieces of original Hindutva scholars like Sitaram Goel, Ram Swarup, Koenraad Elst, and Arun Shourie. We should dwell on the history of Hindus, starting from the ancient to current genocides, as much as we can in our public discourse. The political element would concern reading and writing about the discriminatory aspects of legal and administrative practices of different state and central governments.
In short, intellectually strengthen and popularize the Hindu Nationalist narrative.

Ways

To be discussed in the hangout. All suggestions and perspectives within the ambit of our broad agenda are welcome.

I am reviving my blog today … on the day of Maha-Ashtami ( মহা অষ্টমী ). Stay tuned for more updates.

শুভ মহা অষ্টমী :)

মহা অষ্টমী

(Picture courtesy http://www.shaupdates.com)

)

[Warning: Long Post]

Ahmedabad - Panorama from West side. (Picture courtesy wikipedia)

Ahmedabad – Panorama from West side. (Picture courtesy wikipedia)

Ahmedabad.

Pronounced locally as “Amdavad” (similar to “Calcutta” being pronounced “Kolkata”. ), Ahmedabad is a city which is to Gujarat what Mumbai is to India, a city previously known as “Manchester of the East” due to its once booming textile industry, a city which represents both business and busy-ness of Gujarat; a city which was established by a Muslim sultan, but currently inhabited by a Hindu majority. The river Sabarmati divides the city into two distinct parts: Eastern Ahmedabad or old Ahmedabad, with its congested localities and roads-with a concentration of most of Ahmedabad’s Muslim population, along with Hindu locals. It is also the centre of traditional business and the location of the city’s biggest markets. Western Ahmedabad is the opposite, with its malls, restaurants, gardens, coffee shops, call centers and posh localities. Dominated by Hindu population, the only areas in the west which have significant Muslim populations are Sarkhej, Paldi and Juhapura, both on the outskirts of the city.

It is the city where I was born and spent 22 years of my life-till my job forced me to move to Bangalore.

Riots and Ahmedabad do have a history. When I was a kid, I heard frequent news reports of riots breaking out in the eastern city, historically the epicenter of Hindu-Muslim enmity in Ahmedabad since the 1960’s. Areas like Kalupur, Jamaalpur, Daryapur, Shah-I-Baugh, Naroda, and Maninagar were quite infamous-especially amongst Hindus, and I do remember my father discussing among my other relatives to avoid these places during all major Hindu festivals. The famous Kankaria Lake was to be avoided during Fridays, for obvious reasons. Outbreaks of stone-pelting and curfew were routine those days and yet, quite ironically, business between Hindus and Muslims continued unabated after those temporary irritants had passed. It was a part of life in Ahmedabad as much as nine days of Navratri.

I do remember that there was a little precursor to the horror. Just a week before the Godhra carnage, this had happened, which I watched with some curiousness on Doordarshan in the evening news that night. And when the actual brutality in Godhra took place, there was a strong suspicion in my mind that it, quite possibly, had its inspirations in Egypt. Anyhow, when it did happen, the first reaction, obviously, was of shock and anger. VHP and BJP called for a bandh the next day, and all the shops were forcibly closed in early morning itself. The atmosphere was unusually charged across the entire city, different from those days of routine unrest in eastern Ahmedabad.

I was preparing for my SSC (10th standard) exams late afternoon that day, having a leisurely stroll on the terrace. Faint shouts from a group of people were heard somewhere from the east, and turning around I saw a trace of thick, dark smoke erupting in a slum (known amongst my community for having a dense, uneducated Muslim population). I remember a gentleman coming home for a daily evening tea, and casually saying-“Have bahu thayu. A wakhate aa loko ne saaf kari naakhva joyiye. (Enough is enough. These people should be cleansed out this time around. )”. It had started.

