In the present scenario, the common (and the uncommon) man has witnessed a sudden outburst of outcry against, generally speaking, violence against women. A multitude of NGOs have sprung up in every nook and cranny. A multitude of different voices of varying tonalities, passion and enragement have caused the emergence of an invisible tsunami that is, apparently, taking urban society by storm. An urban middle-class girl gets horrendously raped in a bus on a fateful December evening in our oh-so-beautiful capital city and as a surprisingly direct and equally unforeseen consequence, India witnesses a new wave of revolt in the form of the youth. This is closely followed by a deluge of cacophony emanating from varied sources, ranging from the media to the politicians. So, can we finally and emphatically say that India is waking up from a deep slumber or is it simply the mindless ranting of a momentarily and emotionally challenged colourful populace?
To trace this particular question and to make some sense of this spontaneous outcry, we need only to look at our past. India used to (and probably, still does) pride itself in being a father figure when it comes to strong roots, culture, philosophy, wisdom and an overall vibe of being an intellectually advanced ancient society. We have had scriptures that speak about the glory of man and provide numerous examples of how women are biologically and eternally subservient to the male gene. In our epics and our plethora of mythological stories, there are innumerable examples of how women were nothing more other than the comforter, seductress, mother and the servile feminine element. There are, also, examples of the glorification of women but these examples resemble islands, resplendent in themselves but few and far between. The main lands are controlled by the resplendent and sinewy enigma of the ever-glorious demigod, better known as man. Thus, the mothers of our motherland learnt to obey their husbands, learnt to be servile and god-fearing (read : husband fearing) and learnt to be silent in the face of extreme adversities. A woman, right from the time of being born till the day she left this world, used to be covered in a blanket which narrowed her vision. The source of this blanket was teachings and rules and customs which converged to finally dictate emphatically the position of women as compared to men. Thus, the subservience of women is not a common day issue. It has been there since time immemorial. So why has this realization, moving against age old customs and beliefs, grown so exponentially only so recently?
It does not become to assume readily that the female population of today is more intolerant and more ‘modern’ and these factors are causing such hue and cry. The anger and the feeling of being wronged day in and day out is not greater today than it was in the past. Women were as human back then as they are today. Domestic violence and rape was a commonplace activity. The frequency of such occurrences has not been erratic. Rather, it has been quite steady all through these years. Are we to assume that the women in those days revelled in such activity? A miniscule degree of common sense would point to the fact that women, in the past, were indeed revolted by such actions.
Globalization and technology has converted the fragmented world into a modern giant framework which calls for co-existence of human beings, irrespective of mere boundaries defined by man. No matter where a person might be geographically located, he/she is now much more exposed to the rest of the world. This is a trend which is immensely positive from, probably, all possible angles. Different societies and cultures intermingle, socialize, exchange ideas and thought processes. This technological era is breaking down the barriers constructed by mortals and is ushering in a much more tolerant and forward-moving mindset (in most areas, of course). A probable ripple or side-effect of this transparency is the fact that Indian women, like others, are finally being able to look at the world at large. The garb of age-old customs and definitions of what is wrong and what is right are disintegrating slowly as global exposure is increasing. Indian women now want to be treated, and rightly so, on an equal footing with men as logical reasoning and a sane mindset are advocates of this particular demand. The customs and rituals are slowly moving into the background as Indian women stand up and say “Why do we have to be labeled as the inferior sex?” It is quite fascinating, therefore, when we realize the effect of the profound social changes that are being caused due to a more transparent and realistic understanding of our environment and in extension, the world in itself.
Apart from the omnipotent power of globalization, there is another factor which is helping Indian women find their repressed and lost voices. The voices that succumbed to familial and customary molestation of the mind and body are now finding a new and fiery friend in the form of the media. The media, which was previously monochromatic and primarily a mouthpiece of the government, is now being taken over by independent private houses which have dynamic, ruthless and highly vocal anchors as their showpiece ambassadors. The rise of these anchors and the corresponding media houses have been fuelled by the desire of the common man to shout out against atrocities that abound all over the country. The media has dexterously swooped in to fill up this vacuum and have been quickly elevated to the status of crusaders equipped with the power of the television. The age-old repressed voices are finally shouting out in full blast. The volume is so high that it is simply impossible to push the matter under the unkempt rug. This outcry has been like a ticking bomb or like an active volcano that has finally blasted and erupted through the roof. The sheer size of the outcry has been catalyzed effectively by the media. This has, in turn, caused a lot of unrest in the ranks of the government. Although one cannot deny the gross sensationalizing and the rather irritating frequency of “Breaking News” that the media indulges in today, it cannot also be denied that the media has acted like glue that brings together people of different colours, hues and traditions in an effort to effect some positive change or the other. Domestic violence, rape, molestation, eve-teasing and other forms of negative actions towards women in general are now being brought under the limelight like never before. The horror of the crime is, in turn, being reflected on the common man’s television sets. Such a direct exposure to the heinous crimes cannot possibly be ignored and thus, the public outcry is born.
Therefore, from a logical standpoint, it is the transparency and new mediums of voicing our grievances that has led to the belief that rape and molestation of women have increased in the present era. The truth is that these crimes are now more visible and readily catch the limelight as opposed to the immediate past and beyond. Violence against women is not a new or a modern-day problem caused due to the apparent ‘poisoning’ of the Westernized Indian youth or the extreme levels of hormones that are suddenly being generated for some unknown and weirdly inexplicable reason in the interiors of the male physiology. Violence against women was there and is there. There are quite a few reasons as to why the outcry is happening now and has not happened before this time period. Transparency, breaking of age-old shackles and the power of the media are, according to me, the primary reasons catalyzing the sudden and exponential rise of such a massive outcry among the common people in this current era. Like they say, better late than never. It is time for a revamping of the social order. The very essence of the order should be the non-existence of the concept of an order. There are no rungs in the ladder and there are no steps to be climbed. The ground is flat and all the orders, steps and rungs need to merge with the flat ground, giving way to a rung-less society where equality is all that matter. Yes, I acknowledge that this frame of thought is definitely Utopian but an Utopian goal would at least help us to build measurable and positive actions that would, finally, lead up to accomplishing a close approximation of the Utopian goal.
Published in Deccan Chronicle (October 29, 2013)