One of my very good friends is Sanju; I will not talk much about his background today other than his name because I don’t really want to reveal his true identity. But anyway, that is not the issue here. The rape culture in Uttar Pradesh and attitude towards women in general, in the aftermath of the Hathras rape incident, followed by Balarampur and many others, will be dissected in the following paras. The subsequent discussion will present us with a mirror of our own society.
It all came to mind in the backdrop of Hathras, we all know what happened there.
However, let me still inform you that Sanju is a very straightforward guy who always calls a spade a spade and never flinches from providing a true perspective to an issue.
On my first visit to Uttar Pradesh towards the beginning of this new millennium, I happened to visit various parts of this state and stayed there for study and work.
Let me first admit here that I love Uttar Pradesh, even after it was divided with its most attractive part rightfully going to the people who have resided there for aeons.
The state of Uttar Pradesh always reminds me of many good things, the Lucknowi tehzib for one, with its encouragement of Sherr and Shairi, some of the giants of Indian literature from Munshi Premchand to Sumitra Nandan Pant also hailed from Uttar Pradesh (Pant belonged to present-day Uttarakhand state, though), the pious and the spirited city of Varanasi, the Taj Mahal at Agra, the birthplace of Lord Krishna – Mathura, and many more things.
But let us now get back to Sanju again. In my first visit to Uttar Pradesh, Sanju was an integral part of my life.
He explained the nuances of the various sights and sounds of that place to me. However, he also explained to me all the wrong things and the general regressive attitude of the common folks there when it comes to women. Let us now hear a story in Sanju’s own words:
‘Once inside a bus, a very pretty girl was sitting by the side of the window. After some time, the next seat to her was occupied by a young man. Peeping at the girl for some time with the side of his eyes, the young man suddenly decided to hit on her. So, he tried to say hello first of all and then asked for her name. The girl in her turn was clearly not interested to answer, as she was lost in her own thoughts mostly, presumably wanting to be left alone. But the guy kept on pestering, he wouldn’t have it otherwise. Feeling utterly pissed by then, the girl got up at the next stoppage and left the bus irritated. When the man in the next seat gave an enquiring look at that young man, he nonchalantly commented ‘O ladki randi thi’ (that girl was a prostitute).”
After narrating this story to me, Sanju sighed, ‘You see SRD, this is exactly what is wrong with this place.’
Outlook towards women
In another incident, where I was myself a witness to the gory proceedings, on one fine day, I was going to the library of my college. Just outside the library, a girl was chatting with four boys. Incidentally, there was only one girl at that time but four boys. They were probably discussing their course materials or future study plans.
It was a perfectly normal scene with any college. Just at that moment, one of my batch-mates from Kanpur came out of the library as I was hurrying to enter it. After meeting me outside the library door, he stopped to say hello. In the meantime, his eyes also went to that group of the girl with the boys.
The next moment, he narrowed his eyes and brought his lips close to my ears and with a hushed-Uttar Pradesh tone uttered, “O deti hai bhai,” (literally translates to – that girl is easily available and ready to sleep with anybody). He also made a sign with both his index and middle fingers denoting a sign, which he later explained to me to be a woman’s vagina.
“Tum ko kaise pata?” (How do you know this?), taken aback completely I asked him this question. After all, how does he know about that girl or her nature? He didn’t answer but gave an all-knowing smile and went away.
These were just two cases, which I witnessed, out of innumerable humiliations and prejudices that are meted out to women in this land of so much history and heritage.
I brought the case of Sanju as a preamble, just to state the fact that an exception of his type only proves the rule there.
Wherever I have travelled to Uttar Pradesh during those years, men have always talked about women as if they were pieces of meat to be chewed and devoured at the slightest opportunity.
For any obscene word, which would be hurled at each other, there would always be inferences drawn towards the vagina of a woman invariably belonging to somebody’s relation.
Filthy words there would always include references to people as the violators of their own sisters and mothers. With time, it has only increased, and the recent rapes have just proven once again how women are viewed in that state.
History of Uttar Pradesh
In history, the region of present-day Uttar Pradesh was always ruled by glorious empires and their magnificent rulers, from Chandragupta Maurya to Ashoka the Great, the Gupta Dynasty, Harshavardhana, Akbar the Great, the list is just endless.
Even Sarnath, where the great Gautama Buddha preached his first sermons, falls in Uttar Pradesh.
During Harshavardhana’s time, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang had left accounts about how the people of that empire slept at night in absolute peace, keeping their doors and windows open, as not a single mugger was visible anywhere on the streets.
