To explain what I am trying to say, let me share two heart-rending stories with you.
In the first, at the beginning of the week, a woman leaves her home in Gurugram for her workplace. To board the Metro, she enters the MG Road station from gate number two. She is surrounded by a sea of humanity. CCTV cameras keep an eye on every corner of the station and so do men of the Central Industrial Security Force. Suddenly, a stalker attacks her with a knife.
In the presence of hundreds of people, the assailant stabs her 30 times. The woman cries out for help. She tries to escape and writhes in pain, but no one comes forward to help her. The attacker keeps stabbing her till she dies.
She came all the way from a remote place in the north-east to make a living by doing odd jobs in Delhi. Neither the woman nor her loved ones would have thought she would meet such a tragic end.
The second story is from Muzaffarpur in Bihar. Sarita Kumari, a junior engineer with the state government, is burnt alive after being tied to a chair in a house opposite her home. All that the police recovered from the spot are ashes and some bones. Sarita’s mother manages to identify the victim as her daughter from the slippers of the victim. Like the woman from the north-east, Sarita Kumari could not have dreamt that she would meet such a violent fate despite having a government job in a large town of Bihar.
These heart-rending stories leave behind a number of questions since the person attacking the women wasn’t the demonic Ravan. In the past, there was just one Ravan, but now there are thousands of Ravans amongst us.
Those crying themselves hoarse about similar issues for political gains don’t express any sympathy for women, children and Dalit victims of such barbaric acts. Do you remember the ‘rape’ on the Bulandshahar highway? The tears in the eyes of the victims haven’t yet dried, but the deluge of public sympathy for them that swelled up at that time for political reasons has already dried up.
Why am I diverting your attention from all the festive cheer a day after Diwali? I am doing so because there cannot be a better time to discuss such issues.
Diwali is the festival that celebrates the victory of truth over falsehood, of justice over injustice and of light over darkness. Thousands of years ago, when the class system was at its zenith, two princes of Ayodhya joined hands with the oppressed and the tribals to take on the most powerful emperor in the world and defeated him.
Of course, everybody knows that Diwali was first celebrated when Ram and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravan. People were happy about the ushering in of Ramrajya. After South Africa, Gandhi, too, fell back on the dream of a Ramrajya. By linking Swarajya with Ramrajya, the Mahatma stimulated the history gland of Indians and worked miracles. Gandhi didn’t realise that one day Ramrajya would turn into a political slogan and evolve into a farce. The manner in which politicians of independent India have distorted the traditions of Indian politics has led to a number of challenges that are looking Indian society in the face. The two stories narrated above and the Bulandshahar incident are examples of such tendencies.
How will we get freedom from these?
It is a fact that we are among the fastest growing economies in the world and increasing literacy is bringing economic benefits to more people. On the flip side, the growing urbanisation and indiscriminate use of technology hasn’t just made us citizens of the global village, it has also made us move away from human values to a large extent.
In a land where helping the helpless is considered a religious duty, a woman is stabbed more than 30 times at a Metro station in Gurgaon. Instead of attempting to save the victim, people began making videos.
These days the propensity to make videos of victims of accidents or violence, instead of trying to save them, is growing. By doing this, they commit two kinds of crimes. First, they contribute to the creation of an insensitive society. While doing this they forget that tomorrow if they became victims of mishaps or violence, they would be treated in the same manner. Secondly, by posting these videos with sensational text on social media, they accumulate ‘likes’ for themselves. But they don’t know that they are going from being spectators to becoming a spectacle themselves.
At times, it is tough to differentiate between the wordplay and dishonesty of intellectuals.
One hopes your homes would still be illuminated with the lamps and fairy lights that you bought for Diwali. It is likely you may be surrounded by the mess and dust created by the crackers that you burst last night. Don’t you think that today, fighting society’s indifference and darkness isn’t just the responsibility of Dashrath’s son but also yours? Just cleaning up your home and neighbourhood won’t do. You also have to help uproot the demonic tendencies mushrooming around you.
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan