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India, Don’t Let This Moment Pass!

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We saw it happen. Tunisia overthrowing its incompetent government. The Egyptian revolution ousting its dictator. Ireland’s abortion laws coming around. The US considering congressional action on gun control. It’s your turn, India. You hold the power! People power! You can do it too. CHANGE! Here’s what I’m talking about:

Brutal crimes against women are occurring in India, the land of goddesses, at an unprecedented rate. The reality of rape, acid throwing, forced prostitution, trafficking of girls, female infanticide, honor killing and caste related violence is fast becoming common place. The most recent atrocity took place in India’s capital city of New Delhi, where a young medical student was gang-raped and beaten on a public bus, and then dumped from the moving bus! The brave young woman clung on to precious life for as long as she could, and later succumbed to her injuries. The alleged perpetrators (the list includes the bus driver) await their fate, which in the past has meant one of two things: light sentences for the “unlucky” ones, and bribing their way out of an endemically-corrupt criminal system for the “lucky and connected.”

National and international outrage for the incident has poured in through social media channels and numerous blogging outlets. Newspapers and magazines have had livid discussions about instituting tougher laws. In an effort to honor the victim, various women’s groups and civil liberty groups have organized protest marches and candlelight vigils. Members of both the upper and lower houses of the Indian Parliament have stepped out and vocalized their fury and concern. The display of anger, outrage and support is legitimate, timely, and a much needed validation for the victim. But does it translate to anything meaningful? Into effective action? Or does it simply fade into the shadows until the next heinous assault and outrage?

Historically and culturally, India is the land of Parvathi, Kali, Saraswathi and Lakshmi — the cosmic bestowers of fertility, strength, knowledge and spirituality. Mothers, sisters and daughters were worshiped for their life-sustaining attributes. Female power was meant to be revered. Hinduism, the religion practiced by nearly a billion Indians, regards God as half man, half woman or “Ardhanareshwar,” which symbolizes the integration of the male and female energies to create a perfect, harmonious balance in the universe. If anything, women are supposed to enjoy equal status. That’s how the ancients had structured society – with equal rights. In the past, many queens like Jhansi Rani Laxmibai and Razia Sultan effectively wielded imperial power. Women poets and saints like Meerabai and Akka Mahadevi contributed significantly towards enriching the cultural landscape. In recent times, India elected a woman prime minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, as its Premier, and appointed a woman president, Mrs. Pratibha Patil. Indian women have made, and continue to make, great strides in education, arts and entertainment, sports and literature.

Yet, today’s India has become an anti-female society that is constantly under siege by a young male population prone to violence. Owing to its ingrained sense of superiority and privilege that is promoted by its own society through preference for the male child, these young men, in extreme cases, feel the need to act out their masculinity. We know that most crimes against women, especially rapes, are not about sex, but rather about a demonstration of control and power. So, how do we put fixes in place? Where do we begin? Especially in light of current events, how can India act so that monstrosities against women are curtailed? Granted, bad elements cannot be wiped from society, but surely fixes can be put in place to discourage such behaviors and mitigate their effects? The freedom to go outside without risking harassment and physical violence is a fundamental human right, and protecting its people is a core government function!

Growing up in India, I have been a victim, numerous times, of groping, eve-teasing, touching, and elbowing while using public transportation — which I absolutely detested — and sadly, in a few instances, by adult men I knew. My impressionable mind at the time believed it was my fault, that there was something wrong with me, that I brought it upon myself! I remember many of these incidents vividly, like it happened yesterday. The memory of such incidents is very traumatic on the victim, to say the least, and further, a potential double whammy because the victim risks being victimized again by society if she chooses to vocalize it. Luckily for me, I had a very supportive and progressive family, and was able to emerge from it unscathed. Others don’t necessarily have that advantage. Women shouldn’t have to continue putting up with such brutalities for eternity. We shouldn’t have to surrender our pride, honor, and dignity to satisfy the fantasies of perverted individuals of the world. We shouldn’t have to continue waging this war alone. Enough already!

In many ways, the New Delhi incident has pioneered a path for ushering change. In my opinion, it calls for a systemic change, a paradigm shift in the way leaders steer a nation, in the way communities raise awareness of social issues, and in the way families guide their children. I believe the encompassing plan should treat not just the symptoms, but also strike at the heart of the disease. Change can only take place through combined ACTION. We will have to address the issues at all levels – personal, societal, governmental and global levels – to find workable solutions. Change should be gradual, holistic, system-wide, sustainable, and ideally should include appropriate checks, balances and upgrades in place at every tier. Else, any change is ineffective.

Nobody is saying it’s going to be easy for India or any nation to change its ways. All great journeys begin with the first step. In this case, a step long overdue. Rise to the occasion, India! The time to act is NOW. It’s time to defend and protect your mothers, sisters and daughters. Take care of your women, India, ’cause they are the ones who take care of both your young and old. They are the ones who will fashion your future leaders. Elevate your consciousness above the roar of what corrupt politicians have to say and what archaic beliefs have to offer. India, don’t let this moment pass!

