Bhool Gaya Nirbhaya - Godyears

Bhool Gaya Nirbhaya

October 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?

Have we forgotten 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?

Authors note:

Nirbhaya died without dignity for no fault of hers. Today, the title we gave her - Nirbhaya - too stands for a threat to gang-rape. We could not save her. Is there a way to save the significance of that word 'Nirbhaya' at least?  

#MondayMusings
Linking to #MondayMusings

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45 comments

  1. Such a tragic event. Protests can bring about awareness but to bring about change, change must come from within. My prayer everyday is that may all actions be done with love and compassion that serves the betterment of all beings. Perhaps someday we will see a new world.

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    1. You've hit the nail on the head. The protests forced the government to get off their butts and look to change the law. But once the hullabaloo died down, slowly they slinked back to old ways.. and now the vile ones had a new thing to try out. I find no major effort being made to reduce the incidence or make the punishment serious enough to instil fear. As for educating... I fear many actually still want the regressive mindset to continue.

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  2. Heart touching post, Roshan. Never forgot Nirbhaya. She is living with us threatened by many ....... Wishing to make an end to these social threats ......

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    1. Nobody seems to use the word with respect. Its just a threat. So damn infuriating

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  3. Heart wrenching post, Roshan. It's a little scary, to be honest with you. But that is probably the reality of our country now. We would not learn how to respect women, till it remains responsibility of only a few, how to. This cannot just happen in a classroom and overnight. This is going to be a large generational and societal shift which will take time. Till then, we have to live in dangerous times.

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    1. That's what sucks.. a whole generation needs to pass by, replaced by a new one that is not so regressive ans stubborn but open minded.

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  4. Yes i think everyone is forgot about this.No one respects women here.

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  5. Made me think real hard. Post Nirbhaya, 'cautious' and 'fear' is a word that has set in. Our brothers and husband tell us to be Cautious. They tell us to be fearful. It has altered a hard-core Mumbaikar like me also. I feel nothing has changed, the brutality has increased.

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    1. That is my point too... from what I have seen, there is a definite increase in reported cases of gang rape. I understand that maybe it was not reported in the past but we should have been at a level now where the potential rapist should be scared of considering it instead of calling his friends and saying lets all get in a car and go rape someone.

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  6. One would think after the incident people would learn, but..

    It is really sad that women are threatened with rapes or acid attacks daily and one can do nothing about it. Nirbhaya died a horrific death, but somehow that doesn't matter to the people anymore.

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    1. I think it disgusting that you are so confident that you can tell a woman directly "Don't forget Nirbhaya" as a threat to her. Look at what the take-away of that incident has been for these guys.

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  7. पहली बात आपने आलेख को निर्भया नाम के नए शाब्दिक निहितार्थ के सन्दर्भ में जोड़ के देखा , कोइ आश्चर्य नहीं क्योंकि आपने कहा कि आपने ऐसा पिछले तीन वर्षो में अनुभव किया है ठीक बात है , लेकिन करुणा याद है आपको वही जिसे पिछले दिनों इसी दिल्ली में जो मोमबत्ती की फ़ौज लिए हमारे आपके जैसे लोगों ने जाने कितनी ही कसमें खाईं थी मगर वक्त आने पर सबने देखा कि कोई उस निर्दोष लडकी को बाईस पच्चीस बार चाकू से गोदे जाने से नहीं रोक सका | अलबत्ता आलेख जरूर विचारोत्तेजक है ..और हाँ ये दुखद है कि आरुषी , प्रियदर्शिनी मट्टू , निर्भया और करुणा .......लोग सब भूल चुके हैं हमेशा भूल जाते रहे हैं

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    1. I hate that we have forgotten. I know that it had happened in the past but that time, we all rallied together and demanded so much... and then everything went back to normal as far as laws and behaviours were concerned...

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  8. This is such a hypocritical , bigot mainstream culture. this is how we treat our women and then the sham of devi worship continues
    do read http://poojasharmarao.blogspot.in/2012/12/hippos-sweat-red-izzat-and-rape-in-delhi.html

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    1. I agree... and your post is bang on, nailing the flaws in the system and society that allowed this to happen.

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  9. Another strong post. What have we become? It seems like nothing is sacred to those wimps who use social media to threaten and coerce women into submission. Conform, or suffer! :(

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    1. I used to love the freedom of speech that came with social media... but this aspect was something i did not consider... how strangers can target and threaten you so easily. Especially this year, it seems to have gotten worse.

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  10. You are right that instead of Nirbhaya signifying courage, it is used as a threat. It's sad and it also shows how some things need much more time to change. How some people still think of women to shut their mouth online and they are not shy to threaten with such remarks.

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    1. As someone rightly pointed out above, perhaps a whole generation must pass, weeding out the old mentality and ushering in a larger percentage of people who are more open minded.

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  11. It is unfortunate that public(our) memory is so shortlived. Frankly speaking, we have forgotten the pain of Nirbhaya and it is this inherent weakness in us that these criminals take advantage of. Our sincere apologies to those who have undergone this pain since we are equally responsible for letting this crime propagate.

