The verdict stands delivered, and there is a broad sense of closure among those whose collective conscience was shattered over 4 years ago by the rape and murder of "Nirbhaya", as she came to be known as.
The common feeling is that of cold satisfaction... the rape and death have been partly avenged, rightful justice has been delivered. Maybe, now her soul shall rest in peace.
Or will it?
To answer this question, I ask another one. If I were to share the thoughts of the conscience personification that we now know as Nirbhaya, whom will I consider responsible for this rape? Will my angst be directed only at those few rapists?
- Will I not be angry at the society that creates an environment where a young lady needs to be subjected to the risk of getting raped just so that she could watch an evening movie?
- Will I ignore the policing system that allowed this travesty to happen unchecked?
- Will I absolve the patriarchal social order that questions and judges females on everything from their dress to their haircut before eventually deciding if she is 'asking to be raped' or not?
- Will I forgive those who came out with ridiculous and outrageous prescriptions for what I should have done in order to not get raped?
- What will I say to those who strongly believe rape to be the consequence of speaking up, going out, laughing loud, looking happy, enjoying life, having relationships?
Fact remains that we are brought up in a society that teaches us at every step that the woman is an unequal object of desire and is something to be possessed. That sexual pleasure is an entitlement, more so if you "have" a wife. That it is OK to "make mistakes" along the way, never mind that it may scar someone for life. That it is not only acceptable but also heroic to whistle, pass comments, touch, intentionally rub against in public conveyance... the list goes on. Have all of us not heard people boast about their achievements and exploits in this field? Haven't all of us seen the onus of "escaping" molestation and assault being placed on females, and accepted this at least as a pragmatic imperfect way of life? Does any of this change with this verdict?
I do not disrespect this verdict but I dare to question, to whom is justice delivered? The persons are punished (except one who was old enough to rape but not old enough to be punished and he has already walked free) but the society has walked free.
Where do we go from here? Are we, with our societal systems, capable of having a rape punished in a manner that there will not be another rape? Or are we satisfied that the next rape will not be as heinous?
If we can take away one thing from this episode, let it be a lesson to speak up for what is right in all forums - family discussions, work ethics, road incidents, public discourse, even social media. For the battle might be over but the war is still ahead of us. The battle was to be fought by others as we watched from the wayside, but the war is totally and completely ours.