Success Story of “Shining India”

Dark clouds gathered over the capital of “shining India” on the 16 December 2012. The horrific gang rape and murder of a 23 year old physiotherapy intern in a moving bus in New Delhi has sparked public anger and focused worldwide attention on the epidemic proportions of violence against women in India. The unprecedented protests have forced the government of India, political class and corporate media to take notice. It’s difficult to understand why this particular incident struck such a chord, as there have been so many similar incidents. Probably this incident was particularly graphic violence, but there have been other terrible incidents as well across India.

Violence against women takes a dismaying variety of forms – domestic abuse, rape, honour killings, female foeticide, dowry deaths, acid attacks, public stripping and parading, eve teasing and sexual assault. They may be vilified or sexualised in media representations. They may be harmed in a seemingly infinite variety of forms of pornography.

1. Violence against women is a worldwide epidemic

Reporting the gang rape of the woman in New Delhi, some reporters in the western media, taking moral high ground, pointed fingers at and demonized Indian culture, as though sexual violence against women is pervasive only in certain parts of the world and it’s somehow reflective of deeply inherent cultural traditions of that part of the world. Of course, what that obscures is that both rape and violence against women is pervasive worldwide, in their very own backyards.

Violence affects the lives of millions of women worldwide. It doesn’t have a race, a religion, a class, or a nationality, but it does have a gender. It cuts across geographical boundaries, and cultural and socio-economic barriers, impeding the right of women to participate fully in society. Globally women are denied human rights from the cradle to the grave.

According to one report, in the US every two minutes a woman is sexually assaulted, one in four college female students have been either raped or attempted rape, sexually assaulted, and one in five women will be raped in her lifetime.

Though a rape is reported every 6.2 minutes in the US, the estimated total is perhaps five times as high because many rapes go unreported. Some of the 20 men who gang raped an 11-year-old girl in Cleveland, Texas were sentenced in November, while the instigator of the gang rape of a 16-year old in Richmond, California was sentenced in October, and four men who gang raped a 15-year-old girl near New Orleans were sentenced in April, though the six men who gang raped a 14-year-old girl in Chicago last fall are still at large.

There is also the escalating pandemic of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment in the US military, where secretary of defence Leon Panetta estimated that there were 19,000 sexual assaults on fellow soldiers in 2010 alone, and the great majority of assailants got away with it, though four-star general Jeffrey Sinclair was indicted for “a slew of sex crimes against women.” Relations between residents of the Japanese island of Okinawa and the American GIs were thrown into turmoil in 1995 after two marines and a sailor allegedly kidnapped and raped a 12-year-old Japanese girl.

In UK, the number of rapes is officially around 15,000 a year. However, a government report estimates “that between 75 and 95 per cent of rape crimes are never reported,” because police treat them as if the rape victims had “asked for it” by their clothing or behaviour.

In South Africa, an estimated 600,000 rapes occurred in 2012. Rape has been used widely as a “weapon” of war all over the world: Mexico, Rwanda, Kuwait, Haiti, Iraq, Colombia, Mali, Congo, Germany, Russia, Afghanistan… and the list is long. Such acts are done mainly to trample the dignity of the victims, and to reinforce their dominance and the policy of ethnic cleansing.

2. Violence against women in India

In a country like India, where there are many female deities, there is still no paucity of crime against women. Violence against women is reported from all parts of the country and is growing at an alarming rate. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 10,068 rape cases in 1990, which increased to 16,496 in 2000. With 24,206 reported rape cases in 2011, there is an increase of 873% from 1971 when NCRB started to record cases of rape. New Delhi has been dubbed as the “rape capital” of India, accounting for 25% of cases. In the capital of India, rape cases rose from 572 in 2011 to 661 towards the end of 2012. ((Vandana Shiva, “Our Violent Economy is Hurting Women.” Yes Magazine, 21 January 2013.)) The increase by 240% since 1990s, when the new economic policies were introduced, takes some “shine” off the “shining India”.

The government of India led by the economist prime minister Manmohan Singh is busy playing fiddle to the dictates of the oligarchy and corporate plutocracy, while democracy is in tatters with the sufferings and the trampling down upon the rights of the weak, vulnerable and marginalised in the society. Today, citizens with means and power buy their way out of criminal charges, whether rape, murder, or corruption. Citizens without means and power are often framed or wrongly convicted, leaving society no safer as the guilty remain free. Of the 24,206 cases of rape documented in 2011, three-fourths of the perpetrators are still at large. The conviction rates in rape cases have decreased from 46% in 1971 to 26% in 2012.

