Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
I hope you are doing well, although in light of recent events, I find it difficult to fathom how you remain so calm and effortlessly continue with your graceful, enviable demeanor. I was hoping to post this letter to you personally, but unfortunately, I’m almost 12,000 km away from the country right now and I just couldn’t trust the postal offices and courier services for delivering a letter containing something that touches all of us Indian women so deeply.
I’m sure you must have heard about Rape in India (I’m also hoping it is common knowledge by now, given the fact that there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to the topic). A few minutes ago, I heard about a five-year old girl struggling to live after being raped and having a bottle and candles shoved inside her. A few days ago, my friend told me about a three-year old girl who was allegedly assaulted and raped by her playschool owner’s husband. A few weeks ago, I heard about a woman who was raped in a moving bus followed by the rape of another woman in an auto-rickshaw a few days later. A few months ago, I heard about the rape of a single mother by men in a car. There are a number of cases I hear about every day, but mentioning them all here would be preposterous. What is also preposterous here, Mr. Prime Minister is that men have taken rape to an all new level in our country. I am slowly beginning to believe that ‘Delhi Rape Victim’ should be a title set in stone, for there is always a female around to claim it.
I made a decision to leave the country and study abroad last year. All through the decision-making process, while packing suitcases, while on the flight and even after starting university, a question kept bothering me: Had I made the right decision? Or should I have just stayed back home? I always told myself that I should follow my dreams and explore the world before returning home to India where my heart truly lay. But now my questions have changed. Knowing that I made the right decision, I find myself thinking, would I be living in constant fear had I moved instead to Delhi? I do not think I could continue the same lifestyle and do things as independently as I do here without moving around in a group for safety purposes? I do not know if my fears are valid, but because of everything that has been done (or rather, hasn’t been done), they exist.
I could say that I’m angry, but in this situation, that emotion is a given. What I will say is that the lack of sensitivity, the lack of respect and the continued breaches of law simply break my heart. The women could go to the police, if only they weren’t mistreated and hit by the security force put in place to protect them. They could go to the government, but the government may turn them away and call them conspirators. They could go to society, but they’re already outcasts there. They could go to the court, but will find anything but justice there. During a South Asian Studies course, I learned that somewhere along the course of the freedom struggle, the freedom fighters came up with the concept of Bharat ‘Ma’, the reason being; the men could now be motivated to protect the honor of Bharat Ma from the atrocities of the British empire, a metaphor providing the spark for igniting the passion for struggle. Isn’t it ironic how this idea has been twisted and presented today? I’m no expert, but I can say beyond a shadow of doubt that Mera Bharat is anything but Mahaan today.
As a child, I was over-protected. My mom didn’t let me do a lot of things; going anywhere by myself was out of question. Growing up, I often felt disconnected from the relevance of such an environment. But today (and I never thought I’d say this), I’m in fact glad I grew up in that environment. My point here is that that’s not how every family functions (or needs to). We cannot protect women by locking them up. It doesn’t work, sooner or later, we find a way to break through the bars. It’s high time India started regarding females as an equal gender of equal (if not more) capabilities instead of third-grade, emotionless objects solely intended for a rapist’s play time, it’s high time India turned its education system around to create better men for the sake of its own future. Instead of hiding behind excuses of influence of Western culture sending the Indian youth’s moral compass spinning, those in power need to begin helping those in need. Soon, if the current circumstances fail to change and as far as the people of India are concerned, it wouldn’t matter what the Economic Times says about the country, we will have begun our downfall even before we reached our peak.
Lastly, I would like to bring to your notice that our image internationally has already begun to change. My friend picked up a British newspaper to read on her flight from London and much to all of our embarrassment, there was full page coverage of the Delhi rape case. My cousin, who told her professor she was from India, had to hear about how unpleasant the scenario there was (read: the rape scene was out of control).The New York Times is reporting the ‘New Furor’ invited by the five-year old child’s rape. My concern, apart from the hopelessness of certain Indian men’s mindset, is this: Are we ready to give up everything we have worked for and become our own worst enemies? I am one of those obnoxious Indians who go from normal to crazy patriotic at the slightest hint of belittlement of the Indian people or region. I have always had much to say to refute the senseless theorizing or stereotyping of the Indian practices or culture. My biggest fear is that someday, people will mention rape in the same breath as they mention corruption and pollution as typical ‘India-identifiers’…and that day, Mr. Prime Minister, I will have nothing to say.
I hope that the Government of India will not let its people down, both within its geographical boundaries, and outside them.
An Indian Woman