there are three fingers pointing back to you

When you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you goes the saying. The recent statement made by the brave young man accompanying the one India calls braveheart raises a few disturbing questions that we need to answer honestly if we want to believe that all the protests that happened in the wake of the night of horror that saw a young life and her dreams crushed forever have any meaning.

For the past three weeks or so we have been lighting candles, shouting slogans, 'braving" water canons, tear gas shells and the colonial 'lathi (baton). We have been screaming 'we want justice', thinking that the gallows will rid us of all that is wrong. We have been clamouring for better laws, death for rapists, more police presence, fast track courts etc. We want everyone to become gender sensitive in the bat of an eyelid: the cops, the men of the street, the politicians and their acolytes. True that we got some of our demands: the court proceedings have begun and some vague decisions taken - police women in thanas, more patrolling etc. Yet while we were yelling and screaming, rapes continued relentlessly: a married woman with children, a eight year old, a seventeen year old. While we were screaming hoarse a man died while protecting a woman just as it had happened one year back in Mumbai. While we were shouting, politicians across the board made degrading comments bet it the 'dented and painted' one, or the India and Bharat one, or the skirts one, or the stepping out of line one. Our politicians masters as always remained mute or at best came up with some inane explanation.

Hanging the culprits is not going to be the panacea of all ills. It will of course give a sense of justice to the family of the violated and murdered child and maybe ease our collective conscience. Is that what we want. If yes then rapes and sexual assaults will carry on with impunity. Most of them will be the kind that do not stir our selective conscience.

We need to stop pointing the one finger and look at the three fingers pointing back. The testimony of the young man squarely puts the blame on each and everyone of us. The young man recounts the night of horror and shares some of the events that were not known. What is the most poignant account is by far the apathy of the passers by: auto rickshaws, people in cars and bikes who slowed down but quickly  drove on, the posse of spectators that stood watching the show and not proffering any help: be it a piece of cloth to cover the nudity of the violated woman or reach out and help. Everyone of those bystanders is you or me, and we must hang our heads in shame. Imagine what was going on in the souls of the two young people screaming and begging for help. I shudder when I think of it. The excuse if any is the fear of harassment by the police should we reach out and help anyone. Maybe it is time to ask for a new law that protects the person who helps anyone in need. In some countries like France for instance there is a law that prosecutes anyone who does not help a person in need. Perhaps that is what we should ask for. One more thing though. We need to look at ourselves and assess whether it is only the fear of harassment that keeps us from reaching out or whether it is simply that we do not care. And more than that we should ask ourselves with utmost honesty whether as of this moment we, you and I, will stop and reach out to anyone in distress. If we are not able to answer with a loud YES, then all our candles lights, sloganeering and marches will be meaningless.

The young man also talked about the totally revolting attitude of the police who apparently quibbled and lost precious time trying to decide the jurisdiction under which the case would need to be registered. The police rushed into damage mode giving figures and stats to prove this to be incorrect. But why should the young man lie? And giving the track record of our 'beloved' Delhi Police this seems more than plausible. We need to be asking for rigid protocols in all cases, protocols that need to be followed to the T. Protocols that lay out strict procedures that need to be followed in all cases. But alas this may just remain a chimera as just a day or so back, a young woman who sought police help after being aggressed by an auto rickshaw driver faced the same treatment when she called 100.  The voice at the other end gave me another number - 27854799 - and said that the area I was in came under the jurisdiction of the police who would attend to my call. And the much heralded women's helpline kept ringing. What can one say!  The question will always remain in the minds of the grieving family and in ours too: would she have made it if she had been taken to hospital earlier? We will have to live with this all our lives.

The young man also said that he had to pick the body of his friend himself and put it in the police PCR. First of all why is it that well equipped ambulances manned by paramedics are not the ones that pick wounded people like it is done in every self respecting society. Picking a severely hurt body can be fatal if one does not know how to. This is something we have experienced first hand at project why! The police refused to pick up the body of a young mentally challenged young man who lay on the road with maggot infested wounds and screaming in pain. It is our staff who did it and accompanied the body to the hospital where we had to get the press to ensure that the young man was attended to! Over and above more PCR vans can we press for well equipped ambulances for all accident victims so that precious time is not lost.

Everyone is asking for change. Change in laws and in mindsets. The perpetrators of this horrific crimes were the product of our society. Hanging them will not stop us from breeding more of the same. Rapes have not stopped post our protests. Our patriarchal and feudal mindset is age old and is carried out first and foremost in our homes. The false and misplaced sense of power that men have in India, is the result of his upbringing and is mostly inculcated by the women in the family: the granny who wails at the birth of a grand daughter and places the 'blame' on the innocent daughter in law; the mother who mollycoddles the son and neglects the daughter, the sister who accepts a secondary role with silent acceptance. And this happens across the board! Should a sexual assault occur within the home and the girl have the courage to bring it up, it is the women of the family who rise as one and brush away the crime in the name of honour, thereby condemning the survivor to share a space with the perpetrator. Maybe it was time we as educated people stood up for our child no matter what the consequences. Can honour be more important than the pain of an bused child. It CANNOT and should not.

Perhaps it also time we stopped blaming a girl, no matter what her age is, for the assault she may experience. This is done time and again and in all homes rich or poor. She laughs too loud, dresses too revealingly and so on. And maybe we should start educating all people, men and women about the X and Y chromosome story and free the woman from the unfair accusation of being responsible for the sex of a child. WE women do not have the Y chromosome!!! I know of an educated gentlemen, or should I say supposedly educated, whose answered shocked me when we were discussing this topic. My son can do no wrong he quipped angrily. In the country where women Goddessed are worshipped night and day giving birth to a girl child is wrong. Maybe it is time we again looked into ourselves and see how guilty we are. Time to set our house in order before casting the first stone.

Another point that may see disturbing and unsettling to many and yet needs to be made is to look at who the perpetrators are and where did we as a society, go wrong. Let us take the case of the youngest accused. Before I go on, I would like to say that I am not defending anyone but simply trying to understand what makes a child a brutal criminal and assessing where we went wrong, as at this moment we have to live with the fact that rapes and sexual assault will happen. Today's newspaper gives an interview with the mother of this boy. His family is the poorest in the village and lives under a plastic sheet. 11 years ago when he must have been just 6 he left the village to earn a living as he was the eldest and his father mentally ill. There are 5 younger children who do not go to school and need to travel 30 km to get work as labour. Today the mother does not wish to see her son. Her only worry is that now no one will marry her daughter. Take a moment to ponder over this. In 11 years a six year old kid became a barbaric killer. Six year olds need a home, the love of their family, food in their belly, a school to go to. Most of this is guaranteed under the Constitution. He is not meant to be thrown in the  big city alone. It took about a decade for him to become a killer, his only teacher the big city. A city that has passed many laws to protect children but failed to implement them. Had the child labour law been respected this boy should have been either sent back to his family or kept in a children's home and received education. How many children have not seen working and yet how many of us have picked the phone and reported the matter. Many children work in homes of the rich and yet no one says anything. Another code of silence that needs to be broken.

There is debate about lowering the age of the Juvenile Justice Act. This Act was implemented as it was felt that children should be reformed and not punished as adults. This per se is a very sound approach. But it requires one important element: well run remand homes where the child is given an enabling environment that would allow hom to reform. All you need is visit one of these homes and you will realise that no one can be reformed in them. is it not time to demand for well run reforms homes for the children who have turned into criminals.

But before that we need to look at our school system. If our state run schools were well run, many problems we see would be set right. Perhaps it is time that all schools be made coeducational so that boys and girls grow together as buddies, competitors, friends.

It is also time that sex education, and here I do not mean a chapter on reproduction often hurried through, but age appropriate sex education, starting with good touch bad touch and explaining all emotions that children, tweens and teens go through, should be imparted to every child in school.  It is time we did that and not brush these under the carpet as we tend to do.

I could carry on and on but will not.

I simply would ask each one of us to look at the three fingers pointing back and be man enough to accept responsibility.