One of the major obstacles in delivering justice in rape cases is the poor quality of investigations. The reason behind this ranges from gender bias and corruption to general inefficiency of the police. In many cases the police have even refused to lodge the FIR ((F.I.R. implies to First Information Report. It is generally a document in which the information about the commission of a crime is recorded. The Police receive and record the information at the first point. Therefore, it is known as First Information Report.
Unless and until, the aggrieved person or other person on his behalf informs about the occurrence of a crime or an offence to the police, no action is possible. It is the first step for getting justice through the police. The F.I.R. is the primary basis on which the information reaches the police and only after registration of the F.I.R., an investigation can be started by the police.
)) or have lodged incomplete FIR. In addition to this, police personal are too often involved in such crimes themselves, sometimes against the very victims who seek their intervention and protection.

Violence against women by the very people who are supposed to protect them – members of criminal justice system and the law enforcement system – is widespread. In the Mathura rape case, Mathura, a 16-year-old tribal girl was raped by two policemen in the compound of the Desai Ganj Police Station in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. Sadly, the judgement did not distinguish between consent and forced submission, and so it was ruled in favour of the accused. ((Dhruv Desai, “Sexual Harassment and Rape Laws in India.” “Mathura Rape Case,” Wikipedia. )) Another classic example of judicial pronouncements in rape cases is the 1992 case of Bhanwari Devi, a Dalit woman and an Anganwadi worker in Rajastan, whose staunch opposition to child marriage prompted her “punishment” of gang rape by “upper caste” men. The District Sessions judge remarked that the victim could not have been raped since she was a Dalit while the accused hailed from an upper caste who would not stoop to sexual relations with a dalit. In addition to such humiliations, Section 155(4) of the Evidence Act, which allows the victim to be questioned of her past sexual history, is used by the defense to humiliate the victim in the courtroom.

Law enforcement agencies are also allowed by the state to use rape as a “weapon” to suppress dissenting voices. It is a well known fact that there is a close link between war and rape of women. In one mythological tale the Hindu god Indra, notorious for his lechery, rapes Ahalya, the wife of Gauthama, a learned sage. When the sage finds out, like a typical patriarchal male, he first punishes Ahalya by turning her into a stone, a form in which she remains for sixty thousand years till another mythical hero Ram touches the statue and brings her back to life. Meanwhile Indra, who tries to escape the sage’s wrath by becoming a cat, is cursed with castration and to bear half the blame of every rape ever committed. Ironically, Indra is also a god of war, confirming a well known link between war and rape.

Throughout the history of the world, war, often fought ironically in the name of the “mother land”, is fought on the body of women. The Indian state is at war with its own people in various parts of India. In each part of India the reason for this state of war could be different, ranging from battles with the Indian state over regional autonomy or independence, displacement due to large projects, reckless urbanisation, and crisis in the agricultural economy.

Armed conflict is going on in places like Kashmir, Northeast India and Central India. The Indian army, paramilitary, and police are notorious for sexually molesting or raping whenever they get a chance in war-like zones. In 1991 Indian army personnel raped nearly 100 Kashmiri women in a single night. The age of victims ranged between 13 and 80. ((Ershad Abubacker, “Rape as Weapon of Domination: The Clout of Caste and Class in India.” Countercurrents, 27 December 2012. )) Two Kashmiri women Neelofar Jan and Asiya Jan were gang raped by CRPF personnel in 2009. While there is an outcry against rape cases in the Kashmir valley involving the Security Forces, justice has still eluded these unfortunate women and shattered their already fragile lives.

Another case of army brutality is the rape and murder of Manorama Devi. She was taken by army personnel into custody from her home in the state of Manipur in the early hours of 11 July 2004. “However, the bullet ridden body of Manorama was found at around 5.00 p.m. on 11 July 2004 by the villagers at Keirao Wangkhem Road near Ngariyan Maring Village, about four kilometers from the family’s house. When it was found, the body wore no proper clothes. There were finger-scratch marks found all over the body and a gashing wound, probably made by knife, was found on her right thigh. Several fatal bullet wounds were seen on her back, the upper buttock and the genitalia.” ((“Thangjam Manorama,” Wikipedia.)) Manorama’s family strongly believes that she had been raped and then killed by the army personnel. There still have been no arrests and prosecutions. Because members of the security forces who commit sexual assault are very difficult to persecute. A law called the Armed Forces Special Powers Act grants them quasi-immunity for sexual assault and other human rights abuses.

