On 19th July,2023 a shocking video of a mob watching a woman being raped and another woman being paraded naked surfaced on social media. I was stunned and outraged. Quickly my numbness wore off and I started reacting. Tweets after tweets tagging the head of nation, ministers concerned, all statutory bodies was a small way to vent my anger.
And then slowly as nation-wide reactions flooded the social media and the leaders concerned were compelled to break their silence questions started nudging me.
This incident happened in the first week of May and the FIR was lodged on 18th May,2023. Not very clear whether the case was reported immediately or there was a delay. But definitely the video was recorded on the day of the crime. Who made this video? In whose possession was the video for so many weeks? Was the timing to release/leak the video have a political motive?
No matter what the motive is, the fact is two women were publicly molested and humiliated and one of them raped while a mob watched. A statement of one of the victim indicates police presence when all this was happening. The fact also is police did not make a single arrest till 20th July until a national outrage compelled them to do so and one of them was arrested.
It also fills me with deep anger that the Chief Minister of the state concerned behaves as if this is a sudden news for him especially when more than 2 months have already passed after the incident. How does a Chief Minister not even know about such a huge mob violence in his own state? Is it an intelligence failure? Is it a break-down of the entire law and order system in the state? Or is it a calculated inaction? And how many more such instances have happened in that state in the last three months?
Then I look around on the larger happenings around the country based on what is happening on social media. The video is the focal point of all discussions, reading between lines one wonders are these people really concerned about the victims or is this a weapon to hit back at their political opponents.
Simultaneously, the other side is now finally speaking. All statements being made to show stringent action is being taken. Why were all them silent for so many months when the state was burning and a large number of women and children were pushed into relief camps?
Who benefits from this silence? Who is benefitting with infight between communities?
While political silence is deafening, the silence of the media all these months is also frightening. Where are the investigative journalists? Where is third pillar of democracy? How come they did not come to know of such a dastardly public act? Who is playing safe and for what purpose?
But the most pathetic of all is how depraved is humanity! There are those among us who watch in silence when women are raped right in front of their eyes…there are million others who will not only record this but will also disseminate it again & again. Can we face our own self in the mirror?
Ironically for me, eight years back I had started a campaign against rape and gang rape videos being circulated and for the last few years we are fighting an ongoing battle in the Supreme Court to make social media platforms accountable for the content on their platforms and today a viral rape video is the reason for the nation coming to know about atrocities in a state where internet has been shut down for the last three months, a viral video becoming the reason for all silences being broken including that of the Apex Court. And I wonder, have we moved even an inch from 2015? Rape videos continue to be made with impunity and rapists rest with ease confident never to be caught.
At the end of the day, one question lingers in my mind? Is women’s safety a priority for any political leader? Or is it a weapon to be used to gain brownie points in an election? Is woman’s body, her honour, her dignity just a political pawn for anybody and everybody to throw around.
A belief system I always carried is when an elected leader is given a responsible position within the government he or she should cease to be from a caste, creed or religion and even a political party. This person’s identity should be only as an ‘Indian’ and nothing more. He/she represents India, is a voice of all Indians in all its diversity. In fact I am also of the belief that such persons should not be allowed to campaign for any elections. Afterall if they are in power they already have the opportunity to demonstrate all their good work so what is the need for further branding.
When a state burns and mobs with impunity rape and humiliate women in public it means to me a massive failure of political leadership. When a woman’s body is used as a weapon of war it means that elected leaders have failed in their responsibility to safeguard the interests of all and a woman is being a made a pawn in this power war.
This is not acceptable…this will not be tolerated.
And finally, although not the right way to do it but the ‘video’ has made its point… now it is important to remember every time it is re-posted and shared somewhere out there two young women are revictimized again and again.
We failed in protecting them…at least let us not be party to retraumatising them.