India Rape Outrage

Indian police officers lock the gate of the police station during a protest condemning the gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a city bus late Sunday in New Delhi, India. Pic: AP.

As India reels following Delhi gang rape, thousands of similar cases are barely reported, writes Amarnath Tewary

On Thursday, 20 December, the state poll results of western Indian state, Gujarat and the political fate of its controversial chief minister Mr Narendra Modi came out, with Modi hitting a hatrick. But, when I switched on my TV late in the evening only four of total nine national news channels were live with Modi’s victory speech or discussing the poll results. It was also the fourth day of the shocking and outrageous gang-rape of a 23-year old Delhi girl, now battling for her life in the city’s Safdarganj hospital. The other news channels were following her story.

The gang-rape incident of Delhi has stirred nationwide shock, anger and outrage. For the last four days people, particularly students in Delhi, have come out on streets protesting and demanding capital punishment for the accused persons. They held a candle-lit march at India Gate, besieged Delhi chief minister’s residence and gathered at Jantar-Mantar.

Indian Parliamentarians, top Bollywood stars and other celebrities condemned the incident, demanding stringent punishment for the accused. Social scientists, psychiatrists, doctors, lawyers, experts all jostled for space in TV studios for debate, discussion and dialogue. It spread to other states too. It shook the nation; outraged the country.

Meanwhile, the victim is still battling for her survival in the hospital scribbling ‘she wants to live’. Outside the hospital, amidst the hordes of flashing cameras, several college going activist students were still holding vigil on Thursday night. It was a heinous crime, and we can only hope that the more it is condemned, the less it will happen.

But, in the midst of all the protests, outrage, furious TV debates, discussion and media reports one thing which struck me disturbingly was why all these things happen when a girl is raped only in metro cities of India? Why our nation feels outraged when such incidents happen only in big cities and why our political establishment get so stirred when the incident happens in the national capital, particularly, when the Parliament session is on? Why don’t they get this outraged when almost every day a girl is raped, gang-raped in second rung cities like Patna, Lucknow, Bhopal or Bhubneshwar?

On the same day when the Delhi incident happened, a 15-year-old, grade 10 school student was admitted in a government hospital in critical condition in remote Banka district of eastern Indian state of Bihar. She was also gang-raped on 15 December while returning from her school in her village. Police officials confirmed the incident and later arrested two accused persons who had fled to Delhi. The same day local newspapers also reported, not on front page, that an eight-year-old girl was gang-raped and murdered in Saharsha district of the same state, Bihar. Her body was found floating in a canal.

But, there was no protest, not even a murmur anywhere; no TV discussion, no candle march, no sit-ins with placards. No political statement, no demand for capital punishment. The Bihar police records said that altogether 40 rape cases were registered in the state capital, Patna, in the month of October. In total there were 823 cases of rape in Bihar in 2012 up to October and 10,288 since 2001 in the state. But, I see anyone no one protesting these rapes. The figures from Uttar Pradesh and Madhay Pradesh too are not very different from this.

Why such discrimination? Isn’t rape as violent in Bihar as it is in Delhi? Isn’t rape as traumatic for a victim in other places as in metro cities? The girls / women being raped are vulnerable everywhere; victims of hate crime anywhere and, its been in human culture for centuries.

The nation needs to be awakened beyond boundaries and we all should cry in one voice for every rape victim in the country.

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About the author: Amarnath Tewary has been a senior journalist based in Bihar presently contributing to BBC online and the New York Times. He also was Assistant Editor with national newspaper The Pioneer, Sr. Asst. Editor with Goa based newspaper The Navhind Times and Bihar-based correspondent for the national newsmagazine Outlook. For the last 17 years he has been reporting from a lawless and backward state, Bihar.