In Chattisgarh a tribal school teacher Soni Sori was arrested by the police on 4 October 2011 for alleged Maoist (Naxalite) links. In February 2012 Soni Sori wrote “that by giving me electric shocks, by stripping me naked, or by brutally assaulting me and inserting stones in my rectum – will the problem of Naxalism end? Why so many atrocities against women? I want to know from my country people?” As it befits the torturer, the Superintendent of Police, Ankit Garg, who supervised Soni’s torture, was given the Presidential Medal!

The hypocrisy of our political class once again was very evident in December 2012, when the outrage of citizens brought its attention to the violence against women. The members of the parliament have joined the chorus of harsher laws and punishment for the rapists. More often than not such indignation seems to be hypocritical as we see the immunity enjoyed by the powerful. Narendra Modi, who is widely touted as potential Prime Minister, remains an unapologetic Chief Minister of Gujarat who presided over an episode of the most horrific mass sexual violence imaginable. ((Vijay K. Nagaraj, “Of Sex Offender Databases and “Chemical Castration” Avoid Criminal Justice Reforms in Rage or Fear.” EPW, Vol. XLVIII(01), 5 January 2013.)) Ex-DGP of Haryana SPS Rathore’s teenage victim Ruchika ended her own life unable to bear the torment that her battle for justice had become. A look at the background of our lawmakers with respect to rape cases and other crimes against women based on their self-sworn affidavits exposes the hypocrisy of the political class. In the Lok Sabha 2009 elections, political parties gave tickets to six candidates who declared that they have been charged with rape. Thirty four others contesting the elections declared that they have charges of crimes against women. Two sitting members of parliament “have charges of crime against women such as cruelty and intent to outrage a woman’s modesty etc.” Six sitting MLAs have declared that they have charges of rape against themselves in their sworn affidavits submitted to the Election Commission of India at the time of election. 36 other MLAs have declared that they have charges of crimes against women such as outraging the modesty of a woman, assault, insulting the modesty of a woman etc. ((“369 MPs, MLAs face charges of crimes against women.” Rediff.))

By giving tickets to candidates who have been charged with crimes against women, especially rape, political parties have been in a way abetting circumstances that lead to such events that they so easily and vehemently condemn in the Parliament. Following the New Delhi gang rape and murder, the political class and the corporate media, along with the mob, spontaneously demanded punishments like the death penalty, chemical castration for rapists and sex offenders, and naming and shaming through the creation of publicly accessible registries or databases of sex offenders because they knew that these harsh punishments can be applied only on the marginalized, who do not enjoy equal rights. Kamala, a resident of the slum Ravidas Camp which is the home of the alleged rapists of the 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, said, “I wish that I could go to India Gate to join the cause but I fear I might be outcast if people come to know that I am from Ravidas Camp.” Another resident said, “I don’t know how I will get my children admitted to a school as the incident has earned a bad name to this place (Ravidas Camp).” The fear of the residents is very much evident in the words of another resident, “You never know when a mob may attack the slum and torch or ransack our houses. But we want to say that we are as angry as the whole nation. We want them to be hanged.” It is not just the rapists, but the entire community of Ravidas Camp is on trial and at risk of a backlash from a lynching mob.

The predicament of the people of Ravidas Camp illustrates tellingly the bogus democracy in India where entire communities of the least powerful social classes suffer stigma and ostracism for the crimes of a few members of their communities, whereas the rich and powerful, who themselves are criminals, enjoy immunity and become lawmakers and law enforcers.

3. Violence-Embedded Culture

There have been several assumptions about the cause(s) of ghastly crimes such as the gang rape and murder of the woman in New Delhi. One of them is: they are the result of neo class conflict, “where those residing at the bottom of the pyramid want to attack symbols of wealth and well-being.” “The super rich sadly have lost all claims to legitimacy by flaunting their wealth in a brazen manner. This ostentation and in-your-face wealth irks the have-nots who have nothing. The result is crime and barbarism… (P)sychopaths (are) bred in shanties,” the analysis goes on.

