The Damini conundrum

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan
The Guwahati molestation, as it will forever be known, led to interesting questions in the media - some old, some new. I personally preferred many of the related blog articles that emerged because of the dripping venom that their words were clearly dipped in, as compared to the politically correct pieces that newspapers offered me. 

No less than the National Commission of Women's representative came forth to suggest that it was the girl's provocative dress that caused this and she shouldn't have been surprised at her fate. It's when you hear such imbecility that you realise it's time for the whole lot of these kind of representatives to shut shop and retire gracelessly away to their farm-houses and a sensible younger generation to take over. 
Anyway, is this something new for us Indians ? Have we not been born and brought up amidst newspaper articles telling us of daily incidents of women of all groups - toddlers and small girls, teenagers, married women, old women, even burn victims in hospitals - getting raped ? If the term 'culture' is based on repeated actions across generations, isn't molesting and forcefully parading women naked as much a part of 'our esteemed Indian culture' as Karva chauth and Ganesha Visarjan ? Because we surely have been watching it happen/reading about it since Independence and we haven't found any magical cure till date.

If there had been no footage, there would have never been this level of outrage. You and I, we both know it. It would register as a sad shake of the head at the sorry plight of a faceless stranger... and then a turn of the page to the sports section. The girl would never have been able to identify 50 assailants who were strangers in the dark to her and thus, they would have gotten away scot-free with someone providing them a false alibi.

And this is where I come to my point. 
I have two hard questions that the media seems to be skirting away from asking.
They may seem a bit harsh, considering you are not the assailant in them. There may not be a right answer. But I would like you to answer the questions honestly. 

1. For more than half an hour, the girl was tortured in a public street a kilometre away from the police station by a mob lusting not so much for the girl as the power they wielded over her. Articles are written on what should have been done/could have been done.  Well, my first question is this - what would you have done if you turned the corner late at night and happened upon this scene ? Born and brought up on the images of Ghayal, Khiladi and Ghajini, would you have rushed into the melee and fought off the crowd and risked getting lynched for a stranger or would you have just stayed back and called for help, knowing fully well that each minute you were watching the destruction of the girl's spirit ? Or do you have another alternative ... what would you have done ?

2. My second question is harder and more personal. It's the Damini question ( if you've seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about ). 
The main accused evaded arrest across four states before being hauled in. He wasn't Jason Bourne to have such instincts to survive. He was being helped obviously by his family/relatives/close friends. 
My question is this - Take it as a fact that the person who committed the crime is your son/husband. Now what do you do ? Would you stand by righteousness and against the in-laws and go to the police with the information... or would you do everything possible to save your own blood ? Would you thumb through every phone number in that mobile and seek out every political contact to help your family disappear and survive ? 

These two questions worry me. They are questions nobody is asking, perhaps because they fear too what the answer might be. Because there are no right answers here. Either way, the answer raises a disturbing question about ourselves. We all screamed foul and murder at what transpired. But what would we do in their shoes ?
I'll set the ball rolling so that you don't feel bad because you may give 'the wrong answer'.
Remember, I don't want 'a right answer'. I want 'a honest answer'.

In the first instance, I would call in for help to the police. Since this went on for quite awhile, I'm guessing either it was a relatively sparsely inhabited area or everyone there was just part of the wolf-posse. Either way, I don't see myself fighting off a mob. I would like to think I'd scream at them that the police were coming, BUT probably in a tone suggesting I was one of them rather than as the booming voice of a vigilante who had come to defend the girl. 
It isn't about being a coward. It is about reality and knowing I'm not Batman/ the Hulk and I wouldn't survive a minute if even five of them ganged up on me, let alone 50.

In the second instance, I discussed it with some of my friends and funnily, my stand was considered more controversial. But I'll stick with it. 
I would turn my son in. 
My reasoning is this -  Either I have failed in my duties as a dad or somewhere along the way, he has found peers who have convinced him that he can do it because he will get away with it. The deed has been done. I cannot undo it. From this moment on, the family name will be sullied, whether I turn him in or choose to defend him by buying away witnesses and the police. The option of getting him to safety or calling up all the political goons in my and my relatives contact-list does not tempt me for some reason. I am flexible in a lot of matters in real-life, but I don't stand for cheats and people who try wiggling away from a crime they committed using any method possible. 

