jus primae noctis

This picture is not from some old western. Nor is it a shot from a movie set in medieval days. This is a picture that was taken a week ago,  214 kilometres from where I sit and write. It is making world headline news and simple Googling for the words - cousins - rape - India - will show you how the story has been picked across land and seas. I normally do not like putting such pictures up but this time I felt the need to do so. It is high time we garner the courage to look straight at this horrific picture and have the guts to hand our heads in shame more so because, we are today on a high after the elections and rearing to make India count. Sorry, but until we ensure that no such horror happens we cannot aspire to that dream.

As you can see, the picture is of two girls hanging on a tree. They were so hung after being gang raped. The girls were Dalit - low caste - and the perpetrator of this heinous crime belonged to a higher caste. This reminds one the jus primae noctis an alleged legal right allowing the lord of a medieval estate to take the virginity of his serfs' maiden daughters. It is yet again of the assertion of feudal lord to assert their old on the weaker communities. The police as always did nothing till the villagers refusing to hand over the bodies forced the administration to book the constables who had refused to act. Ultimately the guilty were 'booked' but the girls aged 14 and 15 were no more. As usual local politicians spouted empty words, the Government 'promised' action and the Central Government 'sought' a report from the State Government. The toothless Women's Commission has also sought a report.

If you visit our new Prime Minister's website and leave a 'message' you will, after an initial acknowledgment, get a response in a day or two.  The message says:

India is a blessed land, known for its glorious culture. It is our land that has shown the way to the world time and again. Today, we need to once again ignite the lamp of progress that will take our nation to greater heights and I believe together we can.

Once again I thank you for your wishes and I seek your support and participation in our endeavour to create a strong, developed and inclusive India.

When you see the picture above, the words make no sense. How can you be strong, developed and inclusive if revolting incidents like the one recounted above continue with impunity. How can you quote your past glory when the present is outrageous. And these are not isolated incidents. Far from that.

Rather than celebrate the hope that seems to be the flavour of the day, I hang my head in shame for my silence and my total helplessness. I hang my head in shame for our collective muteness and apathy.

We need to stop limiting our rants and raves to what we feel affects us and resort to guilty silence when the crime is perpetrated on people who we consider outsiders. Last year we somehow found our voices when the young woman was brutally raped in a bus in the capital. True a woman who went to see an English movie in a mall sort of made it to our 'kind' and the fear became real. But how do two little village girls in a remote area get our sympathy and make us take the cudgels for them.

The two teenagers were Indians just like you and me, they are constitutional rights just like you and me, they had dreams and hopes just like all teenagers even if theirs were somewhat different. The humiliation, pain and horror they felt whilst being raped was the same we would feel if it were to happen to us. The terror they must have experienced when they knew they were dying was no different from the one we would feel. I can go on endlessly. They were someone's daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend.! And yet no one helped them in their distress, even those who are paid to do so. On the other hand they became willing partners in the crime.

Our December 2012 rants and raves did not amount to much. Rapes have not stopped and the perpetrators are still alive, but even their walking to the gallows would not make a difference to the crime rate. Our voice has to rise each time such an aberration occurs and we should not keep silent till the time they stop. I urge you all to do so in whatever way you feel comfortable with.

I hope our new Government gives the attention needed to these crimes as they mar the image of India in a way we cannot wish away.