Before him, during the Gupta Empire, women held a special place in the society and even the prostitutes were held in very high esteem. The Mughal Rule also saw Agra becoming the epicentre of culture and civilisation.
So, how come a region always known for its glorious history of civilisation and development came to be known in modern times as the epicentre of crime and one of the most unsafe places for women? Oh, by the way, even the first woman chief minister of a state of independent India also belonged to Uttar Pradesh – Smt. Sucheta Kripalani.
Hence, isn’t this a paradox that this same state has now become a graveyard for women? Before delving more into this subject, let me point out here that this article is not a piece on finding an answer to this malice.
Personally, I have never stayed long enough in Uttar Pradesh to deduce the underlying causes for all these crimes.
So, in a way, I am probably not qualified enough.
This piece is also not about tracing the history of Uttar Pradesh from the ancient to its modern times, but more a self-introspection for this writer and his readers to look into a matter which is spiralling out of control with each passing day. We can say that the paragraphs here are a kind of catharsis for the pain that everybody is going through at this moment, at the brutality done to the young girls there.
Maybe, though chances are slight, we are still hoping for a better future. In the meantime in Uttar Pradesh, women are continuously raped, subjected to honour killings, seen as only objects of desires, subjected to female infanticides, subjected to dowry deaths and what not.
Not just Hathras, it has been the case since ages. To be born a woman in Uttar Pradesh is like enduring an eternal curse which never seems to abate.
However, this evil is not only restricted to Uttar Pradesh or Hathras alone, but somehow Uttar Pradesh happens to be one of the places where this brutality persists and occurs in very high numbers.
We will make some logical assumptions here based on known facts. One of the main reasons for the general lawlessness of Uttar Pradesh is its high rate of the phenomenon of criminals getting into politics.
High time for curbs
This should be curbed somehow. It’s high time that in India, just like there are stringent entrance tests for other professions along with background check for any criminal record, politics should also strictly come under the purview of such a system.
Every politician should be subjected to a test, a certain minimum qualification and a stringent background check for criminal records.
Come on, we cannot allow psychopaths to rule us, when the safety of our women is in question. Secondly, our popular culture should take a paradigm shift from what it had been portraying all these days. The horror of the Hathras gang-rape seems to be unending, unless we change.
Bollywood and lessons
Being the Hindi heartland, Bollywood movies are a big draw in Uttar Pradesh.
Now, just think about what Bollywood movies teach us all the time. That it is ok to tease and molest a girl, that women are only objects of beauty, and are only to be treated as eye candies.
Of course, the current stream of movies has improved in quality and treatment with time, with several intelligent biopics and quality women-centric movies being made on a regular basis.
But there have to be more on these lines. The objectification of women, which have spread especially through these popular movies, is so ingrained in the hearts and minds of men in Uttar Pradesh that it will take some special efforts to improve the scenario there.
From an administrative point of view, the understaffing of the police force might be another reason for these crimes, but in case of the recent Hathras incident, the police themselves have been the perpetrator of the injustice done to the young girl’s family. Therefore, the administrative structure of this state needs a complete overhauling too.
The relationship of some in the police force with the criminals is a disease, which has to be eradicated as early as possible. However, the greatest bane though of the society in Uttar Pradesh is its caste system, which again is deeply entrenched in the psyche of the people there. Innumerable crimes are committed in the name of castes as it happened in Hathras.
In addition, in my view, the last but not the least reason for every evil perpetrated in this country, is our extremely poor and faulty educational system. What we get in India in the name of education is the ability to pass a few exams by mugging certain data, but not the essence of true wisdom, which helps us to become better and compassionate human beings.
Background of crimes: Flawed education system
The education system in India never teaches the right spirit of knowledge and enquiry in children, and hence in the process never allows their minds to grow or to grasp the universal spirit of this world.
From this education system, especially in Uttar Pradesh where it is more pathetic in the primary and secondary levels, only psychopaths come out, who are not only dangers to themselves and their families, but also to the whole process of human civilisation and development.
This is such a sad story, which nobody realises, that a region, which had once seen the glorious rise of some of the valiant women of Indian history like Rani Lakshmi Bai, Jhalkari Bai, Hazrat Mahal and many others like them, treats its women so inhumanly nowadays. And there are innumerable cases like Hathras happening everyday.
Such a pathetic state of affairs, such a shame. It is high time that the people there change their mind-sets and become civilised soon. God, whoever he or she is, will not tolerate these malfeasances any longer. Because of this state, India is also getting a bad name.