The Violent Streak in us

The week gone by has brought a lot of bad news - sexual violence against women continued unabated bringing with it renewed ways of victim abuse and in the process revealed a sinister side of the male psyche that shocked a lot of us. A techie in Pune was killed by a group of Hindu fanatics who were enraged over some Facebook and WhatsApp posts which were insulting to their religion or religious figures.

What puzzles me is the tremendous appetite for barbarism and utter lack of respect for human life that we, Indians, display. Of course, this also reveals our hypocrisy because we do not leave a chance to remind the world that MK Gandhi, recognized as the epitome of Ahimsa, was an Indian too. Well, but that is where our relationship with him ends (even though he is the Father of the Nation).

The Dec 16th rape case which supposedly "shook the conscience of the nation", also threw up a lot of very uncomfortable but important questions - is rape the malaise or a symptom of malaise much more wide spread than the epidemic of rape itself? At least a few people whom I know were of the opinion that the girl did not make the right decision in moving around at night. It looks like a harmless comment to some but hides within itself, the inherent consent to the assumption that the society that one is living in is not just bereft of basic human mores but also lawless in nature. After all, why should you assume that traveling alone for a women at night is unsafe until you are convinced that the existing dispensation is incapable of providing security to its citizens and cannot be a credible deterrent to criminals.

Jason Burke of The Guardian wrote a brilliant essay titled "how India's other half lives" explaining the background of the six perpetrators of the rape. As the byline to the article said
The brutal gang-rape on a bus highlighted the routine abuse of Indian women – and how the nation's surge to superpower status has left millions behind struggling on the margins
As a country with burgeoning population and concomitant aspirations, we have somehow managed to articulate about almost everything relating to us - need to be a superpower, economic reforms, schooling, poverty - but have not paid sufficient attention to what constitutes or shapes our ethos or moral code. You could call it by some other word. Irrespective of where one belongs in the caste hierarchy or in the financial ladder, the status of women as equal to men has been grudgingly accepted at best and and violently resisted at worst. And the current education system is not helping redress this at all. In fact the focus in all pvt schools has been to create "leaders" (which is short code for MBAs, Engineers and new age glamorous jobs). Govt schools are the last resort even for those who have to stretch considerably to send their kids to a pvt school. This only serves to accentuate the divide.

Coming to the current case where two cousins (minors) were gang-raped and hanged (while they were alive) conveys that things haven't changed much on the ground. Viewed along with the recent killing of a techie in Pune by members of a Hindu extremist group over Facebook/WhatsApp posts, one starts to wonder - what really is the cause of the violent streak in Indians? Is it the grinding poverty, or is it the upbringing which, most of the times, reinforces stereotypes and ignores basic human values, or is it the utter lawlessness which has ensured an abysmal conviction rate of gender related crimes, of course for cases which get filed in the first place.

There really was a lot of hope among people after the Dec 16 incident that concrete steps would be taken by the government to tackle this. Not only did the earlier government fail miserably, even the current government doesn't instill confidence from its current track record. I wonder if this barbarism among citizens of a country is a recurring feature of any country's history and if, yes, then what are we doing to break the jinx?

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