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    1. That's the irony, isn't it. The memory of Nirbhaya is short-lived for those who wanted it to be something strong. But for those who saw it as an opportunity to be vile animals, the memory has not left. They still think of it and use the name even today.

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  12. I grew up thinking that barbarians belonged to an older era... and as time passed by people became more cultured and humane. And then bomb blasts happened, Nirbhaya happened, bombing of school happened, chemical attacks wiping out a whole village overnight happened. I don't think we ever progressed. The brutality of attacks are so intense that the skin crawls reading them. How cruel one has to be to even mention Nirbhaya without their heart piercing ... without thinking about the torment. It's a cruel world and this no longer surprises me. You wrote an excellent post and I can't help but be overwhelmed by emotions.

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    1. At times, I get why people say they are done with this world. It seems futile fighting and raising awareness when so much skepticism stands in between. But we need to raise a voice while we still can. We need to change minds, atleast one at a time.

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  13. You certainly didn't mince words Roshan. Perhaps this is what we need - to be shocked to face reality. It is despicable how something brave and positive has been turned into a horrific threat.

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    1. In topics like this, we need to be harsh. Only then reality sinks in, I feel.

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  14. its so disheartening when you see peaople use the word Nirbhaya in such negative context. The True meaning of it just dies down amidst the muck these people throw around.

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    1. That is exactly the point of the article... the true meaning is long gone. Noone uses it with pride. It is used as a threat

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  15. The pic you shared sent a chill down my spine. Call me a pessimist if you will, but I have lost all hope for any change. Things just keep getting worse everyday :(

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    1. I know it seems a hopeless cause but we need to believe we can do something to turn it around...

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  16. Nirbhaya was supposed to be a wakeup call. It has become a threat! That is worse outcome of a gruesome incident that was supposed to instill respect and compassion.

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    1. seriously, yes. It really is the worst possible outcome. Taking a name meant as a 'call to strength' and turning it into this...

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  17. It may sound in-human but sometimes I really ponder and wish that these lawmakers should go through such incidence in their real life to understand the trauma, to stand for the cause, to work out better laws. They live in Z security on public money and thinks that life is as rosy as their pink coloured lenses.

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    1. Sadly, you are right. The people sitting in ivory towers have no idea - literally no idea - of what life is for the common man and woman on the streets. Except for using such incidents for political mileage, they do not help bring about any change in the system, even when they are in a position to do so.

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  18. I hear people commenting " she should be raped" as a punishment. And they tell this without any thought or regret! And they are normal people like you and me who gets all worked up when an incident like Nirbhaya happens. You are absolutely right Roshan, Nirbhaya has lost its meaning since all the fire works around it settled down. Now the word, the incident, the tragedy all of it are used to instill fear. But as along as some of us are there who refuse to accept this nonsense, I think we will be okay, at least a bit.

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    1. That is one thing. The word 'rape' itself is used so casually. Getting people to stop using it in their daily vocabulary is now considered a big step... sigh. We are so far behind in fixing this.

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  19. The nerve...
    That leaves me wondering what are we supposed to teach our children? How do we teach them to react when faced with such a situation or threat? Do we tell them to be careful yet fearful or prepare the kids to go ahead and punch them in the face? Scary thought.

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    1. When trapped and if you know that the situation has crossed a moral or legal line, I would always say "punch your way out". Only yesterday, I was reading an article where a judge overturned a gangrape verdict because on reviewing the case, he felt 'the woman was too submissive and did not fight back enough. Hence, it could not be ruled out that she was a consensual partner.'
      I don't know what to say to such judges.

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  20. I just couldn't read this in one go. I kept coming back in bits and pieces because my stomach churned at the memory of Nirbhaya.... a name that we gave her, the media gave her and what it symbolizes. I shudder to think where are we headed. I think the more we call ourselves civilized the more we regress. And I can do nothing about this sinking feeling....I wish I could.....but I just can't.

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    1. There is a definite element of regression going on presently. It is not just 'increased incidence of reporting' as some say... the level of brutality is now terrible and unimaginable in some instances.

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  21. This post both shocked, and angered me. I had never heard of Nirbhaya's name being used in this context.

    You are right. It meant something. It stood for a fearless nation that chose to rebel. Which is why - her name being used as a threat saddens me.

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    1. Honestly, it is quite the opposite. This is the only context in which I am hearing Nirbhaya's name being spoken of today. And that is what is so frustrating... nobody wants to talk about it.

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  22. World is still at the same place - nothing has changed. Neither the cases of gang rapes nor the apathy of the system. These days newspapers write headlines like "Nirbhaya type rape case"! It is frustrating.
    Well Godyears definitely looks different!

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    1. It's the apathy of the system to deal with the crime that is truly disheartening.

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  23. Bhool Gaya hum sab Nirbhaya ko. The name Nirbhaya or Damini was suppose to be a mass movement for change in our society and how we are interpreting it to instill hatred and mentally assault people. We need to be more tolerant as a society. The name, Nirbhaya is sacred and let's honor her. This Diwali, I hope we usher changes and be more sensible.

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