In the discussions I had, I was actually the only one of this opinion. Many went with the 'Still, he's your family. You will end up doing whatever is required to save him.' A significant point is I can only talk about my son, being a male. For women in a patriarchal system like ours, I know it would be infinitely tougher to make the decision against your own husband/son and stand up against the household, risking being called the one who destroyed the family or even worse, physically harmed. 
I don't envy you your position. 
But I value your opinion. 
I would like to know your answers. The honest answers.      

P.S. Did nobody else see the irony that on the same day this news went viral, our own Sherlyn Chopra was posting pictures online of herself in USA in her birthday suit ?
Not hidden in a darkly silhouetted room, but walking in broad daylight and posing beside the entire Playboy staff she barely knew for probably a week. 

We talk of an India where it is unsafe to walk fully dressed. In her images, she reveals a lot - but she also revealed something else which noone noticed. 
She revealed a freedom that no Indian girl will ever have in India. The freedom to feel safe in your own skin.

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Let me know what you think.

  1. I had refrained from writing or commenting on the issue because somewhere I know that nothing is going to happen.. This will stay in limelight till something bigger happens.. We will cry foul, read the updates till it gets on page 7 from page 1 and finally disappears, read blogs and comment but nothing will be done. We are helpless in our very own country.
    If I had been in that very area and lets say that I even had the guts to ask for help from the onlookers, I m sure no one would have come to help. A mob of 50 is no match for a mob of say 100.. But these 100 people to fight for that girl would have been impossible to find.
    I think the best suitable thing to do was what you suggested.
    As for turning in my son/brother , that would be a delicate situation. I assume that I brought my son up with the right values and if he fails then its not really in my hands to save him.. You are right about having say in such situation for a woman. But its after all a woman who can bring up such men who will respect a woman :) My hope lies with the next generation..

    1. Nothing will happen.. of that rest assured. Irrespective of the government that comes and goes, this form of villany will continue. This is not cynicism.. it's reality.

      That's why I wanted to turn the question around on the readers themselves... what would they do when faced with a lose-lose situation.

  2. In the first situation I would call the police and try to distract the mob but I don't know how to do that.. And the second situation I want to raise my son with good morals and it would be my failure if anything like that happens but on the other hand I really don't know what I am gonna do if something like that really happens..
    It is truly disheartening to see such things happening here in our country.. If a girl wears mini skirt westernisation is to be blamed and should be publicly humiliated and assaulted. If a girl is pushed out of a moving train because she resisted an attempt that is none of their business. In a tightly packed compartment not a single person came forward to help her..

    1. That second question, the Damini question, thats where the difference arises. What would people do in such a situation ? Most of the people I know admit they would do anything to save the family member. I can see their reasoning... I just dont see myself doing it.

      And yes, it is becoming really disheartening. Women are being raped in trains, thrown off trains if they resist, stripped and paraded naked in broad daylight.. all this is going on in a country that a decade ago claimed it was worthy of being the sixth superpower of the world.

    2. I would let the law take its course.. Even if I am not sure of what I'll do I am sure my father would not raise a finger if I get into something like that.. If I can pass on this surety to the next generation then I am content..

    3. True. Hope lies ahead now... try to prevent the next generation from imbibing this arrogance of power.

  3. its was very sad! I read whole thing..surprisingly..people are blaming the girl!!are we so sexed up??
    if same kind of people come to US and see girls wearing bra and skirts wud they do same? its pretty much part of culture here.. do people rape girls here ..NO !why blame girls in india??
    Indian mentality can never improve over here Indian guys stare so much they are raised in that atmosphere in india.
    police is worse in india ..I remember we were always scared of police guys in india they do maximum eve-teasing.. !!

