'I have been wondering where all these men and their moral brigades were when Jyothi was being raped and brutalised.'
But Indians may well have another take. We shoot our mouths off, we are Indians. Shooting one’s mouth off has become a national pastime in this country, and much like the oratory corner in London’s Hyde Park where anybody can say just about anything, we in India have billions of corners where one can mouth whatever one wants to.
The recent rape and murder of a 23-year-old girl, Jyothi (a British paper published the name which the Indian administration had for some strange reason kept under wraps), had got just about every mouth shooting off.
Mohan Bhagwat, a leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (a right wing Hindu nationalist group), said rape happened only in India, not in Bharat. What he meant was that there were two Indias: one which was urban, modern and Westernised, and the other rural, traditional and not influenced by the West. Crimes like rape occurred in the urbanised parts of the country.
Raj Thackeray, president of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (a right wing Marathi ethnocentric political party), felt that migrants from the state of Bihar were responsible for sexual assaults like rape. Those accused in the Delhi rape and murder were Biharis.
In fact, Thackeray has had a history of targeting Biharis, and his men have in the past beaten them up.
If all this “shooting” was not enough, there was this self-styled godman, Asaram Bapu, who concluded in what sounded like a holy sermon that Jyothi should have prayed to god and begged the rapists to let her go. She could have addressed them as brothers!
On Monday, speaking somewhere in the state of Rajasthan, Bapu was quoted as having said the girl would not have suffered the horrible fate had she chanted the Goddess Saraswati Mantra (prayer).
Imagine the poor girl asking the rapists for 10 minutes so that she could recite these holy verses!
A minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party (also a right-wing political organisation) in the state of Madhya Pradesh, thought that there was a line which no woman ought to cross if she were to escape molestation.
A school in Pondicherry has said that its girl students must wear an overcoat (even in sweltering heat) to ward off unnecessary male attention.
Community elders in the state of Haryana prescribed child marriage as an anti-dote for rape.
All this shooting the mouths off appears like one big cruel joke. Here were men, so-called respected members of Indian society, who were either blaming women for gender crimes or telling them how to dress and behave. Or, the men were advocating child marriage, which is illegal and unlawful in India.
Meanwhile, I have been wondering where all these men and their moral brigades were when Jyothi was being raped and brutalised.
Are they good enough only during fair weather – when they harass young couples seeking a few private moments in a park or when they beat up the young out to buy Valentine cards and gifts or when they burn down cinema posters and vandalise theatres which screen what these men feel is against India’s culture?
Sad, but India seems to be in a shameful mess now.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic. He is also an FMT columnist, may be contacted at[email protected]