Bhool Gaya NirbhayaOctober 10, 2016
Last month, a woman who had been giving her opinion regarding the need for a war against Pakistan shared a screenshot of a private message she had received from a stranger who disagreed with her views. There were the usual insults - go to Pakistan, you b*tch, people like you should be yadayadayada etc
He ended the message with three words and a question mark: Bhool gaya Nirbhaya?
(Translation - Have you forgotten Nirbhaya?)
The reference, of course, is to the 2012 Delhi gangrape that shook us all with its brutality.
It wasn't the first time I have seen these words. Overall the last three years, I have seen at least a dozen separate instances of women being asked this on social media, some even in the public comments section of news articles.
- One was a fan of a popular film star to a woman who hated the actor for some of his off-screen antics.
- A couple were of course part of the usual bhakt - libtard wars.
- Some were based on religious opinions.
Films. Politics. Religion. All linked together by one common question - Bhool gaya Nirbhaya?
Let us not pussyfoot around it, shall we?The threat is clear - I will nirbhaya you.
I will abduct you.
I and my friends will forcibly strip you.
We will gangrape you.
We will sodomize you.
We will insert metallic objects into your private parts.
We will rip your intestines and pull it out through those very private parts.
We will throw you off a moving vehicle and run you over.
I will nirbhaya you.
Is this what the word 'Nirbhaya' was supposed to signify, India?Is this what the youth and elderly alike braved water cannons and lathi-charges in Delhi 2012 for? It will be 4 years since the incident soon. The whole world watched as India demanded change. As we demanded safety for our women.
In the years since, we have opened the newspapers to read that women as old as 70 and children as young as 5 were gang raped. Girls in the fields, women in the cities, in moving buses and cabs once more or in the safety of their own homes, ladies wearing burqas and girls in salwars; pregnant or disabled, school students gang-raping their classmates... we have read it all. Alongside the usual buzzwords that appear in the news every week ( Modi, Kejriwal, Dhoni et al ) is one verb we wished we would never have to see again - gang-rape.
Nirbhaya. The word - without fear - was supposed to mean something.It was supposed to be about changing the system. It was supposed to be about giving strength to women. It was supposed to be about women reclaiming the streets they were forced to fear.
But not to all.
To many in India, Nirbhaya was something they had not considered. It was lust to the nth degree. It was domination of a woman that no porn site had shown them. It was absolute feral power over someone, seeing the fear and subjugation that these women no doubt deserved for the ludicrous demand of being equals.
It was a group activity worth trying out.
'To do a Dhoni' implies taking matters down to the very last minute before settling the issue... any cricket fan will tell you that. What does 'to do a Nirbhaya' mean to you today?
See what I mean? The word does not stand for strength today, no matter how much you pretend it does. Your mind does not go to the Nirbhaya fund meant for victims of violence or the Nirbhaya Trust her parents started. It does not mean "I will get you lawfully convicted for the rest of your life for your heinous crime." It is not a word of empowerment. It is a threat of violation. And that is where we lost.
Were there no gang-rapes in India before Nirbhaya?Of course, there were. Just as there were tsunamis in the world before. But it was the 2004 tsunami that made that word part of everybody's lingo. Today, we use it easily in regular conversation - 'there was a tsunami of fans waiting to see the superstar at the sets'. Subconsciously, we have allowed ourselves to dilute the intensity of something as devastating as a 'tsunami' that affected millions of lives. Just as we have done with the word 'Nirbhaya'.
Bhool Gaya Nirbhaya.Yes, we have forgotten the anger and fire within that we all felt that December. The law was lethargically modified, allowing juveniles to be tried as adults if necessary. Increased incidence of rape cases (more people coming forward?) still belie the massive numbers that do not get reported at all for fear of 'social backlash'.
The national conviction rate? 28%. Think about it. 3 out of 4 times, I will get away with documented rape. 4 out of 4 if I know someone who knows someone who knows someone politically connected.
I thought it was sad that we forgot how angry we felt and how 'Sensible India' stood together and shut down the voices of expiry-dated Khaps, misogynist ministers and bearded swamis who tried to shame women for demanding safety and equality. I thought that was the tragedy. That indeed, we did 'Bhool gaya Nirbhaya'.
But I was wrong. The real tragedy is the question mark added to the end of that phrase. It is placed there by so many who have taken over the word and have started to appear out of the darkness and gleefully say it aloud to women they want to instill fear in today - Bhool gaya Nirbhaya?