‘They brought it upon themselves,’ my friend said, as we talked over the phone.
We were catching up after a long time and the topic of Bangalore Mass Molestation came up. On the thirty-first of December, grown up men groped and harassed and chased women on a night that is now called as the “Night of Shame.” And rightly so.
My friend is well-educated. A double degree holder, from one of the premier institutes of India. Working for a top consultancy firm, he oozes all the vibes that one expects from a well-groomed gentleman. He keeps himself well-groomed, has a sound grasp on current affairs. He can talk about sports and economics with the same flair. And quotes Marcus Aurelius words of wisdom with such an ease as if he was reciting the alphabet.
So when he threw that stale archaic ‘they brought it upon themselves’ line to me, I was more than shocked.
Being my childhood friend, I know him, in and out. At least, that’s what I thought so. Having spent countless hours together in our formative years, I had a pretty good grasp of his behavior. Our friend circle was gender-wise well represented. Also, he had a long-time girlfriend whom he finally married. So I couldn’t rationalize his remark as borne out of unawareness or a lack of empathy. Which is the case when one grows in an environment dominated by males.
There is something more fundamental, more sinister thing at play.
In spite of all that exposure we get, I think, deep within us, exists a primitive primal feeling that dictates our view on how a girl should behave. How she should talk, and walk, and conduct. How she should not fight back, not express herself beyond a limit- neither outsides in public nor in the confines of the four walls.
How she should not provoke and titillate us boys. From the way, she wears that tight top and low waist jeans. The bra-strap sneaking out on her shoulders. The neckline flirting with her cleavage. How she should ‘not do’ anything that might get us aroused and thrilled and turned on. Because once we are, it’s them, the girls, who will have brought it upon themselves.
And the fact that, this feeling, still exists within us, talks a lot about the failure of two major pillars of Indian Society. Education System & Law Enforcement System. These two, I believe, shape the moral compass that guides us and the action – lever that converts beliefs into actions of people in any country.
Education should change us.
It should change the ways in which we think. It should allow us to unshackle the chains of history and traditions which our previous generations endured. It should force us to correct the wrong, strengthen that was right. But looking at this incident, I think the opposite is happening.
In spite of getting an education from top schools in India, our society still calls a boy hanging around with three girls ‘dude’. Whereas a girl with three boys is called a ‘slut.’ A girl wearing jeans and t-shirt is imitating the western culture. But the boy wearing jeans and shirt, ogling and heckling at girls, is being aroused by those girls.
Such thoughts indicate how an utter failure our education system is. It teaches us to solve heartless algebraic equations in a minute. But never teaches us to encourage the moral compass of our hearts. Or develop a sense of empathy for the other human beings.
Where education system stops, the law enforcement system starts. A good enforcement system forces a person to take a gauge of his or her thoughts against an external benchmark. I may have an urge to pick up that dress without paying money, but I should not, for the law forbids us to do so. However, our internal thoughts may try to justify it, it is wrong.
But the law enforcement system is an even bigger failure in our country.
The first tryst with this system that any young boy has with the traffic police. There he learns that he can get away with over-speeding or red-light jumping – for there is nobody looking in the first place. And if caught, then a hundred rupee note is enough to sneak out of that situation. The lesson learned is that we can get away by doing anything in this country.
And such a lesson plants the seed for such insolence as the one that happened on the streets of Bangalore. Where not one, not two, but hundreds of men – gripped by this utter belief that they can violate the women rights and still get away – crossed the line of morality and legality, tearing apart the fabric of human decency into pieces.
This is not the youth that the freedom fighters of our country envisioned. This is not what they imagined of this society – a society privileged to breathe the air of freedom and taste the fruit of independence.
This is a nightmare that they never dreamt; a catastrophe they never imagined.