Jaya Bachchan might have been enraged by the Hyderabad rape but to advocate vigilantism as a lawmaker is shameful
If the brutal rape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinarian shocked us by its sheer bestiality, our response to it has been equally devoid of any sensitivity and humanity. So when a parliamentarian of long standing like Jaya Bachchan advocates public lynching of the rapists in the hallowed portals of the House, it shows that as a society we have almost reached breaking point, strung as we are between the extremity of crime and the hopeless advocacy of retaliatory barbarism. In that sense, if such extreme recommendations come from civil society, from one of its leading lights no less, then we are equally guilty of bloodlust and untamed emotions that drive sexual offenders. How could Mrs Bachchan ignore the fact that as a legislator she is espousing open defiance of the law of the land and propagating kangaroo court justice and vigilantism? As a lawmaker, isn’t it her duty instead to insist upon tougher rules to deal with crimes against women and raise questions on the failure of governance? The trouble with such byte-sized sensationalism is that it immediately absolves the Government and its institutions of accountability and diverts the attention to something that is ludicrous and painful in equal measure, simply because it dilutes the chilling horror of the rape and murder scenario. Mrs Bachchan’s fury has done more disservice to women’s rights than protecting them. For it only fuels disbelief in the justice delivery system and destroys any hope in the law, which while being stringent, seems non-existent because of faulty execution. With statements like hers, it will become laughable, unreliable even. Of course, one wonders if Mrs Bachchan, who had also aired her opinions during the Nirbhaya episode, took up the Hyderabad case simply because her industry peers found it “urban” enough as grist for social media. One had asked her back then as one should now, why does she stay away from taking up cudgels on behalf of rape victims in Uttar Pradesh, the State she represents in the Rajya Sabha? Hasn’t she been affronted enough by the Unnao or the Shahjahanpur rape cases? Had she pursued the cases of rape survivors and women’s right to work night shifts with such consistency, then her raging wouldn’t perhaps have been seen as staged. Had she raised women’s safety consistently in the House through the sessions she has attended, she wouldn’t have appeared so Marie Antoinettish.
Irresponsible reactions over the last few days have clearly subverted justice for the dead girl and closure for the family. While some are questioning women’s need to work late shifts, yet others are unhealthily curious about the girl. Some social media users have gone to the perverse extent of posting her pictures, even the charred remains from the police files, robbing her of the little dignity she was left with at death. And in a monstrous murder of the human spirit, screenshots of pornographic sites show how searches for the Hyderabad victim’s name was trending. Assuming that anybody using the internet has had basic education, these vicarious pleasure-seekers are just as guilty as the offenders themselves. As a nation we are still horribly gendered in our thinking and depending on the evolutionary scale in society, each stratum still sees women as negotiable tools of fantasy, desire and even sadism. Till that is addressed, frankly all conversations are downright meaningless. It is important to emphasise that after the Nirbhaya incident, the justice delivery system has enough teeth. But without enough judges for fast-track courts or trained personnel for investigations, implementation is a long way home. Only one in four cases culminates in convictions and sentencing, which must be brought up to 100 per cent. There has been an increase in reportage of crimes against women after Nirbhaya though much of them are still under-reported or not treated equally in terms of newsworthiness. The death penalty has posed new problems with rapists murdering their victims. We need institutional, behavioural and police reforms in society as a policy push, not as seminar topics. And loose talk of vigilantism or lynchistan, coming from someone who doesn’t know the consequences, better be struck off the records.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)