    1. to answer your question, we are indeed too sexed up/horny at the seams, I'm afraid.
      I feel sad because in recent times, its become more common rather than less.. people still say law wil prevail, but its an archaic law with so many loopholes.. this incident only got publicised because there was a video. Otherwise it would have been relegated to a corner of the newspaper for a single day.

      That worries me most - we are getting immune to the horror of such rapes and molestation.

  4. Good questions Radha.... and its true, India is becoming more dangerous for girls to live in.
    But at the heart of the issue, I think the question to be asked is why is rape becoming so prevalent here?
    Personally speaking, I think rape is the fruit at the end of what has been sown into the soil!
    There are many seeds that are sown but Media definitely is one of the top most personas to be pointed fingers at!
    When the media hypes about big time actresses exposing and doing bare acts in public and are being praised for it about how Indian women needs to be more bold, the same images are being caught in the minds of the common man cycling down in the street! These images are dangerous and leave behind imprints that cannot be erased so easily!

    Pornography is on the rise! Who's keeping a check on that? No one! When one porn actress gets into the mainline movie industry, her efforts are caught up by every normal person on the street to see how much she is going to bare in the movie!

    And when one incident like this happens on the same streets where all of these other things are not barred, people panic, men are to blame and India is put to shame!

    What would I do as a parent? I would accept reality that I have failed as a parent to protect my child from that kind of media exposure, will turn my child in to the cops but I would stand with my child till the very end supportive!

    1. I don't know how much I agree with that Dan, because it doesn't explain raping small children, which horrifyingly is a lot more common than we imagine. Besides, rape, molesting and eve teasing has been a part of our newspaper fodder since before we were born.

      I blame it on weak laws which have easy loopholes which help the criminals to escape/get out of jail easily. Consider the alternative - we mock the Saudi system of stringent rules, but if I'm not wrong, the penalties there are pretty harsh(death/castration). Result ? As per a recent stat, there was less than one rape a year in the country... true, supporting ur theory, women are more conservatively dressed there.

    2. But that's the point... Rapes still didn't disappear...If one were to do a history check on every rapist that is there, some stat said that each of them had a linkto porn... Check out old case of Ted Bundy.... Do a google search on him..the guy was executed for the most violent rapes... In an interview he said, porn was on his list....

      You can punish these rapists as severely as you can yet that won't prevent new rapists from coming on the scene...

    3. had read up on Ted Bundy years back.. reread it now.. man. That was an animal in human clothing.

    4. Yeah when we look at him now... But he was just a normal guy, the kind of guy we see everyday...only difference is that excessive pornography destroyed his mind....
      My whole point is will see more of these incidents happening til they put a check on the media...
      Gurgaon...the place which would have recorded the most rapes this year alone....a few months ago stats said this was also the place which recorded the most viewed pornography on the internet

    5. You're right. It is a significant fact. With nudity available at the click of a mouse ( but ironically, not directly ), the sex-starved do seem to be just craving an opportunity for such brazen incidents.

      What scares me Dan is that it wasn't as though there was a committee meeting of The Sex Maniacs Association going on outside the pub. It was a group of 30-40 ( supposedly ) random people who just felt there was nothing wrong in stripping a stranger in a public place in front of a camera. What level of depravity is needed for this ?

  5. AnonymousJuly 27, 2012

    When I heard of the incident, my first reaction was - but why didn't someone pick up a stone and threw at one of the molesters? Surely they would not have known where it came from when 100s of people were watching. And that is what I would have done. I would have thrown stones from different places so that they would eventually stop and look out, so that I could see half of them bleeding. And Roshan, I think and hope that more people would have joined me. The question always is - who will throw the first stone?

    For, the second question, I would turn my son to the police without batting an eyelid and I will not stand by him. I will not support him. After any such incident, he has to earn my respect back.

    1. True, in that scenario, we could hope that others would join in pelting them with stones.

      And with regard to the second one, trust me, you and I are in a minority.

