“Rape is a crime against sleep and memory; its after image imprints itself like an irreversible negative from the camera obscure of dreams. Though their bodies would heal, their souls had sustained a damage beyond compensation.”
She lay there, with vacant eyes, breathing with the help of a machine. She couldn’t see much, except blurry images and voices that seemed as if in a hospital. How long had she been there? Few hours, days? It did not matter anymore. She tried not to think too much.It hurt. She knew her body was fighting the worst battle ever. She could not afford to be weak at this moment and tried to block out the haunting horrific images that kept invading her subconscious. She knew that if she did not, this would be a battle she would surely lose.
The whole nation had been praying for Damini. It had been 2 weeks since the animals ravaged her like a pack of wolves, mutilating not just her body but intending to break her soul as well. It had been 2 weeks on that unfateful day, when Damini ,a 23 year old paramedic student in Delhi had ascended a private bus at night with a friend, while travelling back home after a movie. Who knew this would be a journey to her ultimate end? We all live in a bubble of security, not knowing that in every shadow that lurks, in every corner of every street, there lie predators waiting for the kill. Such was the destiny that awaited her. Inside the bus, a group of 6 drunken brutes descended on them. Her companion was hit on the head with an iron rod and thrown out. Damini was raped for over an hour and violated, and thrown into the streets from the running bus, half naked.
She was brought to the hospital with her internal organs torn to pieces. An Iron Rod had been inserted into her private parts and she was brutally mutilated. There was multi -organ failure, due to septicemia. While the entire nation was up in arms crying “Enough is enough” ,this 23 year old was battling it out, on ventilator support. The first thing she asked when she had relatively regained consciousness was, “Did they catch them?”. She was a fighter, and the entire nation was praying fervently for her. Damini was airlifted to Singapore yesterday as her situation deteriorated further and finally succumbed during early hours on Saturday morning, 29th December, 2012.
The incident had the entire nation in outrage, demanding severe changes in the existing laws in India for rape and violence against women ,which have shown an increasing trend in recent years. It reflects the vast tragedy of sexual violence in India, as Human Rights Watch has aptly pointed out. Delhi, has incidentally been named as the Rape Capital of the country, which has shown utter disregard for the safety and security of its female citizens. And yet, despite all signs, it took the violent death of a young woman in the throes of a spectacular medical career, to make the country cry in anguish outrage. Perhaps it was the heinousness of the crime, the casual violence of it or the fact that it happened when the city was still alive, as the bus ran in some of the busiest streets while the incident happened, that has the collective nation up in arms. According the the National Crime Reports Bureau, there is a woman raped in the country every 20 minutes! The numbers have reached an alarming high, to almost an 10% increase since 2001.
The whys and hows does not make sense in a country which prides itself as one of the most “vibrant democracies” in the world, where women cant travel alone after 6 pm. Where no matter how fully modestly clothed she is, she can still be raped by the hundreds of pairs of eyes; that follow her like predators waiting for the kill. Where public places and transports are safe havens for culprits where she can be groped and molested in public with absolute impunity. The Indian Woman who has been iconised as a symbol of worship in its ancient scriptures and culture ,has become objectified to the worst denomination today.
As any victim of sexual violence would narrate, it is worse than death, it’s worse than any war man has ever fought, because here, you die a torturous kind of silent existential death every passing moment . The victim lives with the shame all her life,knowing that the people who are meant to protect will forsake her. This reflects a state of total breakdown of the judiciary, legislative,executive functionaries of a country, that is mired in corruption, and total anarchy. The Police FIR Reporting protocol and the judicial cross examination, are most hostile and insensitive to the victim which further isolates her. Mind you this is not an affliction of India alone, but every society in the Indian subcontinent which is predominantly mysoginistically patriarchal. We live in the dark ages. It took the violent death of an innocent girl to make the nation wake up from its dark ages.
If one were to dissect the current anatomy of sexual violence and why it happens with alarming impunity, some of the core reasons remain that the victims are still blamed for the crime. In strongly patriarchal societies, regressive ideologies on “a woman’s place in society”, socio-economic insecurity and crude struggle for power, culminates into this blatant display of male violent domination. Indian experts report that the rate of rape is more predominant in areas where gender and class divides are more pronounced.
Any society that has the culture of rape deeply ingrained in the collective psyche of Men, have 3 barriers that they have to deal with. 1. The notion of male masculinity, 2. Cultural disregard for women, and 3. The notion of women as mere sexual objects. If we want those horrific 20 minute time frame to be completely deconstructed and negated, then we have to destroy these core negative fundamental cultural ideals.
Rape is not about sex anymore. It’s about violence. It’s about domination and power. It’s about blatant disregard or empathy for another living being. Just as a hunter would hunt for the joy of kill, the same theory applies here. It is like a game , it’s the hunt, and the absolute subjugation of the weak and the hunted. Rape thus becomes the spoils of war, a tool during genocides and guerrilla wars and in some societies, like how we see here, a way of life. It does not confine itself to a particular community or culture alone. No amount of legal deterrents in place or capital punishment can prevent it. It is the socio – cultural conditioning that needs to be addressed. As long as societies have husbands that beat their wives, and have little boys growing up emulating their fathers and little girls who grow up bearing it all like their Mothers, we will always have a subversive culture where sexual violence will be in constant perpetuity.
She could hear her Mother sing to her, “Hush little baby, please dont cry”. It felt so very peaceful. All she could remember was the beautiful memories she had with the ones she loved. And then from a distance, she saw the heavenly brilliance of a blinding white light.She was overcome by a sense of complete and unconditional love.She could feel herself moving towards the light in ascension.She smiled, knowing that finally she was safe and at home.Everything else faded into oblivion.
Rest in peace Damini. Your fight will continue in these resonating voices you have left behind.