And start it did even though the declared bandh did not last long. As for me and others of my generation the most important news was that the exams had been postponed. And yes, the eastern Ahmedabad was to be avoided at all costs, according to my parents. Local news papers too played their part, not shying away from reporting gory details and even some inflammatory news-for example mentioning that Godhra actually had a ‘Karachi colony’, a subtle message open for interpretation. I remember a picture of a burnt body of a child on the front page of a prominent news paper one morning, with the following humanitarian caption-“Is this what we want?”. Direct references to the communities were avoided, replaced by subtle ones; a Hindu was referred to as-“vyakti” (person in Gujarati) while a Muslim as-“Isam”(person in Urdu). Right on cue, a lot of rumors had started doing rounds, most notable of them was one that was about a group of women from that ill fated train in Godhra jumping off and getting abducted by a bunch of rioters. Masjids with loud speakers, Temples and Slums were the first to be targeted.

As was the case all these years, people who both did and face the maximum damage were from the lower sections of the society. The gentleman who visited our house one evening for a cup of tea, said-“Aapni maate ladai to lower caste naa loko e kari chhe sheher maa. (It is the lower caste that has fought for us in the city. )”.

Roads in Kalupur-a place of City’s biggest cloth market during happy days-now bore a strange sight, riddled with blood and stones. A day later, out of curiosity, I had lied to my parents and wandered off on my bicycle to tankshal road from Lal Darvaja (entrance to Kalupur) I was unfortunate enough to stumble upon a corpse of a boy (presumably Muslim) crowded by a group of Muslims, but fortunate enough not to have been recognized by them as I drove off quickly. When I remember it today, I remember that feeling of fear, of being recognized as a Hindu, of my heart-beat quickening.

A week later, that gentlemen, while having an evening tea said-“e aa loko ne seedha kari nakhshe. (‘He’ will straighten these Muslims out. )”. To be frank, there was no him or his representative out there on the roads nor any shred of evidence of him being involved, baying for blood, but when madness reigns, burden of proof goes for a toss; and it was supposedly comforting for some to assume that power of the administration was with them. It did change though, when few days later army was called and the city slipped into an uneasy calm; at least for a while, waiting for aftershocks.

My uncle worked in LIC, and one day, was told by a female Muslim colleague-“Tame amaaru kalu karyu, ame tamaaru laal karishu. (You painted ours in black; we will paint yours in red. )”.

If round one of the horror was about burnings, round two started with stabbings-which according to my relatives was the specialty of the ‘other side'; mostly carried out by mobs on unsuspecting business men and college students. I was too scared to wander off this time around, but did hear about two elderly Hindu gentlemen getting hacked to death near Idgah. One afternoon, I and my parents had to go and console one of my neighbors. In a completely disheveled and shocked state, he and his wife told us what had happened with him when he went on to meet his factory manager-a Muslim-in Jamaalpur. Halfway across a stone-ridden, deserted street, he was apparently spotted by a teenage Muslim boy, who asked his name and shouted it loud-inviting maniacs carrying swords and knives. The poor guy received some token bruises, but managed to run off barefoot-zigzagging across a few congested localities for some 20-minutes, hiding temporarily inside a closed bank building. Just a day ago, my grandfather had a worried phone call with my uncle in Paldi (another area with significant populations from both sides), who said that they had decided to stay awake for the whole night after hearing shouts of-“Islam khatre mein hai! (Islam is in Danger! )”. Residents of most of the localities across Ahmedabad had made a routine of taking turns to keep night time watch on their respective gates with lathis, knives and metal rods.

My Ahmedabad had become a city of enemies.

The madness continued sporadically for a few months, quite horrifically, even after the dates of board exams were finally announced. Perhaps it was emblematic of the tragedy that the last victim of the blood bath-one that was triggered far away in Godhra-was actually a class 12 Muslim student going to attend his Physics examination in Surat. Hearing this, the gentleman, who accompanied my grandfather daily for an evening tea, who had earlier talked about teaching lessons to Muslims, surprised us by saying-“A kharaab chhe. Ek waar chamatkar dekhadi didho etle bahu thayu. (This is bad. Whatever had happened the first time around was enough. )”. The popular mood for now was stopping and realizing what had happened … and what was left after it did.

