Trigger Warning: Rape
Just a week ago my sister called me a ‘psycho’ for my feminist values and writings across international media on gender based violence. Through my books and blog I act as a first responder to victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault and counsel them to get the right sources.
For someone who has gone through her fair share of abuse, you’d think that my sister would understand the importance of having emotional support and centre for the right legal and marital information while going through trauma. To me she is the perfect representation of the apathetic Indian middle class.
All year round, the Indian middle class abuse feminists online and offline and when a rape occurs, they expect us to rally outside government offices, attend vigils, go to jails and get manhandled by the police and ultimately force the authorities to do the right thing.
Also read: How Far Is Hathras From Your home?
They will change the channels when these news stories appear because “Oh it’s too painful for me to watch” and “I rather check the entertainment channel or watch Dhinchak Pooja and oh cat videos, how can I ignore cat videos”.
The Indian middle class is perfectly okay with domestic abuse because we have normalised men’s temper which allows them to not be accountable for it. They will give big talks on equality in their lush corporate offices and come home and yell at their partners for cooking something they dislike, before going on to say, “what the hell do you do at home all day?”
These are the same people who found nothing wrong in Kabir Singh slapping his girlfriend. And I’m talking about the people also on the left side of politics. Right wingers are perpetual misogynists and there’s no point even mentioning any of them here. The leftists however, you’d expect to have better treatment for women and LGBTQ+ folk. You couldn’t be further from the truth. They get hissy fit at the gender-neutral language informational poster from the United Nations that I once naively shared in a so called left Facebook group.
The women, conditioned by patriarchal structures, are equally to blame. They pick on women living life according to their terms and tiptoeing according to societal diktats. They will criticise and judge other women, including pre-teen adolescent girls, for wearing skirts and ‘inappropriate’ tops because how dare a woman express agency over her own body.
They will find some fault in the rape victim and imprison their own girls because “I’m a great parent” and look down upon other women for not birthing a male child. The list is long but you get the point.
Just a month ago roughly in August, Sudiksha Bhati was killed when she was chased by some molestors in broad daylight in Uttar Pradesh. She had received a scholarship for 3.83 crores to study at Boston University in America and was visiting home when this horrific incident happened and she just vanished like nothing happened.
Four weeks ago in Bulandsheher a 14 year old teenager died by suicide after she was molested by 3 local men and the videos of that sexual assault were circulated on social media by the culprits. Another Dalit girl has been raped and killed in Balrampur, right at the heels of the Hathras rape incident. Can we just stop pretending that this Hathras rape is somehow going to shake the nation’s sleeping conscience and wake the authorities and the people alike?
Gang rape, acid attacks, domestic violence, etc. is just business-as-usual in most of India, specially in Uttar Pradesh and as the Indian middle class, we are mostly unperturbed by it all.
The youth is busy watching Carryminati and pumped up to get justice for him because that’s what India needs more of right? A young man comfortably sitting on a chair making sexist and homophobic remarks as fun. I saw Ritesh Deshmukh among the few celebs who have expressed outrage over this. What a joke, right? When your entire career is based on films that objectify and hypersexualise women, how is it that you wield the moral compass and conscience to express sorry for a rape victim?
The same people who normalise a very tangible rape culture prevalent especially on social media, for instance, ‘Hindustani Bhau’ issuing violent rape threats, are now acting enraged following the Hathras rape case.
But don’t worry because just when the panic starts to set in, you will hear one or all of these lies:
1 Mombatti gang and the feminists will march on the streets, create ruckus and maybe justice will be served.
Feminists and students in this country are equated to terror outfit (tukde tukde, if you will) gangs as a result of the splendid work of the godi media. In the West, they are called social justice warriors and I think that’s still a respectable way to address the movement.
But in India, god forbid you say the word feminist and see the men around you melt instantly. But right when a gang rape gets national media attention once in a while, the middle class needs complete guarantee that feminists and the Bhim army or the JNU intellectuals will take part in candle light vigils and protests.
Because why should we get out of our air conditioned, comfy houses or take breaks from our cushy jobs and bother going to a protest? Who will then write long rants on social media instead, hmm?
2 Trend hashtags on Twitter and Facebook.
That is all I can do to help the victim, says the Indian middle class. Don’t ask Sushil uncle to do any more than this. Social media outrage does provide some pressure sure, but unless it is sustained, it dies out soon just like any enthusiasm to bring justice to the victims. But is still a great way to lie to yourself and think and brag to others about your ‘activism’.
3 This caste issue (or religious angle) is just stupid. Caste system doesn’t exist anymore.
That’s what the Indian middle class said after the deaths of Rohit Vemula and Payal Tadvi too. Our comfy, privileged middle class does not believe that the caste system exists and is so vile that it could be killing people. They will tell this lie to their own children and themselves just so they don’t have to feel any accountability in questioning the very systems that benefit them.
4 These things happen to poor, uneducated people. This can never happen to me.
If only this was true. Yes, the minorities and lower caste people are a lot more vulnerable to systemic abuse and brutalities but don’t for a second think that you are immune to this hateful society that your ignorance has created. Because guess what, after you are done watching your Netflix, partying or clubbing, you’ll have to step out on the roads. The same roads corrupt wealthy contractors built and the same ones bubbling with molestors and angry unemployed Indian men looking for any opportunity to unleash violence on anyone.
All the religious hatred spewed everyday since 2014 and all the anti-women statements from top leadership plus the governments patronage to high profile rapists such as Kuldeep Singh Sengar, every drop of this hateful poison is consumed by these violent men and any moment without the slightest of hint, you could become the next target.
5 The police did what they could. They are only doing their job. Why destroy police cars to protest?
This is one of my favourite lies. I was actually once naive enough to believe in this. Then I read ‘A Poor Persons Defense of Riots’ by Delio Wasquez.
Not just the police force but the entire justice system can be biased and act indifferently as is evident from the recent acquittal of those who were documented as involved in Babri Masjid demolition. Indian middle class will often side with the police, especially in cases like this because that will mark them off as good citizens. When you’ve not been oppressed and your daily struggles aren’t based on your gender or caste, it is easy to side with the police and think that the legal system is fair.
As the article above describes, people in minority groups or oppressed groups only go so far as to destroy property when they are tired of being ignored by the powerful. They got no other choice left but to make symbolic protests to be heard. And not to mention, every single revolution in history happened when people refused to oblige with the lawmakers and stood their ground.
Rosa Parks broke the rule and continued to sit in the seat on the bus that was meant for only Whites. Gandhi was kicked out of the train for his protest. Bhagat Singh, Kakori train incident, Jhansi ki Rani… you name it, all were incidents of protests when a simple polite request wasn’t getting the job done.
Also read: Beyond Barricades: Police Violence Against Women In Jamia Protests
But hey, we don’t have to worry. The Hathras rape incident is just another case. Why bother with this news when the IPL cricket season has started? We have done our duty by trending hashtags and posted a meme asking what happened to the Nirbhaya fund that we only think of when there’s another death in the news.
Fast track courts were also promised but the BJP government had to fix 70 years of bad governance so we guess that will take some time. Until then the girls of my country might continue to get raped. What can I do after all? I did my civic duty and posted on Facebook.
Shahla Khan is an international columnist published in the Observer, Huffington Post, Telegraph UK, News Laundry, Feminism in India, and the likes. She is also a feminist nonfiction author, a doctoral researcher in the politics of consumption, and a first responder to domestic abuse and sexual assault victims who she counsels through her blog work. Total introvert, public speaker, Netflix addict, and mental health advocate. She can be found on Twitter, Facebook and you can check her blog out, here.
Featured Image Source: NYT