Today is Mahalaya which means homecoming of Goddess Durga down to earth and this marks as the auspicious beginning of Durga Puja. Listening to the Mahishasuramardini every year by Birendra Krishna Bhadra in the All India Radio on Mahalaya was a tradition I grew up in. This is oratorio of chants to invoke and welcome the Goddess by praying "Jago, tumi jago" – "Arise, O thou arise!" (For those who don't understand Bengali, click here for the meaning.) Apparently, the invoking of Goddess is so powerful and intense that it overwhelms the one who chants it with emotion and reverence.
Such is the land of India, where men worships goddesses. Ironically, this is also the land where men violates the being of a woman, openly. Now you may refute that laws are changing and the offenders are punished severely. But does it matter? Call me cynical, but even if rapists are given death penalty, this is just a temporary outlier considering the gravity of this hideous crime. We are only fooling ourselves into thinking that one critical judiciary move will change the entire scenario of the nation. Death sentence will not solve the underlying problem - the serious issue of pervasive gender discrimination and violence in India. The truth is, we have failed as a nation. Whats the point of invoking the Goddess Durga every year when you can't protect the living goddesses in your own surroundings?
This extends from birth to death, starting with female feticide (the male-to-female population ratio is 0.93, worse than it was in 1970) and continuing with very high levels of child marriage (47 percent), teen pregnancy (62 per 1,000), maternal mortality (200 per 100,000 live births), domestic violence (50 percent), and sexual assault (over 24,000 cases reported last year). The numbers are crazy and these are only the reported cases. There are millions of unreported rapes and domestic violences which involves repeated offenders. Most women keep mum either fearing death or bringing "bad name" to the family. They would rather live a life of lajja or shame in silence then nail the bastards that harmed them. Why? It is the society that imposes shame on them. There is this really sick idea that is doing rounds in some circles of Indian society - any form of sexual violence is always provoked by the woman. It is entirely her fault because of her "bad" character or the way she dresses. And make no mistake, these circles I talk about are not the uneducated men from poor sections of the society, but highly educated ones with fancy profession - people who wear suits to work everyday and stir their coffee clockwise. They are no different from rural men who thinks a woman's place is in kitchen and behind a veil, being forever pregnant and obeying the master of the house. If a young woman wears clothes of her choice, loves partying with her friends, consumes alcohol or flirts with men, then she is called a slut and it is entirely her fault if she gets molested or raped. Its her loose character that should be questioned because she sexually provokes the men in her vicinity. If thats the case, then what about girl children who gets raped and then killed? Were they too sexually provoking their offenders?
Rape is not sex, its violence. It is a sense of entitlement and power. The rapists mentality reeks with the idea that their victims deserved it and should be shown who is more dominating. Will strict laws ever scare a mindset that refuses to see "weaker sex" as nothing but a mere property that should be "controlled" and be receptacle to male sperms? I think not. Do these men fear of being exposed someday? Nope. Infact, they are super-confident that what they did was right and it was only to bring back some order in society. Rape is not about women sexually provoking men, its about women being more empowered these days. Slowly but gradually, the women -literate or illiterate- knows in their own way what they truly want. They have come to realise who they are and what they can do, despite what male religion and politics say. What men - rapists or otherwise- should start accepting is, even if you try to physically possess our bodies, you have no power over our minds and souls. And someday when this thought is deeply rooted in every men of this country, will these vicious acts of crime finally stop. This is what I hope and pray for the Maa Durgas of the country.