The person who has led the charge to demonise the migrant workers, who mostly live in shanties, is none other than the economist prime minister Manmohan Singh, who refuses to see and understand the miseries of the weak, the underprivileged, and the deprived. He referred to them as “menace” and called them “footloose migrants” and said that they are the main threat of sexual violence.

Embedded in these comments are certain class-based assumptions about the poor. What is striking is how slum colonies are referred as a breeding ground for criminals, and the poor as illiterate and violent. Thus the violent attacks such as the Delhi gang rape and murder are associated with poverty, and the “self righteous elite” end up criminalising the poor. What these self-deluding comments are trying to obscure is that rape and sexual violence are pervasive, systematic, and routine. We also have to think how rape and violence against women reported in middle class communities and elite communities are not exposed or talked about or do not elicit quite as much moral outrage. India’s sexual violence is deep, widespread, and powerful.

The perception of both the prime minister and others is nothing but a fruit of the Indian social order based on, as Baba Saheb Ambedkar put it, “graded inequality”, where people “revere in the ascending order and look down upon in deep contempt in the descending order.” It is this deeply ingrained caste, class and gender prejudice that perpetuates violence against the weak, underprivileged and deprived. Delhi gang rape is the culmination of a spectrum of violent abuse of the weak, the underprivileged, and the deprived. It represents the free rein of a culture of violent suppression of the weak and vulnerable in an exclusive society of the strong. Justice Saghir Ahmad aptly said, “Unfortunately a woman in our country belongs to a class or group of society who are in a disadvantaged position on account of several social barriers and impediments and have therefore, been victims of tyranny at the hands of men with whom they, unfortunately, under the Constitution enjoy equal status.” Baba Saheb Ambedkar, the father of Indian Constitution, had warned long ago that though politically having achieved equality, if there is no equality in our social life then the very edifice of democracy would be endangered.

Therefore, the need of the hour is not self delusional rhetoric, but critical thought. In order to free ourselves from the shackles of a culture of violence against the weak, underprivileged and deprived, one must first understand what is causing or perpetuating such a “rape culture”. For that it is imperative to adopt, what Cornel West calls, a philosophy of Socratic questioning. In Gorgias, Plato embodies Socrates’ unwillingness to accept convention without reflective evaluation. It is the time to reflect critically about our culture without being caught in the rising currents of worldly, wrongheaded opinion – a cacophonous flood of stupid, and a raging torrent of collective pathology.

a. Violent traditional Indian culture
      i. Patriarchal culture

Although the Indian Constitution gives equal rights to all its citizens irrespective of their caste, gender and religion, this is yet to be realised even after 62 years of operation of the Constitution. The “shining India” is still clouded with religion, caste, class, and gender based discrimination.

The traditional Indian patriarchal culture continues to structure our worldviews, mindsets, and our social world on the basis of male domination over woman and the denial of her full humanity and right to equality. Today, woman’s increasing presence in once exclusive male domains, her growing social and economic empowerment, her increased mobility and assertion of her freedom, rights, and independence are perceived as a threat to the traditional Indian culture.

The patriarchal culture demands woman to emulate mythical women like Sita, who showed unquestioning obedience to her husband Ram. She has to serve her husband and home. So her permanent domain is the kitchen, even if she has a salaried employment. Ironically, a woman’s labour at home is not valued. Any woman who violates this tradition-imposed norm is not a woman of “substance”. The culture highlights woman as a womb that attains fulfilment in motherhood. So a woman has a limited freedom of choice to express herself and no value in her own self. Her dignity, freedom, value, and rights are curtailed by the tradition, of which she is the bearer. ((Woman is the bearer of tradition because she is made responsible to maintain cultural traditions of family and society at large. For example, woman is made to desire having a male child rather than a female child. In that way she maintains the patriarchal cultural traditions.)) Thus, woman, by being the bearer of the tradition, is made to implement “death sentence” on herself. ((P.V. Srividya Vikram Gopal, “Can’t Do Without Critical Analysis of the Past.” The Hindu, 21 January 2013. ))

