The almost celebratory public reception to the judgement of death sentence for all the four rape-cum-murder accused and the socio-economic background of the perpetrators made me wonder whether there is a terrible disconnect among the citizens in India.
Do we realize that as Indians, we have tremendous differences in the way we think, we react, in our attitudes and our values? A background check of the perpetrators in the recent Mumbai rape case also points out to similar assumptions of social disconnect among the citizens from different backgrounds.
All these perpetrators had migrated to the big maximal city a few years ago. They all lived in the brutalising circumstances that the slums in the metro cities typically represent. Hardly anyone knew them, cared or bothered about them as they went about their daily chores in the typical anonymity and faceless existence that the metro life offers one.
They had their ambitions to be wealthy, eat out in fancy restaurants, see movies in the multiplex, go shopping to the swanky malls, and move around with a girlfriend and many such fancy dreams without the wherewithal to realize these. Such people turn to petty crimes and then to more ghastly crimes.
I just wonder what made those offenders in the bus brutalise the girl in such a horrendous manner. Apart from committing the rape, how could they brutally invade her insides with a rod and trying to scoop out her internal organs, throw them out on the desolate road in the middle of the night. The same applies to the rape offenders in the recent Shakti mills case in Mumbai.
They saw a girl come into the premises with a man. The girl looked smart, confident and then they plotted the attack. They tied up her male companion, subjected her to a gang rape, videographed her trauma, and threatened to kill her with a menacing broken bottle. The worst was still to follow. They went back to their anonymity as if nothing unusual had happened, some drank thereafter, some watched blue movies and some went off to sleep.
Does one think that stricter laws are going to stop such bestiality in our social conduct? While there is no doubt that this is necessary, the more disturbing issue is that our societies are becoming more stratified and these various strata are completely disconnected from each other. A smart, educated young woman and a poor, slum-dwelling young woman are equally vulnerable to such male bestiality.
The disparities are rising and the gulf is getting wider and that’s why we are seeing a spurt in public violence.
If a crowd in a society chances upon a pickpocket or a petty thief, they almost lynch him to death, rather than just overpowering him and handing him over to the police. If a luxurious car causes an accident, then the crowd around goes berserk and can do anything to the car or its driver.
Social cohesion is giving way to more stratification and there is a terrible disconnect among India’s citizens. Increasing affluence and economic development, rather than promoting cohesion, are probably increasing this gulf and the disconnect. The solution probably lies elsewhere beyond tougher laws and faster trials.
The author is municipal commissioner of Ahmedabad