Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee
What has happened to our young people? It is not only frightening but disgusting as well. We have no suitable words to condemn such heinous crimes. The incident of molestation of a young girl on July 9 night in the busy Christian Basti area has shocked the entire nation. The horrid visuals on TV of the molestation of the girl have drawn protests not only from the women activists, but from VIPs, celebrities and people from all walks of life. Now everybody must be aware that women are not safe in our city.
The news naturally has drawn the attention of all the people in and around the country and Assam has once more earned the dubious distinction of being a land of Murderers, Criminals, Rapists and others anti-social elements. All the political parties seem to take the case very seriously and the women’s organization have been organizing demonstrations all over the country. The National Commission for Women (NCW) have also pressed for justice to the girl. The incident of molestation is horrible, but it should not be taken as a political issue. It should be taken as a social issue. There are no suitable words to condemn such heinous crime. It is a shameful incident and Assam would never be able to hold up her head. In any case, through the years Assam’s reputation has been going down and people from other states are afraid to come to our state. Till some decades back, Assam was a very peaceful and hospitable state, where crimes were exceptions rather than rule.
It is a matter of deep distress that the rest of the country has been looking at Assam with contempt and reproach. It does appear that the young people are thoughtlessly and recklessly heading towards their doom. The disastrous way they are following can bring nothing but calamity. They are at a very dangerous phase of life and apparently are unable to distinguish between good and evil. They have changed a lot in recent times. At one time parents were worshipped as gods by their children. Even a couple of decades back very few children dared to go against the wish of the parents. It was considered to be a great sin to disobey one’s parents but since then the young persons have gone through a sea of changes. Now it is the parents who fear the children, lest they do something outrageous. The young men have taken to drugs, alcohol, gambling and other sorts of evil practices. They are not aware that they are treading a very catastrophic path. They do not even know that they have to respect elderly people.
Women have come a long way from their bonded past. They have always been treated as inferior to men. In the past the girls were unwanted and once they were born they were treated as a liability. Sons were adored and pampered and daughters were supposed to serve the boys. Of course the girls have emerged from their ignoble past. Due to the endeavour of some social reforms like Swami Vivekananda, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar and others, girls were imparted education. And they have achieved wonderful success though sheer hard labour and grit. University results have proved time and again that girls are in no way inferior to boys. In this 21st century the women have progressed a lot. They are proving their mettle in very sphere. They are getting education and have become co-heirs with their bothers to the parental property. Divorce has been sanctioned and widow remarriage has been permitted. Women have invaded such sectors, which were exclusively reserved for men till some years back. Initially they were supposed to be suitable only for the jobs of typists, receptionists, nurses, teachers and the like. But now they are working with men in every sector, including defence, judiciary, airlines and even space missions. Who can forget the indomitable courage of Kalpana Chowla? Another Indian American Sunita Williams has created name and fame in these space missions. She has recently started her second space odyssey.
Women have shone in every field and in some cases, have left the men far behind. In a way, women work much harder then men, because they have to mind their homes and children as well, in addition to their office work. But their work goes unrecognized and they are denied justice even today. They have not been able to get rid of their second class stamp.
In this era also the birth of a son is an occasion for celebration, while the birth of a girl brings gloom and despondency to the family. Female foetus is destroyed before birth and female infants are often killed or abandoned. Boys are pampered by the parents, while girls are relegated to the back ground and they are considered as a liability. Even enlightened parents prefer sons to daughters. The son is still precious for the parents. As a consequence the boys develop a bloated ego and they consider themselves to be above reproach. They think that they are free to cause any outrage and go scot-free. In their view girls are created for their amusement. They do not care for the opinion of anybody, not even their parents. In the family the girl realizes that she is inferior to her brother, which feeling may have a disastrous impact in her mental set up.
It is surprising that even in this jet age when the country is progressing by leaps and bounds in every aspect, the women are still treated as second class citizens. She may be an executive officer in her office, but at home she is deemed as a half wit and a kind of door mat. For any wrong action the girl is targeted for censure by society and not the boy. There are many taboos imposed by society on a girl, the boys is not bound by any rules or code of behaviour. He may go to the bar for a drink and none will point accusing fingers at him. But if a girl visits the bar for a drink, it becomes an unforgiveable crime. Why is this discrimination? Any outrageous activity performed by a boy is looked upon with indulgence by society and the crime is termed as a mischievous boyish prank. But in case of a girl, even if she happens to be the victim, it is termed as a crime by the same society. We hear some people say that for any crime committed by some boys, it is the girl who is responsible, because without her direct or indirect encouragement the boys would not indulge in the crime. These comments do demonstrate that people always view the criminal activities of the boys sympathetically though they are vociferous in the condemnation of the girl.
Innumerable crimes against women are committed all over the country. Bride burning is rising at an alarming rate. Once Assam was free from the menace, but it is no longer so. The husband’s family torture the new bride in countless ways for not bringing the dowry demanded. They resort to cruelty at the slightest pretext. Cruelty need not be only physical assault, mental torture is also another kind of cruelty, which affects the health and happiness of the young women.
It is unfortunate that the society is least concerned about the plight of these newly married young girls. They often fall prey to the machinations of unscrupulous in laws. A young girl leaves her family and home and enters a strange household after her marriage. At that time her mental trauma can easily be understood. Hence she needs all the affections and considerations from her new family.
Then there is this monstrous belief that some evil women, who practise witchcraft. It is strange that even in this 21st century, when our country has progressed a lot in science and technology, there are such ignorant people who believe in witchcraft. Whether it is ignorance or motivated belief, it is difficult to determine. Their target seems to be a women whom they mercilessly kill. We have no idea what kind of action has been taken against these murderers. It is difficult to accept that in this progressive age innocent women are killed on the basis of groundless presumption that they are witches.
It is really difficult to believe that even in this enlightened era, when mankind have almost conquered nature, the crimes against women are on the rise. It has been stated that the number of rape cases is rising alarmingly. The fact is that, in case of rape, no self respecting women would normally go to the court to make a damaging statement against her honour. Hence it is difficult to rely on the women’s evidence to bring the culprit for ensuring justice. The factors of the non admission of rape may be the inhibited nature of Indian women and unmamrried girls in a tradition bound non permissive Indian society. Our society may forgive the rapist, but not the victim. Hence young women are often reluctant to admit any incident, that might sully the names of their respective families, which may lead to the danger of being ostracized by the society. It is the girl, who bears the stigma of being a rape victim, but not the boy.
Molestation of a women is also as contemptible as rape. But this kind of crime also goes undeclared and undetected. Due to fear or shame, most of the women do not admit of being molested by some men, hence such crimes remain covered.
The July 9 incident, which had shocked the entire nation, has explicitly demonstrated the fate of women in our city. Society has not accepted women as equal to men so far. They blame the women for any and everything. They target women for every little real or imagined laps, which is unfair and biased. It is time women themselves stood against the injustice meted out to them; it is also the time for society to change their attitude towards women. Women are not door mats to trample upon. A woman should realize that she is not inferior to anybody and face the man’s world with courage and conviction.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)