And so, Patient X’s life finally ebbed. In reality, it was snuffed out. Just like the lives of so many thousand rape victims across India. Political platitudes can do nothing to take away from the heinousness of crime and all that followed in its wake – her death is a beacon forcing the country to face the enormity of issues that average women have to grapple with on a daily basis.
The statistics of violence and sexual crimes against women are frightening. For a country that worships the divine feminine and virtually deifies motherhood, we seem to be living in a dark age.
Patient X’s death is a wake-up call, a hard bludgeon on all our faces. Particularly, the apathetic faces of those in power. All that is happening around us is beyond discussion. The ‘all talk, little action’ stance of parliamentary committees and forums on gender politics, social stereotyping and violence is meaningless in the face of the sheer violation of human rights that is fast becoming our lot.
No amount of ‘victories’, or sympathy rallies and simplistic statements can take away from the damning truth: The average Indian woman (man, too) lives in a state of justice delayed, in a land where dysfunctional behaviour and corruption is brushed away.
Among the many questions coming our way, there is this one: Why are law abiding, tax-paying citizens taking everything lying down? Why do we choose to stay mum, turn a blind eye?
Even as we hold candle-light vigils and set out on protest marches to assert solidarity, our utter helplessness and inadequacy makes its presence felt in the public statements that have been doing the rounds of social media and in reams of newsprint. Airlifting one victim is tokenism. Nothing anyone says or does can absolve beasts. That many turn out to be men in uniform can only add to our collective sense of shame.
When governance falters, people rise. The protest in New Delhi is a harbinger. The time has come for more than mere rhetoric and soul searching. We can choose to stay injured, cocooned and absorbed in the mundane little chores of our lives, occasionally flapping our arms and joining out protest rallies.
Or we can act. And when we do, it’s time to take drastic action. For one, deter criminals by according the accused with the strongest punishment instead of allowing them to slide through the loopholes in the law. (Does the minor who was the “most vicious” of them, even deserve a hearing on the ground that he is a minor? When he raped Patient X, he wasn’t claiming the status of a minor, right?) Nineteen years on, Ruchika’s friend continues her struggle for justice. Let’s not forget her. Or Bilkis Bano, or the young collegian who was molested by a mob in Guwahati… and the countless tribal women, who are routinely shamed by our “boys” in uniform.
As 2012, a year of mega transitions, comes to a close, it has to be said that our days in India are becoming increasingly darker. It’s hard to find cause for celebration or seek out the glimmer of silver linings in the face of such gloomy tidings. But shine a light, we must. Collectively.
The author is a published writer and an independent arts consultant.