I spent a sleepless night early this week. Images of the little girl lying in a hospital after having been violated in the most bestial way possible kept flashing through my mind. She is just six months older than my own grandchild. I woke up feeling sick, ashamed and hopeless. Before turning off the lights I had watched the many ‘talk shows’ where hastily gathered ‘specialists’ were analysing and commenting upon the barbaric act aptly prompted by anchors. In one such programme, only one visibly moved participant, asked the question that begged to be asked, one concerning the innocent victim and her morrows. Everyone seemed more interested in the behaviour of the police, the silence of those in power, the death penalty and more of the same.
Let me tell you one thing loud and clear, even if by the waving of a magical wand, everything could be made the way we wanted, nothing can or will change for the five year old.
The three terrifying days she spent locked up and brutalised have scarred her forever. Child abuse is the most heinous of crimes as it is almost always perpetrated by someone the child trust, and that breach of trust destroys your life for ever. The reason why I am so deeply disturbed is that this child is just like the children who come to us everyday, children who live in overcrowded spaces and where ‘uncles’ of all shades and hues abound. No one ever tells these children about predators and abusers.
Let me tell you a true story of a girl just like the one who lies today on hospital bed. When we began our work over a decade ago, I used to drop in each and every class regularly. The afternoon class was one of young girls between the ages of 8 and 12. Though the class was tiny and crowded, one young girl who must have been 10 or 11 years old, always sat alone, in a corner, outside the group. I let it pass initially but the image disturbed me. I decided to find out what was the cause of this child being marginalised. To my horror I found out that she had been raped by her neighbour when she was 5 year old. She had been raped and brutalised and her genitalia lacerated. The had to undergo many surgeries and is scarred for like. On the other hand,the perp was arrested and served a two year sentence. he now roams free. The child however has been branded as the ‘one who was raped’ and thus needs to be shunned. Parents ask their children not to befriend her or play with her. She too has been ‘condemned’ to a very perverse kind of solitary confinement. On the way she lost her self esteem and sense of worthiness. We tried very hard to work with her and build her self confidence. We urged her to attend our Karate classed and she was top of the class. Sadly, her mother died and her father left the city and went to their village. She must be twenty now. We do not know what happened to her. I hope and pray she is well. But that is just wishful thinking as even the smallest of child abuse scars a soul and a life forever.
Stigmatising a victim of child abuse is par for the course in the sick society we live in, where honour has some very strange meaning. I know of a girl who was molested when she was 12 by a close family member. Far from the standing for the child, the family of the perp went in damage control to protect him at whatever cost, even that of branding the 12 year old has having lose moral character. This happened in a so called educated family. I shudder to think what will happen to the little girl who comes from a poor family.
I shudder to think about the scars seared on this child’s body and soul. She was confined for three 3 days with a sadistic, bestial, perverted, brutal creature who used and abused every part of her tender body, without food and water and then left alone to die. I wonder where she got the strength to scream and be heard. How cannot even begin to imagine her pain, her total incomprehension of what was happening to her. As all paedophiles, this man too must have played the game of seduction turning to a waking nightmare. No punishment is too severe for men like this. I have no words to express what I would like to see done to him. Yes he has been arrested but if we are to go by precedent, I mean the five rapists who abused and killed a young woman in the prime of her life last December, maybe this one also will suddenly get the urge of studying in Jail!
There are crimes and crimes. Sexual assaulting a child is a crime that deserves no sympathy. They may not take a life away in the true sense of the word, but they condemn an innocent soul to a life where she dies a thousand deaths all through her life.
Once again, people are on the street. Some demanding the resignation of those entrusted in the maintenance of law, some are asking for death for the rapist. These are either knee jerk or extreme reactions. If the death of one rapist could deter rapist forever, I would echo the demand loud and clear. And let us not be naive and believe that I new cop can change the reality on the ground.
The protests we witnessed yesterday gave me a sense of jaded deja vu. There was a new political party screaming the loudest and playing out is own agenda. I guess they fared quite well. There was the token presence of Opposition groups, students groups. They screamed and shouted. The police was restrained, the water canons present. Arrests were made. But somehow to me it seemed all futile.
In December those of us who had taken to the street may have felt that we had the power to maybe bring change. What was asked then was safety for women. Statistics prove the contrary. We asked for new laws and fell for the wily game played by our rulers. We got new laws but the incident of the little 5 year old shows that nothing has changed on the ground. The callous behaviour of the police is the best example we can ask for. I completely agree that laws should be stringent and swiftly dispensed. For that we need reforms in all our institutions and ensure that laws are respected and implemented.
But what a civilised society should aim at, is prevention of such heinous crimes.
The brutal rape of the little year old should make us think deeply. It always takes two to tango, and sadly at least two to rape. In the case of the rape of children, one of the victim, is a child from an underprivileged background ( I am not even delving into child abuse in homes as in those we know happen across social strata ) and the rapist who is also often from the same social background. Young children living in slums are very vulnerable. The systems created to protect and nurture them are a farce. The so called state run creches under the ICDS programmes are non-existent or pathetic. They are often simply a good way for politicians to favour their proteges, be it in giving jobs or contracts for nutrition. Children under six are often left on their own in slums and thus good prey for predators. Mothers need to work to survive. All the promises of creches and daycares have never been kept. I think a first step would be to ensure that children are safe all the time. The sad reality that we have witnessed in the recent past is that children get raped even within the four walls of schools. Moreover in crowded slums people live in close proximity and uncles of all shades abound. Children easily trust neighbours and a chocolate is all it takes to catch the innocent prey. It is time that the state thought of setting up quality habitat for the underprivileged rather than allowing slums to be set up to create grateful vote banks. I was absolutely appalled when I discovered many years ago that Lohars (gypsies) who camped on the main road had voter’s identity cards!
As a child grows up, it is time to go to school. I have time and again written about the state of schools in Delhi. They are the exact opposite of what an enabling environment should be. First and foremost schools run in two shifts. It is a sad reflection on a Government that it is enable to build sufficient schools for its children. Children should go to school in the morning. But for the boys in Delhi school begins at 1 and carried on till 6pm. In the mornings they are left to themselves. Idle mind; Devil’s playground goes the saying.
How true it is. It is time we took a serious look at the education system. Otherwise we will continue breeding potential criminals. But here again there seems to be a sinister game at play. An educationist recently said: “It has not been in the interest of any government to ensure universalisation of education. Why would a government deny its people universal education? Because education gives you access to ideas, rights and opens doors of abilities. Education upsets the status quo and if, as a government, you stay in power by virtue of votebanks that you create and nurture, it is not in your interest to ensure everyone gets education.”
The real culprit in all matters seems to be the vote bank policy and corruption. It is well entrenched. Be it habitat for the poor, education, health, nutrition… all that can keep the illiterate seduced and prone to manipulation.