  6. I have written a post on the similar topic recently. I believe the questions you have raised are so valid that they will shake the foundation of how people think.

    I will also report to the police as handling a mob of crazed people is a difficult task to handle. If I am in a group then I will definitely rush forward and help. The thing I believe is that in most places our entire administration is corrupt that we no longer feel safe even to approach the police with grievances lest they think you are a part of the crime and arrest you. That has been my experience in the past when in college I had approached the police to help a friend out...the experience was harrowing..

    For the second question, If I see the crime happening in front of my eyes, I will not think twice but will turn my relative to the police...

    Lazy Pineapple

    1. Read the article just now. Totally agree with your view.
      In a group, yes, fighting another group may seem a possibilty. But never as a single person. And as regarding the police, I personally feel its because the law lets the woman down that these men have the nerve to be so brazen. As I mentioned in the post, the culprits were caught here because there was a video. If there wasn't, how would you possibly identify so many unknowns ?

  7. Brilliantly written, as always.

    I had kept myself from reading too much about this incident, or watching the video, because I knew that I would be outraged, but would not be able to do anything about it. Even so, it seems being active on Twitter/Facebook can give you enough information to atleast squirm in disgust. If nothing else, its the people blaming the victim should be called out!

    Now to answer your questions, for the first, I would probably not do anything myself except try to get to the nearest police station or any other sort of help. Now I haven't seen the video (and do not intend to watch it either) so I don't know the extent to which things were done or how many onlookers just stood there.

    For the second, whoever commits such a crime loses my respect and deserves to be turned in, even if they're family! On a more positive note, I know my brother has been raised with enough values and we have talked about these things enough number of times that he knows how to respect women.

    1. I too have only seen the blurred images on NDTV once.. but it gives a pretty good idea of what was going on. The rest is via online news media.

      I'm not sure there were any onlookers... just the mob and the camera crew. And yes, contacting the police station seems the logical, if not very trustworthy option.

  8. I would gather stones, trash, anything and everything that can irritate the mob. I would throw a few myself and hand over the rest to others. The power of unity is unparalleled. Sadly, in this case the assaulters were united rather than on-lookers.

    If I had the power to send my family member to Jail, I would. That might make him a bigger criminal. He might see the whole thing as betrayal. He might never learn values and principles that I tried to imbibe in him. But that doesn't give him the right to walk on the streets as if nothing happened. He deserves punishment.

    I know it's easier said than done. I hope I never have to do it, but if I do, I will try my best to punish him.

    Saying is easier than

    1. Nisha, that first scenario... well, why I wouldn't consider it safe is because of the more common scenario - what if the others DON'T back you up ? You risk getting targetted and being victimised yourself.

      And the second thing - the Damini query. I agree with you. Like in the movie though, I know I will be persecuted not just by the public, but also from the family itself for 'destroying it'... which would be ironic since I am the one trying to correct a wrong.

    2. I really can't think of any other alternative than calling the police. That would take time and the mob will increase. What then?

      Btw, i need help with my blog! My comments are not coming in the format that you have, you know, comment - reply format.It's coming like that on my phone, but not on any browser on my laptop. Anything that you know might help?

    3. Regarding the first part, thats the thing. I really dont know.

      And for the blog thingy, have replied directly in your blog.

  9. 1) I am not sure what i would do in the first situation.But i know for sure what my dad would have done..he would have created rucuks by yelling and scolding.This usually helps in bringing out more people and creating a mob against the mob...i guess i would also do the same...Taking the first step is what it matters..once someone takes a step others join in..

    2)What is at most important is to make that understand what he did is wrong and utterly wrong. Show him the consequences of his actions. If i succeed in that for me half battle is won. I am not saying if he comes and says sorry that's enough.He should know the pain he has caused,hurt and suffering. Once that is done.I will stand by him and help him correct his mistakes and make him a better person.
    This is what my effort will be. Meanwhile if it requires i will also turn him in and do everything to protect him. But if he fails to realize his mistake i wouldn't know what to do.