The shackles around woman are tightened with a demand on her to be “pure” or to protect her “modesty”. The fear of being violated of her “modesty” restricts her of her movements, dreams, and exercise of her rights and potential. It makes her more vulnerable. It is important to understand why “rape” laws are explained in terms of “outraging” woman’s “modesty”, because all are related to the fact that the social system defined by the power elite ensured that a woman remains guilty forever once she has been violated. In the traditional patriarchal culture, “shame” is attached to the female victim and her family, not to the male perpetrators. Probably, this is the reason why the name of the rape victim was not made public. ((Regarding not disclosing the identity of rape victim, the Rape Shield Law does not allow her identity to be disclosed. But the other thing is the stigma and shame that are attached to rape victim. Not only the victim, but also the entire family bear the shame. Due to this it will be difficult for daughters in that family to get married, unless the family is rich. That’s why many times the rape victim and her family leave the town and go and settle down in another town. ))

Thus, the patriarchal culture fosters a “culture of rape”, violent abuse of the weak, the underprivileged, and the deprived. This “culture of rape” is bred in our homes. In the modern, “civilized”, and increasingly urbanised India, the female child in her mother’s womb is as vulnerable as girls and women in the society. The only difference is that the very people who would have brought her into the world – her parents – exterminate her when she is in the place considered to be safest – her mother’s womb. Her crime – not being a male. The preference for a male child to that of a girl in India has led to the dangerous trend of eliminating girls through practices like female foeticide and female infanticide. The antenatal sex determination tests have furthered the practice of selective abortion of female foetuses.

To have a daughter is acceptable if the couple has already a son, but a daughter’s arrival is unwelcome if the couple has a daughter already. With more money and material demanded in dowry, a girl has become a potential financial drain on parents. ((Taking dowry is illegal. Taking bribes is also illegal. But people demand and take dowry. The amount given as dowry depends on the status of families and the qualification of the bridegroom. So giving and taking dowry is open.)) So girl is no longer desired. Moreover, sons are traditionally viewed as the main breadwinners who will take care of the family, continue the family name and perform the last rites of the parents – an important ritual in many faiths.

An old folk song in Uttar Pradesh illustrates the agony of a mother:

Oh God, I beg of you,
I touch your feet time and again,
Next birth don’t give me a daughter,
Give me Hell instead …

Even if a girl is allowed to live, gender bias starts within the family where girls are neglected in terms of their food, health, and education. By depriving them of their basic necessities, a culture of dependency is established. The unequal power relations are promoted by celebrations such as Karva Chauth and Raksha Bandhan. They reaffirm that girls should live under the protection of boys. Subordination of women is made complete through violence against women. No woman is exempt from this, be it rich or poor, educated or illiterate, urban or rural. It is only the degree and nature of violence that differs. Their bodies are violated and objectified and women do not have the freedom either to live or to die. In a sense, women are deprived of the basic human right to live a life with dignity – to live a life not defined by others but what they perceive to be meaningful for themselves.

Gender Justice should not be a forlorn cry of a few but should start at home, for that is where the meaning and dignity of life is either asserted or shattered. Gender discrimination is, probably, seen only among human beings. Animals never display discrimination in the kids on the basis of gender. Have you ever seen a dog feeding only its male puppies? Have you ever seen a lion or lioness killing its female cubs? It is only among human beings that such crude preference for male child is visible to the extent that parents on not conceiving the right gender can go to an extent of exterminating the baby. In the process what is forgotten is that both male and female are equally required to carry forward the human species. And both are equally important for the wellbeing, growth and development of family, society and world. Equal opportunities for girls and women to education, income and political power, and a change in the mindset of both men and women regarding female child will contribute to that end.

      ii. Caste System

The “culture of rape” is also promoted by the caste system. Ambedkar warned about “graded inequality” in the caste system where each caste sits on the head of others and “revere them in ascending order and look down upon in deep contempt in the descending order.” The mindset of this caste system is not very different from that of an average rapist – “the strong can and should take advantage of the weak”. In many parts of India stripping and parading Dalit and tribal women, and rape and sexual assault of them are routine and considered “normal” by upper caste men. Thus, caste system legitimizes violence against the Dalits and tribals.

Villages in some of the Indian states are ruled by “khap panchayats” or “upper caste panchayats”. So no complaint against an upper caste person is accepted in police stations.

