I remember visiting Haryana for the first time, about two years ago. It was a short, pleasant stay.
The beauty and varied bio-diversity coupled with modern high rise buildings had transformed this otherwise nondescript, and mostly agrarian society, into one of the cosmopolitan and fast moving states of India.
I was surprised.
I thought that my relatives' were fortunate to stay in such a place where government took pro-active action in making the lives of people better.
But i was wrong.
I failed to see the 'real' picture, hidden beneath the exterior beautification and the modern buildings. I failed to see the entrenched patriarchy and misogynist views of the men, which had made women suffer silently, for years.
I failed to see why it had become the 'rape capital' of India.
They say the true worth of a modern nation lies in its treatment of women and children. Sadly, India, more so, the state of Haryana, has failed miserably in this regard.
The spate of recent rapes of more than 15 women, including Dalit teenage girls ( Dalit- designation for a group of people traditionally regarded as untouchables), has renewed the belief that women are not safe in the state where law and order machinery, stands as mute spectators.
Consider the following:- About two weeks back, a 16-year-old Dalit girl set herself on fire and died in Jind district, after having been gang raped.
Another 13-year-old girl, raped in Rohtak, in the home town of the current Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
But these incidents failed to draw the necessary action from the concerned authorities,because about two days later, a 15-year-old mentally challenged Dalit girl, was raped again in the same town.
Each of these rape incidents is more ignoble than the other.
A 30-year-old married woman gang raped at gunpoint by three men just outside her home in Pillukhera township in Jind district. A newly married 19-year-old was abducted and repeatedly raped for four consecutive days near Sonepat.
Almost in every district of Haryana, young girls and women have been subject to this heinous crime, in the last one month.
Worse, the rapists involved have videotaped themselves in the act, and threatened to circulate the videos to everyone in the village, lest the victim and her family decide to lodge a complaint or go to the police. This has been done with the sole intention of humiliating the victim further, leaving her helpless and sometimes lifeless, after the act.
One such warning was given to the 16-year-old Dalit schoolgirl in Dabra. And she even obliged and did not disclose how she was kidnapped-blindfolded- and raped on September 9, as she was making her way to her grandmother's house. The rapists sent photographs of the girl being subjected to their degradation, taken on mobile phones, to her father.
The distraught father committed suicide and the family was left to suffer more.
But instead of showing sympathy towards the rape victims and vowing to act strictly against the perpetrators, what has the police or the authorities done?
Complete callousness,irresponsible statements and inefficacy to act, have only made the victims feel further dejected.
Consider some of the outrageous remarks emanating from political leaders :
According to Dharamvir Goyat, Congress spokesperson in Haryana, 90 per cent of the rapes are the result of consensual sex. A day later, State Education minister, Geeta Bhukkal, saw the rapes as an attempt to malign the government, stating it to be a part of political conspiracy.
Further, the Khap Panchayat, who have been known to act on archaic beliefs since centuries,have stated that the only way to stop rape is to lower the marriageable age for girls, from 18 to 15 years. This would allow the men to find brides early, and hence stop the crime.
In any other region of the world, such an outrageous and cowardly act, would immediately guarantee the firmest of punishments for the culprit.
But not in India.
Here any crime becomes 'political' in no time, and the parties fail to see the bigger picture. They fail to see that the life of an individual is at stake, and any decision by them, can make or break them.
According to some activists, it is not just the patriarchal nature of the 'Haryanvi' society which is responsible for rising crimes against women. There is more to it.
The huge influx of funds into the hands of the farmers, have resulted in more exposure to an 'aspirational' lifestyle and television and movies. Hence the previously agrarian society finds it difficult to come to terms with the changing society and image of a woman.
The growing visibility of women in public spaces, their increased participation in social and economic matters along with the fact that more women are getting educated today, have triggered a patriarchal backlash among the men, who fail to see women as equals. The inefficiency of police and the failure of law, have only managed to perpetuate this mindset further.
Therefore i believe that there has to be a consolidated effort to book the culprits and bring up the conviction rate for rape.
Proper and quick prosecution along with strict legal action would act as a deterrent to curb the crime.
The people voted by us, that is,our politicians and police officers, need to be more sensitive while dealing with rape cases in their states. They have to refrain from making irresponsible and false remarks which belittle the dignity of the victim, further.
The fact that women are equal, and need to be treated equal, should be taught not only in schools but also at every Gram Panchayat ( local self-government councils of small village/town) level.
No act of violence or subversive behavior against women would be tolerated.
If we want a forward moving nation, then the safety and integrity of a woman, need to be kept first.
The message here is very clear- we are not inanimate objects. We have a mind, a heart.
And we have a voice. And this voice will stand up and speak, every time a woman is hurt.
Through this post, i express my solidarity to the women of Haryana who are repeatedly targeted.
I strongly condemn the shameful act of rape and ask us to be stronger in our fight against the crime. Together we will, together we can.Ending Gender-Based Violence 2012