Cry, Daughter, Cry ...

Nothing surprises me any more when it comes to how low we can sink as a society in heaping abuses on India's daughters. Even before she has been able to dry the tears from the last assault, comes the next one.

Whether it is in the extraordinary crime we as a country are committing every day in eliminating our daughters through sex selection or burning young brides because they could not bring enough 'dowry', or simply, the rising graph of violent crimes against women, it is now a known fact that the government, across the political spectrum, is by and large indifferent to these crimes being played out every day.

And that is why the mayhem that unfolded in a pub in the once idyllic coastal town of Mangalore in Karnataka where young girls were brutally assaulted, openly molested and physically injured and overpowered by a bunch of goons who claimed to be part of an organization called the Sri Ram Sene certainly angers us but does not surprise. It is yet another dagger through our broken hearts.

Every time we celebrate a few trophies or milestones, out come the daggers to break our spirit. Just last week on a flight back from Belgaum to Bangalore I was celebrating with a woman crew member that we were being co-piloted by India's youngest woman pilot... a smart, capable 20-year-old. Under the same Karnataka skies the very next day Mangalore's mayhem played out.

It was once again a brutal reminder that as a country we have decided not to grant protection to half the population. Those who assault our daughters - whether they are the husbands, in-laws, fundamentalist groups or goons - they are all bold and unrelenting. Because they know that there is a political and judicial consent that they will get away with their crimes. That explains why after the attacks and the outrage they have been freely intimidating the women victims and also the sole man who came to their rescue.

The glib reaction of the Karnataka government to the Mangalore crime again does not surprise, only angers. There is a political consensus on glossing over crimes against women as if it to say 'oh-these things-happen-once-in-a-while-don't make-such-a-fuss-over-it-'. The media is instantly blamed for making a "big fuss". But the reality is that the once synchretic Mangalore town today is a cauldron of intolerance thanks to these self- appointed persons of hate.

A Hindu and a Muslim girl or boy cannot talk to each other for fear of reprisal in Mangalore. The recent attacks on Christians in Mangalore would have also done their damage to alienate the Hindus from the Christians. The stage is now firmly set in these towns for assaults against women who dare to show any degree of independence or violate these 'norms' set by these Men of Hate.

Last year, there was an unprecedented attack on the STAR News television office in Mumbai because the channel was running a programme on a couple who had landed in trouble because of their mixed marriage - Hindu and Muslim. It was one of the worst attacks so far on a media organization with the saffron goons bursting into the sanctum sanctorum of news gathering - the editorial department - with their hockey sticks and clubs, smashing computers, tables and attacking scribes.

Convenient confusion is what these elements cause. They talk about the evils of drinking (as if they care about anyone's health!) and women who dare to be seen in public spaces 'drinking'. That the two are part of totally separate discourses needs to be exposed. '

Their bluff should be called. Where were these people when the poor women in India's countryside in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Manipur waged struggles against excessive 'arrack' liquor sales in their villages that were turning their husbands into alcoholics and impoverishing them further? At that time they used the state's might and power and trained their guns on the agitating women to ensure that the arrack supplies reached the village shops. These very groups lobby and want to promote the sale of the cancer causing gutka, which is basically arecanut dipped in tobacco, to which children and women and young and old men across the country are becoming addicts.

As college girls come to the street in India's IT capital to protest against the Mangalore crime, let the powers that be stand reminded that in this city 33 percent of the total workforce in IT companies and BPOs are women. Tomorrow, if self- appointed outfits like the Sri Ram Sene goons burst into these offices and try to ensure a dress code on women and insist that they not talk to their male colleagues, India's Silicon Valley may indeed become the object of bad media.

A complicit government which privately supports the patriarchal philosophy of these groups must know that no woman will tolerate this kind of attack on their freedom, regardless of their political affiliations.

But till there is a political will to learn from the Mangalore incident, our daughters will be unsafe in this country. Till then India's daughters will continue to weep.

(Nupur Basu is an independent journalist and director of a recent documentary on BBC World titled No Country for Young Girls?. The writer can be reached at nupbasu@gmail.com)


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