The worst form of violence legitimized by the religiously sanctioned caste system is untouchability. Thus, the caste system violates a “lower caste” person’s dignity, value, and rights. It discriminates, degrades and, deprives Dalits and tribals. Through sanctions legitimized by religion they are forced to the margins of the society with limited or no access to the center of trade, wealth, and power.

Despite different laws in India, untouchability persists in different forms. In schools, Dalit girls and boys are forced to sit at the back. ((A Letter written by Manjula Pradeep and Smita Narula, Navsarjan Trust, to Karin Hulshof , UNICEF India Representative, 73 Lodi Estate, New Delhi 110003. 7 June 2010. )) One of the major sources of untouchability in India is the issue of manual scavenging. There are about seven lakh seventy thousand [lakh = 100,000 — Ed.] manual scavengers in the country according to the Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare.

b. Violent Popular Culture

Violence against women does not occur in isolation. As much as we critically evaluate Indian traditional patriarchal culture and caste system, the role of popular culture, of movies, media and advertisements, in objectifying women and perpetuating gender prejudice can not be discounted. Popular culture is one of the most powerful forces that influence the worldview, values and behaviour of the present generation of Indians.

The present day industries of advertisement, entertainment and media bombard people with overly sexualised female images. They portray women as objects to be leered at and to satisfy male sexual pleasures. Independent filmmaker Onir says of plotlines and characters in Bollywood, “They are suggesting that women being molested is entertainment. You treat her badly, you humiliate her, but at the end of the day she will come around.” The propagation of the idea of female body as a field of entertainment by media and entertainment industries is nothing short of perversion and “mainstreaming” of pornography in India.

“Mainstreaming” is the term which best designates the present day position of pornography in our society. There is the vastly increased imprint of pornography in popular culture. This is accelerated by both the fact that pornography has become available in greater quantities and the fact that it is easily available. Parallel to the greater supply and availability, “there is a clean-up tendency, through which regular pornography becomes respectable.” This clean-up is done by fashion industry, advertising industry, film industry, SMS texting jargon, music videos and the mass media, and now-a-days sports. Take for example the Indian Premier League (IPL). The introduction of cheerleading into the IPL with gyrating “white” women with skin tight and skimpy clothes to entice crowds feeds deeper, insidious notions about sexuality. The 22–year old cheerleader from South Africa who was thrown out of IPL for revealing in her blog some of the activities in the IPL night parties, described how the dance routines and the normal workouts of cheerleaders were rejigged to make it more of showing their body than about the original concept of cheerleading. No wonder she stated in one of her blogs, “We are practically like walking porn.”

The real agenda of mainstreaming pornography seems to be to challenge the cultural norms and shift boundaries. It is argued both explicitly and implicitly that it ought to be acceptable to say and show things which some people regard as going beyond the limits of decency, and it is implied that the reader’s or viewer’s acceptance of pornography and its presence in popular culture is merely a question of “broadmindedness”. In other words, if one has reservations or objections on the matter, s/he is simply not “broadminded” or “liberated” enough. So the real purpose is to legitimise and normalise pornography.

The mainstreaming of pornography gives rise to a set of problems. The gender-role stereotype presented by pornography seeps into the popular culture: women exhibit themselves, allure with voluptuous movements and then provide sexual servicing; and the men fall for it and are virile. This portrayal is increasingly present in the advertisements, fashion and films. This one-dimensional, limited representation of gender is pervading the popular culture and thus becoming the sole valid view of femininity and masculinity. The diversity of gender representation has been marginalised. When the range of gender images available in popular culture presents one-dimensional view of what femininity and masculinity can mean, the possibilities for identification at the disposal of young women and men are drastically limited.

Pornography, at its core, is sexualising of male domination and female subordination. Women are portrayed as objects for the sexual pleasure of men. So they become the targets of cruelty and degradation for the pleasure of men. The predatory industries of media, movies and advertisement that encourage exploitation of women and their body for profit undermine other values such as respect, dignity and equality.

In a patriarchal society in which men are conditioned to see themselves as dominant over women, cruelty and degradation of women fit easily into their notion about sex and gender. They are men in patriarchal culture focused on their own pleasure. To see women as persons deserving respect and dignity – to see her fully human – would change the status quo!