    1. Like the point - "taking the first step is what matters". I feel the only way to have saved the girl would have required the role of a similar mob.. but thats just it. Mob of lust crazed men seem easy to find apparently in India, but what about a 'mob of samaritans' ? How many times do we see it ?

      Appreciate the honesty of the second answer. I had spoken in length with more than a dozen docs and most were of a similar opinion as yours.

  10. The incident which we are discussing at length now- must have had such an impact on that girl. Whether her clothes were revealing or not,this incident would have changed her outlook towards men in general, and it will haunt her for all the days to come.
    If I were at the scene were the crime was going on, I'd hide, but also call for help. I will hide, because I know my limitations and I cannot dare to involve myself and get molested for supporting her. However I will call the police or whomever who can stop this.
    The Damini query. In case of husband, well, leaving him would be the best and the only option. Because as far as rape is concerned, it does not deserve an apology. If it is the son, I will lament all my life for the errors I made in his upbringing. I do not know if I will save him or not- I might if he is sincerely apologetic and mends his ways. After all mother is a mother.

    1. I know. If the case had not been sensationalised, these guys would have walked out of jail a lot earlier on bail.. or at best, between 3-5 years. What happens to the girl - this destroys her faith in men forever.
      And yes, I know cases where parents go to all extremes to save their kids so its not judging.As I said, this question doesn't really have a 'winning' answer. It's about how you react in a losing scenario.

    2. Also there is a whole new level of how a father reacts and how the mother reacts to the son accused of rape. That is a different story altogether!

    3. Now that's an angle I never thought about.. the mother's protective gaze :) Though I should have in hindsight.. doesn't every movie show that too ? :D

  11. A very strong piece of post. But i just fail to see, why anything can't be done? Firstly we need to cleanse organisations like National Commission of Women's and help them identify who exactly is at fault and their role in the society is to protect the women, not accuse them. Secondly, our corrupt practices, our 'culture' and our society need to be educated. People need to see women as equals, not inferiors. But their is a long way to that place. :/

    1. I'll tell you my opinion on that. How do you see those in power giving up their thrones as heads of such bodies ? It's their cash cow. And even if there are 10 honest people in a group of 100 of these politicians, they just become a voice we nod our head to. Nothing more.
      We elected these candidates for their political parties or dissatisfaction of the other party : even a young mind does not matter because the strings are pulled by the elders of the party ( eg : Notice the number of flip-flops in decisions in CM Akhilesh's UP in the last few months. )

      Even if we try to break free, the remnants of past corruption hold us back.

  12. God knows that video still haunts me.. and the 1st question u asked I have asked so many times to myself and people around..after the recent incident where two youths were killed (Keenan & Reuben) for protesting for their friends how many would dare to step in? but yes if it was me I would have called the police and tried to gather some more people to try & help her. 2nd question I am sure to infinity that I would had over the person to police myself.. and there is no two ways about it.

    1. Exactly.. thats a great point I ( and probably India ) have already forgotten.. Keenan and Reuben. Their valiant attempt is now relegated already to the archives and infact serves as a warning not to fight against a violent mob. How sad is that ?

