2012, India’s Year of Shame

In death, the rape victim teaches India a lesson it will never forget, made the country hang its head in shame and terrible sadness.

By Sujeet Rajan

SujeetNEW YORK: From December 16th, she fought for 13 days for her life. It was the same day more than 300 years ago when Mount Fuji in Japan last erupted. As her vital organs started to get deflated, like balloons pinpricked after a party is over – in this case a gang rape party – and in between streams of consciousness, she withstood many happenings, even the Mayan doomsday on the 21st.

She fought. Really hard. Recorded two statements from her hospital bed to a magistrate about the subjugation, the maniacal beatings with an iron rod and the penetrations she had gone through that night on board a bus in New Delhi when lust and depravity of six men, drunk and out on a ‘joyride,’ turned her date night into a horror movie she couldn’t stop watching; would waste her body into a sea of suppurations.

The world had many other things to take care of, as she was dying. Two days before, on December 14th, 27 were shot dead in Newtown, Connecticut, and the world mourned with the United States over a massacre that was senseless; the perpetrator clinical in his brutality, using guns for assault, ripping to shreds 20 children, and seven adults. People in the town lost the appetite to celebrate as they attended funerals through the week, wondered how, to open Christmas presents with a smile, pretend that Santa Claus does indeed come through the chimney; posted guards at all schools in the area to monitor, well, anybody, who came close to the boundaries of a school building.

From 7,300 miles away, in New Delhi, she absorbed the grief of Newtown, asked her mother from a bout of consciousness, if her attackers were caught; galvanizing India into a mob who wanted the government to monitor 1,269,000 square miles that encompassed the country and punish everybody who assaulted women, serve the death sentence on those convicted.

Even as she struggled to live on, her predicament highlighted the enormity of the task ahead for the law enforcement. Like the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra, who sprouted two heads for each one cut, accounts of rape in India spread, like mushrooms after a heavy bout of rainfall, some the next day, some days afterwards. A teenage girl in Punjab committed suicide after she reported her gang rape, but received only sadistic humiliation from the policemen she hoped to find succor from. In Gujarat, a two year old girl succumbed to her internal injuries after she was raped, her hands and feet bound; in Tamil Nadu, a woman was attacked by 10 men, gang raped by three of them, her boyfriend tied up nearby.

Delhi was known as the rape capital of India, with a rape reported every 18 hours. Government data show the number of reported rape cases in the country rose by nearly 17 percent between 2007 and 2011. As she lay dying, and reports of new outrages against women eclipsed even the number of corruption cases emanating every day, Delhi also became tattooed as the rape capital of the world; India, as a nation of rapists.

In June of this year, a poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation of G20 countries found that India was the worst place to be a woman because of high rates of infanticide, child marriage and slavery, behind Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, South Africa, Mexico and China. Canada ranked first, with the US in sixth place. According to India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, from 2009-2012, the number of rape cases against women in the cities of Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata, rose by between 12 and nearly 90 percent.

The day of her death, today, new reports of rape came unabated; grief of her death may have mobilized millions of ordinary citizens to become activists, to take to the streets in spontaneous demonstrations, but done nothing to douse the rabid, perverted machismo of some: in Rajasthan, a 16-year-old girl was abducted and gang raped by three men inside a moving car; in Uttar Pradesh, a minor was raped and murdered; and in another incident in the state, another minor was gang raped by two men at a panchayat office, a local government center.  But it’s almost redundant to record these incidents. In India, where a rape happens every 20 minutes, there would be six more incidents of new rape cases to recount by the time this column is done writing with, in two hours.

According to UN statistics, India is not alone in heinous crimes against women: the US records more cases of rape than India, with cases including perpetrations against both men and women. For the year 2010, India recorded 20,172 cases of rape, while the US in comparison had 84,767 cases. The same year, Canada recorded 576 cases, while Liechtenstein reported zero cases of rape.

But domestic molestation and rape cases worldwide rarely get the international pan that India has received this year, and along with the rampant cases of corruption that surface on a daily basis, has eroded its claim to be a global superpower, and made a mockery of its claim to be a developing nation.

The popular news site Drudge Report carried along with a report of the Delhi gang rape, the attempted rape of the Manipuri actress Momoka, who was dragged off a stage where she was performing. What are the chances of Madonna being dragged off the stage at a concert in the US, and an attempt being made to rape her publicly? Even as India’s economic growth has stagnated and expectations lowered, corruption and crime has entrenched its roots in the country, and is likely to hurt its lucrative tourism industry.

India’s year of shame started with an endless stream of corruption cases and corporate scandals that triggered even an Arab Spring moment, with ordinary citizens holding demonstrations all over the country. By the end of the year, India found it was ranked 94th out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception Index, even as it was trying to control the bad publicity in international investment circles from one of the world’s worst power blackouts ever, with over 600 million people left in the dark in eight states.

India’s corruption woes also made the list of Time magazine’s top 10 international highs and the lows of the year. India’s rank? Good guess. 10th. “The reported incidents of graft have been both epic -a billion-dollar telecoms scandal -and petty,” said Time. “It’s not been a banner year for governance in the world’s largest democracy,” it said. Citing foreign observers, it warned that “the Indian model for democracy and development could be derailed by the country’s venal bureaucracies and crony capitalism.” Time was kind enough not to mention the $210 billion Coalgate scam that threw Parliament into a gridlock.

As the Delhi gang rape victim started to debilitate, septicemia invading her body, and put on ventilator support, with hopes of a miracle dimming, the Indian government decided to redistribute some of the pain, back away possibly from the blame and the guilt. They air lifted her to Singapore, to get treatment at a top hospital there. Hope surged; maybe it might work.

Even as the fiscal cliff loomed over the rest of the world, she, the one with no name, gang raped and shorn of her identity, with only fictitious names attributed to her by the local media – zealously guarding her name even as they did the rounds of homes of the perpetrators, profiling them – fought through what seemed like an endless number of surgeries within a few days that no human being could possibly survive.

She underwent three surgeries, where all her intestines were removed, suffered a cardiac arrest, had massive brain injuries, infection clouded her lungs and abdomen, with multiple organs not responding to treatment. Yet, she lived on, on prayers from around the world.

She died early morning Saturday in Singapore, on December 29th. She will never get to meet Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani teenage activist, who was shot by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education, who was in a critical medical condition, but survived after surgery in London.  Never share stories of fortitude against misogynists.

She didn’t live to see if the US goes over the fiscal cliff or not; she was a day too late. She will not see the six men who raped and killed her, get the death sentence, if at all they do – the last rapist to be hanged to death in India was in 2004. He spent 13 years in prison for the crime he committed before his time ran out at the gallows. She will not get to see if the US manages to clear legislation banning assault weapons, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. She won’t be there when India decides to clear legislation which will define any form of rape as sexual assault, after her death.

Unlike a lot of other rape victims who are killed on the spot, she survived 13 days. What we do know, is that she, termed ‘India’s Daughter,’ by a local news channel, died fighting. She fought against those six men inside the bus, who beat and raped her when she resisted their advances. Reports said they beat her, to subdue, teach her a lesson. In death, she has taught India a lesson it will never forget, made the country hang its head in shame and terrible sadness.

(Sujeet Rajan is Editor-in-Chief of The American Bazaar).

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