What summed up the venom coursing through veins, ironically, was what I saw in a local newspaper much later after the riots had ended, on the day of elections in Gujarat in 2002-a huge advertisement by a prominent right wing organization (not BJP), featuring a photocopy of a press release by a local Masjid, asking Muslims to vote for a certain party. The advertisement had a question, presumably for Hindus-“Now you decide who you will vote for. “

Years have gone by, and being in a rapidly progressing state means you have a number of things to be happy about. It also helps that there have been no riots since the horror of 2002. There is still a fear that if a certain political party comes to power, Ahmedabad will again experience those routine riots it did for some many years preceding 2002. Whenever there is a news report on the riots in 2002, there is certain anger-“Why do they never show atrocities committed by the ‘other side’? Why do they not talk about Assam?”. My parents still have a few Muslim friends and co-workers, although what happened in 2002 is never mentioned. The ghost of 2002 is still present at the back of our minds, but we do not let it run riot on the streets. In a way, a lot has changed for us, no more routine riots in the east, no more routine curfews, something we did not grow up with.

Some say it was necessary, to ‘pay back’ for other atrocities, some say it exposed Ahmedabad’s dark underbelly, some say it was just another riot amongst countless others. Almost all avoid discussing it.

Not exactly our moment of glory, you see.

Grief … Why???

Posted: February 28, 2013 in Social Issues, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Blame me for being nostalgic, or dark, or brooding – one instance from my childhood still flashes past my thoughts every now and then.

It was an unremarkable day. I was playing cricket at my mom’s house in afternoon as a lot of kids without play station tend to prefer. A dark skinned, thin and filthily dressed kid – about my age – stood at the gates and gestured me to come towards him. Being unusually shy, I simply looked on. There was something in his eyes which begged for an arm around him. The smile on his dry lips seemed frozen but expectant. His clothes looked every bit as old and worn out as any every day beggar in any street would hope to show us to drop a chiller (change) out of sheer sympathy.

... is grief bad ?

… is grief bad ?

Moments dragged on…few auto-rickshaws on the nearby main road rustled past. His dirt-ridden hair and even dirtier clothes fluttered in the hot summer wind. He gestured again for me to come towards him. I still looked on – obviously, the boy couldn’t speak (or was conjuring up an excellent performance – as a cynic would say). He then dropped a pamphlet towards me as I realized that was why he wanted me to come closer. I still looked on in sympathy – abandoning the cricket bat in my hands. In the meantime, my aunt came out and checked the nuisance outside. She gestured back, asking the boy if he wanted something to eat. The kid gestured back – asking to take the pamphlet. Aunt had a brief look at that piece of paper dropped on ground – again asked the boy what he wanted (assuming him to be a beggar). Seeing the lack of response, she made a final, carefree gesture to the boy to get going. The boy did so without further gestures.

I see no point in pointing out what actually was written in the pamphlet – even today that sounds immaterial to me, but what I do not forget is the strange feeling of sadness – or pity.

Why it is that pain which should quite clearly be obsolete doesn’t remain so? Why it is that a tragedy affects our inner self in the most personal way? Why it is that a calamity on someone such as family of the Delhi brave heart invokes a passion of sadness so strong that I still remember it – even at the time of a personal triumph? Is this just another weakness or an affect of too much thinking-too much negativity on one’s mind – whatever that means? What’s so special about it?

One of the master-strokes of Christopher Nolan for the Batman saga was to show the heroism of Bruce Wayne in a much more basic and different way than the previous turkeys. Sure he has money and some cool gadgets – but it is his darkness that defines him. Beneath his cape and hood, lurk a tortured soul and a tragic fate. He is a hero, because he has allowed his darkness to become his shadow…an extension of the good inside him. In a way, he being a hero is about him being more ‘human’ than any other human. He fights with the grief inside him, just as any ordinary human does, and in the process, brings out a personality that any ordinary human hopes to be.

