Feeling sad and depressed! The shame of India is once again coming to the fore. The media and politicians once again behaving like ‘Rudaali’s’ (hired mourners), beating their chests in fake righteousness and mouthing meaningless platitudes! And somehow the discussion has narrowed down from a failure of civil society at large to a lynch mob mentality. And this has helped the political class to redefine the goal-posts. Their pitch will now be: Make the law for crimes against women more stringent (provide for death penalty) and fast track this case and hang the b**ta**s!.
While wholly desirable, this will only be begging the larger question: will it make women any safer? With all due respect for those demanding the capital punishment, I really cannot imagine a potential rapist about to commit the act stopping himself, with the thought: “hey wait a minute! The law has recently been changed! Instead of rotting in jail for my lifetime, I can now be hanged for what I was about to do!”. No, this guy probably knows that life imprisonment is bad enough. What could potentially deter him is the belief that he will surely be caught and brought to justice and will have to face the music pretty soon- something that he likely sees as having a probability of 0.0001, in today’s India. Laws are only dried ink on the law books until they are ACTIONED, i.e., proper investigative work, a watertight prosecution case; a fair judicial system (which does not permit ‘smart lawyer gimmicks’) and speedy justice. My point being that making the law stricter is only a dramatic act that the political class will get away with. It will not solve the problem unless the government machinery is galvanized into taking action under existing laws, rather than having more stringent laws. (Of course, in addition to the above, I would prefer a more stringent law).
And this is not only about the law for crimes against women. It applies to all criminal activity. The culture of civil society is not defined or tarnished by just one kind of crime like crimes against women. It is tarnished more by a general lack of faith in the law and order machinery (which encompasses the cops, the judicial system and lawmakers). And when we have a system wherein every political party has amongst its list of MPs or MLAs a representation of all kinds of criminals or people charged with one or more crimes (including rape/molestation), what kind of change can we credibly expect? It would be a great thing if some ruling party somewhere (Centre or a State) asks all its MLAs with any criminal case pending against them to resign! I must be dreaming! And I am not even going to worry about the lack of action that political parties take against their MPs/MLAs who mouth comments that show a very low respect for women.
So while we pray for peace to the soul of the departed victim of the brutal crime on Dec 16, 2012, and for her family to have the mental courage to bear the loss, we must not forget the bigger legacy that she left for us: Strive to make our society more respectful of women.