At the very minimum, the following measures should be considered. This proposed list may or may not be viable. I’m hardly a law or national policy expert. To me, being outraged, frustrated or angry isn’t enough. Emotions are meaningless if they don’t birth anything of value. In my experience, awareness and education play a critical role in the transition from frustration to action, beginning in the home, in schools, at the workplace, everywhere really.

-improve safety and security for women, in general, and especially in the workplace

-provide free counseling resources for women

-provide/enhance post-trauma care for women

-organize educational initiatives aimed at weeding out social stigma

-encourage women to carry protective aids such as pepper spray -tighten security on public transportation and in all public areas

-increase police patrolling in public areas

-rightfully implement existing laws

-make the punishment fit the crime

-expedite the criminal investigation process

-increase funding for crime analysis and prosecution

-train the police force appropriately and adequately

-organize awareness campaigns at local schools and colleges as an ongoing strategy

-organize awareness campaigns for taxi drivers, rikshaw drivers, bus drivers, and all public transportation officials. Make it a crime for them to be passive witnesses.

-for those drivers who aid/abet criminals, strip them of their permits/licenses. Also, threaten them with fines and jail time.

-establish emergency hotline services in every school, university, and public area nationwide

 

Clearly, these measures are not enough. Much more needs to happen on community and cultural levels to transform ideologies stemming from outdated societal practices and the values we teach our young. As more and more women enter the workforce, it’s imperative that we educate our sons on the value of equality for all.

Let’s not sit still or waste a moment. Let’s come together, rise to the occasion, take a stand, and scream until our voices are heard. Let’s go sign a petition for change, organize a rally, launch a campaign, make a personal change, or take a pledge. Let’s galvanize supporters through peaceful and positive means. Let’s keep up the pressure on our leaders and politicians for common-sense change not only on this issue, but also on the ones yet to come. Let’s engage in action. I, for one, have signed petitions and taken pledges for issues in which I believe. I have, and continue to, volunteer for causes to which I subscribe. The flames of awareness hiss and flare on my blog. Perhaps, more importantly, I have taken personal responsibility to raise my two young boys — our future agents of change — with the appropriate ethics and values so they can march forward as positive, contributing citizens of the world.

I can’t say with certainty whether these measures will work or are even enough. But I’m sure glad to have taken the first step — a step forward in making the world a little safer for me, my mother, my aunts, my sisters and my daughters.

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Filed under: Corruption, Hinduism, India

13 Responses to "India, Don’t Let This Moment Pass!"

  1. Ramesh says:

    Okay let’s start with you. You have got all the vipassana training, inner pilgrimage, transformation and all the high funda stuff. That is supposed have at least some intrinsic, practical value. Right? How about rolling your sleeves and doing something meaningful on the ground? After all, you are so happy all the time? What good is of abundance happiness if it can’t make any difference in other’s lives?

  2. Raji Lukkoor says:

    Thank you for your comment, Ramesh. I appreciate it.
    You’re absolutely right about humans living a meaningful life, and about people sharing their abundance. But since you don’t know me personally, it’s my sincere request that you not judge me.
    You know, changing the world doesn’t have to involve a single action on a grand scale. You can use everyday activities to make a personalized contribution, however small or big.
    I’m an environmental engineer by profession, but quit my career to raise my 2 boys with values that can only originate in the home. I have always believed that charity begins at home. I also support my husband in all that he does and represents, and I support my extended family. I’ve been involved in myriad global volunteering activities for the past 12 years, and have contributed countless hours (and $) to various causes. I share my knowledge and experience at various forums, not to gain personal visibility, power or bragging rights, but rather to motivate others to benefit from it all. I talk about my vipassana experience through presentations and blog articles to motivate others to help themselves spiritually. After all, if we are empty on the inside, how can we give to others? I also teach a course for high school students at a local university.
    I do it all for free. I do it to raise awareness. I do it because it makes me happy. Lastly, I do it because I realize how fortunate I am in life and wish the same for others. Like you point out, hopefully my (small) efforts are making a difference in somebody’s life.
    Thanks and a Happy New Year to you and yours.

  3. Ramesh says:

    Raji,

    I appreciate your comments and apologize for my off the cuff comments.
    I wrote those remarks out of frustration. We have so much spirituality, so many babas preaching hi funda stuff, there is whole line up on Aastha every morning and yet we don’t know about simple things like 6 men gang raping a woman, what kind of bravery is this? These things are happening in a spiritual capital of the world?? What gives?

  4. Raji Lukkoor says:

    I’m with you. That’s why I write!! Helps me weed out my own anger and frustration in a positive way, and helps raise awareness (hopefully) in the larger context. My goal is to motivate others to explore ways to become part of the solution. Imagine, if we each took personal responsibility for change, what a glorious world this could be. Utopian? Perhaps. Imperative? Definitely.
    Take care.

  5. Anand says:

    You have an impressive list, but who is going to pay for it? Already, the government is trying to do too many things. Too many expensive things it can’t afford. And by the very nature of it, all government is inefficient and corrupt.

    Other than protective aids, I disagree with almost all of the points on your list.

    We can call on the corrupt police or politicians, but what about the corrupt public?
    Women have to solve these issues – not the government and not the general public.
    All the goddesses you mentioned in your article are all armed – why?
    Let our women be armed too, I say!