As a fellow human, a fellow Indian, the Delhi incident has left an imprint on my soul – just as the mute kid on that summer afternoon did. As I brood on, I keep feeling the pain – but the pain is much like pain of a surgery – something I must live with for some time, because rather than be drawn inside or suffocated, I must choose to make darkness an extension of the good inside me…

Perhaps the hero who is inside all of us is not about being larger than life…it’s our journey of being human. The grief I feel is not my enemy, but my guide.

“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” – Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption)

(Warning – Long Post)

News and the way they are reported and read is something I have always felt, exposes our nature as a society. Cases in point being the way news items of cricket or bollywood are read, occasionally with furious discussions along with a cup of tea.

News of crime – especially the ones about rape never stirred me in the way analysis of the last finished cricket match did. The biggest reaction it ever generated would be a somewhat curious glance on the details inside – an occasional shake of the head (India is great / What was the bastard thinking / What was the girl doing at that time) – even more shamefully, an occasional smirk if I felt there was something fishy with the girl’s claim. Perhaps the way it was reported – making the girl a nameless/faceless – was the reason why I could never personally be moved. Generally I would surf through the other news, robbery, accidents, and editor’s columns. I never followed up to check if the rape in question generated more than an occasional stir in the neighborhood.

Those were ignorant years too. Being a Gujarati and brought up in a comparatively liberal minded city like Ahmedabad, and living in a society where women security is thankfully a much smaller menace than 800-k gorillas like road issues, electricity issues and Narendra Modi’s efficiency as a chief minister (Smaller too when compared with places like Delhi), reading occasional news of rape never quite generated the amount of concern they should have. Hindi film industry would have a role to play too, showing stalking, forcing and lecturing a woman on her virginity as heroic and ‘signs of a real man’, corrupting generations in the society where the mere news of having an active sexual relationship with a boy-friend would make the girl squirm with humiliation (along with her parents). I was living a paradoxical life where reading books, politics and social issues were necessary for me along with studies, television and a decent job.

The news of the 23-year old brave heart, somehow, hit me hard. Was it something that news channels never let up on, forcing the daily updates through live tickers at the bottom? Was it Arnab Goswami-rapidly grilling guests on news hour with movements of his head that reminded you of Amir Khan in “Ghajni”? Was it the protests-something which I saw last year following Anna’s vigilantes on corruption? But how come it never hit me the way this “news” did?

I think again. The reason was somewhat obvious – something in my face.

The girl’s family had moved to Delhi (a big city) from a smaller one. This was something which families of my parents did too – settling in Ahmedabad from Saurashtra and North Gujarat respectively. The socio-economic platform provided to that girl was modest – something which I had to live with too. Her parents did not have a business raking in money (her father worked as a loader in some airport in Delhi), something which my parents too suffered from. My parents had a business of soft toys- enough to pay the bills but not much more than that. Just like me, the girl had to carve her ascent in the society by completing further studies and getting a job. She was learning physiotherapy, while I had to complete B. Tech. and get a job as an IT professional, something which was unheard of in my family or community till my time. Like me, the girl was perhaps that one hope – one shot at a better future for her family. An aspiring young Indian, working her way up through India’s newly formed middle class – just like me.

She was coming back from watching a movie at a reasonably late time of night, something I used to do during the initial year of my job in Chennai (Satyam theatre near Anna Salai was the usual one) and later on when I had moved to Bangalore, working as an employee in Hewlett-Packard.

As I followed the news of her horrible fate on that day – 16th December, I watched with terror in my heart as one news flash after another revealed what her body had gone through. “Don’t let her die” – I prayed to god. This continued for the next 10-12 days. Every day I would come back from office, and instead of going through the usual routine of watching English movie channels-would start by watching a news channel which a hope that she was still fighting, still alive. “God, please don’t let her die” – I would look towards heaven and pray. If she lived, my hope lived, as did the hopes of her better future.