  13. It's funny that I should come across this blog post today...the same day when my local news channel flashes in it's news-a group of girls slapped, manhandled and humiliated by a group of "hinduthva activists" by gate crashing a party at a resort in Mangalore!Go figure!
    I know a lot of people have mentioned in their comments here that they are disgusted with these men and that hope lies in the next generation.That's what even I used to tell myself...till I just realized WE are the generation NOW!Look at the video clippings,most of those guys there were around the same age group as us(20s and 30s)Those Aholes are from OUR generation.How is it that our thinking is different from theirs?
    The ugly truth is this-there will always be people with regressive thinking,in every society, in every part of the world.I'm sure even in the western countries there are people who have the same mentality as those guys in Gawhati.The only difference is in places where such behavior is NOT TOLERATED(read:heavily penalized) such people wouldn't dare to act on their neandrathal animal instincts. If we don't stop putting up with such shit(excuse my french)the change is never going to happen.Let's stop kidding ourselves that somewhere somehow in the future a generation will arise that will honor and respect the right of every individual to decide how they wish to lead their lives.What we do and don't put up with toady lays the foundation on which the next generation will grow on.
    I'm not asking for all of us to take to the streets and start a protest rally.But maybe,just maybe we can all(me included)promise ourselves to be a little less tolerant.The next time you hear:
    1)a guy in your class talk about"that cheap girl who isn't marriage material'
    2)a lecturer or professor pick on a girl cause she is "the partying kind"
    3)an aunt say" no no that girl is too modern to marry my son/be a part of this family"
    4)your brother/cousin say"abhey yaar she is just for timepass man"
    instead of just inwardly cringing and vaguely smiling-stand up, look them straight in the eye and tell them exactly what you think of them.
    I think Roshan,we should also ask ourselves another tough question-Do we really feel that there is absolutely no hope for change coming about now,by us our efforts...or is that just a convenient way for us to shrug off the responsibility and pass on the baton to the next generation?

    1. Personally Nithila, I would applaud the guys who would band together and lynch these kind of moralpolice. Unlawful ? yes. Necessary - hell yes. Many a time on this blog, I myself have said the same - its time not for tough love, but an 'eye for an eye' approach.

      The Mangalore incident angers me a lot because I consider it my second home and the intolerance that has crept in recently just makes my blood boil.

      This whole ruckus of Indian culture is just a silly couple of words - India has as bad a culture as it has a good one. We have caste discrimination, rapes and sati in our culture as well, right ?

      As for the last question, well.. honest answer. I'd have to sheepishly say its a mix of both aspects - I'm really sceptical for the present generation, because the strings/laws are still pulled by the generation above, be it police/politics .. but it may very well be a way to shrug off responsibility as well.

  14. This is a delayed response, Roshan, beacuse I have been thinking hard - and am not too pleased with my own answers. Q1 - I would call for help, do something, but while trying to manage my safety too (yeah chicken).

    Q2 - It would be difficult for me to believe that my son/husband would do something like that, given the kind of conditioning in my houeshold. But if i saw it happen with my own eyes, I'd not skip a beat. I'd defitely turn him over. Period.

    1. Regarding the first answer, there's nothing chicken about it. It is logically the safest option in my opinion. Revealing yourself as a lone person trying to break a mob will only result in a disaster.

      That second answer I concur with... wont be easy but .. well, I've explained it in the post.

  15. What you said in one of the replies is true: we are getting immune to the horror of such rapes and molestation.
    Yesterday a girl's throat was slit in Wadala (Mumbai)by a watchman because his advances were thwarted.
    What do you think is going to happen to the watchman? There will be a court case which will drag on for something like seven to ten years and finally he may go scot free for "lack of proper evidence"
    On the other hand if he is hung to death with in a month, it will be a deterrent to others.

    1. I am totally with you on this - the people who do such things are confident because they know the loopholes well. They know how to bypass/coerce/ get away. Sometimes 'an eye for an eye' is a necessary evil. Point in case : what has staying Kasab's death sentence accomplished ?

  16. Not all boys r bad nor girls.
    If we do not have full trust on boys the girl should not go with them.
    After knowing them better a girl should go with them. And late night parties and movies and jobs are not for girls.
    The law should be like the law of afganistan then every girl feel free to move.
    There should be a very major step should be taken to stop this.
    Why we say police is bad they can't go with every girl a girl should know self defence to protect her atleast make a try.
    Not to go unknown place not to go with unknown person. Not to go in nite with boys.
    Not to go for job which is very far from there home .
    And not to go for job where they know the area is risky and there are only boys.
    Office should provide vehicles to drop and pic for girls.
    The main punishment as people says for rapist is to cut his main part.
    And make him napunsak. This will make girl a simple rahat.
    This all if done the sexual assault and rape will not happen again.
    Pray to god ever this all will never happen in any one life.
    We have to follow the law of another countries in such cases like of afganistan and usa.

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