  6. Raji Lukkoor says:

    Thank you for your comment, Anand. Agreed that the population is so large that no amt of efforts are going to be enough.
    I vehemently disagree that only women have to solve these issues. Let me point out that most of the violence against women, including rapes, are perpetrated not by other women, but by men. It’s a man’s world no matter how you slice it, and we women (I know I am) are trying our best to fit in. Thus, it’s binding on men, and the society at large to take care of safety and security in general, and of women and children in particular. This is a basic need!!
    I understand your comment about expenses. Lately, everything seems expensive — gas, food, movies, travel. But that has not stopped us from engaging in those activities, has it? PRIORITY is the key.
    In regards to arming women, I appreciated your comment. But I don’t believe the answer to violence is more violence. Sure, women are free to arm themselves if they should so choose. But of what use is a little weapon to a woman when she is outnumbered and overpowered by six men with an evil intent? Also, what about all those little girls, 4 5 6 7 years of age, who are violated and sold into sex trade each year? Should they be taught how to fire arms instead of the ABCs? Will that solve the sex trade crisis? What about all the teenage girls who are violated by trusting family members? Here’s the real kicker — a violated woman, assuming she survives her ordeal, is never accepted into society as a normal person ever again! How about it? AWARENESS and EDUCATION is the only resort here, as also are resolving hunger, unemployment and poverty issues.
    Change can only take place through combined ACTION. We have to address issues holistically and together — at the personal, societal, governmental and global levels — to find workable solutions.
    Anand, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate it.

  7. Anand says:

    I’m as outraged as anybody else about the Delhi incident. But, all I hear is rhetoric or ideas too ideal to implement. I’m afraid all our BIG ideas will – as you put it – “fade into the shadows.” If I gather correctly from your article, you believe in sudden, systemic, revolutionary change. I think we need a sustainable, realistic, evolutionary change. I do not disagree that the problems you raised should be addressed. In fact, I really like the article (so I took the time to comment). I do disagree with the way you suggest we go about it.

  8. Raji Lukkoor says:

    No, Anand, I do not believe in sudden change. Sudden change is as devastating as it is drastic. Look at what sudden change did to the dinosaurs! Change should be gradual, holistic, system-wide, sustainable, and ideally should include appropriate checks, balances and upgrades in place at every tier. Else, any change is ineffective.
    My proposed list may or may not be viable. I get that and understand your disagreement. I’m hardly a law or national policy expert. To me, awareness and education play a very big role in the transition from frustration to action, beginning in the home, in schools, at the workplace, everywhere. Was just trying to highlight that idea.
    Thanks again for providing your invaluable input. Without readers, there would be no writers :)

  9. Ramesh says:

    No matter what you do, this problem is here to stay. We should consider ourselves lucky if we didn’t have blatant and brutal incidence such as what happened to Delhi Girl. Grouping, eve teasing, touching and rubbing and other minor forms of violations are here to stay. I blame this on billion + people, think about how people travel in buses and trains, how can you avoid this? Billions of people and on the top of it poverty, illiteracy, social disparity. For a street person, grouping a pretty woman is like being in the Switzerland by watching a movie. Till the living and social standard is lifted for all masses so that there is not such a wide disparity, this problem is here to stay.

    Welcome to billion plus club without thinking it’s repercussions!

  10. Raji Lukkoor says:

    During my teenage years, I myself was a victim numerous times of groping, eve-teasing, touching, elbowing, etc in India while using public transportation, and in many instances by adults I knew :( And my impressionable mind at the time believed that it was my fault, that there was something wrong with me, that I brought it upon myself!! These incidents are very traumatic on the victim to say the least, and it is double whammy bcoz if the victim vocalizes it in any manner, she risks being victimized again by society. Luckily for me I had a very supportive family and was able to emerge from it unscathed. Others don’t necessarily have that advantage.
    Granted, these elements (perpetrators) cannot be wiped from society, but surely fixes can be put in place to curtail such behaviors and mitigate its effect? I disagree that it’s a problem we (women) have to continue putting up with for eternity. I don’t believe I have to surrender my dignity to satisfy the fantasies of some pervert.
    Pls watch this inspiring video by Sunitha Krishnan on TED Talks.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/sunitha_krishnan_tedindia.html

  11. Kgupta says:

    Also emphasizing righteous values to children at home and practicing them to show respect for female , then in schools , in work place , in community and in public places is important. Those who do not conduct properly must not be tolerated . Mandatory self-defense training to all girls starting from elementary schools and up . Swift punishment to those who abuse women . Teach girls to not tolerate any misconduct by boys and prepare girls to speak up , have courage . Teach boys to not tolerate and allow any boy to disrespect or abuse any girls . Take self- defense in your own hand . We have to have courage to not allow any abusive behavior at home , in school , in work place or in public places .

  12. Kgupta says:

    Good thoughts Raji L. Keep it up ! All the best .
    P.S. I too am a retired environmental engineer / manager settled in US since 1969 :)

  13. Raji Lukkoor says:

    You rock, Kailash Gupta!!

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