Therefore, as entertainment numbs our critical faculties and enslaves us to the false consciousness or delusion of being “free”, “liberated” and “modern”, enlightenment demands critical analysis, consciousness and vigilance.

c. Violent economic system

The neoliberal economic system in 1990s has further strengthened the already existing “culture of rape” in India. It has reaffirmed the philosophy: “the strong can and should take advantage of the weak”. This economic system shaped by capitalist patriarchy is based on profit for the rich and powerful at the expense of the weak and vulnerable.

John Maynard Keynes said, “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.” Capitalism is a cult. Capitalism is the economic ideology promoted by a small misbegotten group of economic cannibals, a hybridization or mutation of the worst qualities. The advocates of capitalism are power hungry miscreants without a social conscience. In the words of Betrand Russell, “Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: the fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.” They devote themselves to the ideals of privatization over common good and profit over social needs, and defy public will with the help of the state and its agencies.

In India this plundering economic system is unleashed in the disguise of “development” and “economic growth”. For this “development” and “economic growth”, grabbing resources is essential. Multi-national corporations, in their relentless drive for profit maximization and commodification, signed MOUs with the Indian government over resource rich lands owned by tribal peoples. The process of implementation of the agreement is being carried out by the state through forceful grabbing of the resource rich lands of the tribal peoples for the multi-national corporations. This violent process is not only costing the lives of the owners of the lands and their sympathisers, but also displacing them from their habitats, livelihoods and properties. A substantial number of displaced tribal peoples are forced to migrate and become part of the urban underclass squeezed into the slums, a totally brutalized and dehumanized existence, and treated like doormats by the urban elite. There are more than forty million people, including vast majorities of tribal peoples and Dalits displaced by megadams and mines and other industrial projects.

Simultaneously, the terror of capitalism is unleashed on farmers. Thousands of acres of land are taken away from farmers by the state for attracting foreign direct investment and forcefully acquired for the Indian big business companies. The cold blooded massacre of farmers in Nandigram, West Bengal, is a stark indicator of state terror in the name of industrialization and growth. The forced depeasantisation on behalf of international and Indian big businesses drastically swells the growing number of unemployed and slums. They form a huge reserve army of labour for capital, who can be exploited as cheap labour.

Every day starvation and suicide deaths of tribal peoples and farmers are pouring in from different parts of India.

The present day urban scenario is a glaring divide of sweeping gentrification of slums and burgeoning suburbia with their pools, golf courses, custom built vehicles, luxury condominiums etc. A gruesome contrast between utter poverty and enormous wealth which prevails in contemporary “shining India”.

The Indian government and corporate media pay more attention on the “shining India”, ignoring the “suffering India”. Though India is growing economically, the economic growth is not inclusive. Poverty and malnutrition, especially among women, children and people who belong to scheduled castes and tribes remain very high. According to the Arjun Sengupta Committee, about 77% of Indians live on less than Rs. 20 a day. The Oxford University Report found that 41 crore [crore = 10,000,000 — Ed.] people were living in poverty in just eight Indian states. According to the Global Hunger Index, compiled by the International Food Policy Research Institute, India ranks 67 out of 88 countries.

Poverty in India is hardly viewed as a structurally imposed state of impoverishment. It is a consequence of national and international social, political and economic policies and arrangements designed to serve the rich and deprive the rest. As such poverty becomes an issue of justice because freedom and dignity of individuals are being curtailed for the benefit of a few, and exploitation and oppression of the majority are legitimized by state sanctions for the profit and accumulation of wealth of the minority. When government fails to uphold human dignity and equality of all, it is the right of people to hold it accountable, especially those who claim to be working for justice. Capitalism is evil that must be overcome in order to reinvigorate the value of democracy in our society

Let me conclude with the words of the male friend of the Delhi gang rape victim: “My friend was grievously injured and bleeding profusely. Cars, autos, and bikes slowed down and sped away. I kept waving for help. The ones who stopped, stared at us, discussing what could have happened. Nobody did anything.”

We find ourselves in an era in which arrogance and cupidity are enthroned, cunning is lauded as a virtue, yet compassion is viewed as weakness. Our ancestors would have regarded our predicament as catastrophic – a loss of soul.

Kamalakar Duvvuru teaches the New Testament in India with an objective of promoting peace, justice, unity and love. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Kamalakar, or visit Kamalakar's website.