Saturday the 29th was like any other day. Just like usual for a week-end, I had woken up at 9 AM, going to the local market for buying bread and other items, and later starting the day with watching movies. I had started with “Atithi tum kab jaoge” followed by “Rock On!!!”. For some reason, I had not started watching news, which I did at around 2 PM and got the shock of my life – the girl had died.

I was numb with shock. “But I did pray to you right???” – I asked looking towards the picture of god. There was a frantic surfing through the news channels, hoping to vent my anger through the collective anger on the streets, television studios, Arnab Goswami, news reporters. Somewhere, somehow, hoping to hear people blasting the police, the government for what happened – occasionally I would increase the volume of my TV if I found something resembling the anger inside myself, the anger which somehow hoped to shake the world with my bare hands. Facebook, Twitter and Google became shoulders for me to cry on, posting messages of anger and sharing those which were the same. I had perhaps gone through almost every blog on women security in the next few days. I stayed alone in my apartment, which were both a blessing and a curse when I was in such a mood.

Time passed, more details regarding the girl emerged, which only increased my pain. Hearing about her and finally knowing her as a person, made it worse, as it resulted in “what if” questions. What if she had picked another bus, what if they had just let her live after the rape instead of ripping her organs, what if the boy had found a way to stop them, what if she had survived with the treatment she received in the hospital? Every time the news channels showed something related to her personal life, the pain would increase.

The sane part in my mind said – “These questions are never blessed with answers”, “If she weren’t the victim, another girl might have been”, “The society needs such dramatic example to be shaken”, “I had nothing to do with her death”, “She is just one of countless other unfortunate ones, at least she had the fortune of having her rapists caught”, “She will be remembered by the country, unlike others”. But then the bottom-line would hit my mind like a bucket of cold water – “She is no more. She died through no fault of her own.”, and I would look towards a picture of god with tears in my eyes – “But I did pray to you right?”

Days go by, there is now a quiet determination – “I wouldn’t let any bastard misbehave with a girl in front of my eyes from now on”, “I would make sure my voice is heard through taking part in as many protests as possible”. Somehow, news items now about a rape would hold a different meaning to me – now they are the ones with a face I never had the fortune of knowing. I would avidly surf through for any good news for rape victims across the country; I came to know about a few which I had never known before – the Suryaneli case, the Patiala case, case of a girl in Bihar who was raped by the very person supposed to protect her. Some of those cases showed progress, and my pain eased a little. “Keep praying to god, maybe he will reduce the pain of her family, keep her happy wherever she is now”, and I would keep praying whenever I felt like it.

I started hoping I had a sister, or a female friend/wife/daughter, whose hands I can hold and promise – “I will never let anything bad happen to you, I will always be there with you, for you.” – A way to ease my guilt by protecting someone. I would repeatedly call my father, tell him of the story and ask him for a way to ease my pain. I still do. I would keep thinking of my mother, and hope she was with me.

I hear the interview of the girl’s friend on a TV channel, and the pain increases. “God, how could a bunch of humans turn into blood-thirsty monsters?” – would be my question. “Maybe I feel like this as I have seen such news for the first time, the pain will ease up with time”, I tell myself. The pain should ease with a hope, some hope, from somewhere.

Now there is a quiet determination, to prevent crime against women whichever way I can, there is an anguish because I could have done nothing to save my unknown sister on that fateful day, and there is a fierce effort, to rally others with me, to use their vote for women’s issues whenever next election comes around. Perhaps the guilt would be less if she had lived. But never mind, I have my other duties too. OK, the judiciary might still surprise me, by hanging the 6-accused. Oh, I forgot about the juvenile (anger joins the pain inside me.). I desperately hope I can see that our brave heart “Damini” is happy, wherever she is…

My search for that one hope continues…