Joseph Stalin had once said that, “a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic”.
It rings true today, as we speak of the latest, horrific rape and murder of (yet another) girl from Sonepat in terms of a statistic – by stating that for two consecutive years, Haryana has reported the highest number of gang-rape cases among all states. By converting a living being into a statistic, in a matter of few minutes, we get away from the brutality and turn it into a number.
As humans, we probably prefer the factual approach, because it saves us the trauma of reading or trying to read through the brutality the victim would have gone through. Maybe we are wired to shut off the horror to save our minds from conjuring up disturbing images. But we should not – because that runs the risk of reducing the crime to a number. When we look at statistics, we look at them clinically, and divorce them from the brutality of the crime. The truth is that we need to look at the facts, the gory details – because only then do we understand the mindset of the criminal, which reveals a disturbing pattern.
We’ve seen this story too many times, that the mere act of rejecting the advances of a man is enough for him to justify, in his own mind, the heinous act. This girl had refused to marry her neighbour, so he led this attack against her to teach her a lesson. And he did not act alone – so he was no raving lunatic who attacked her on the spur of the moment (not that that would have, by any means, justified a crime). But the more worrying fact is that here is a man who believes that he has the right to marry a woman and when she refuses, he along with six other men, feel that the rejection is reason enough to brutally rape and kill her.
A deep rage, a sense of violation, a frantic desire to shut out all the articles about it – that is what will assault your soul the moment you start following this gang-rape. The media can call it ‘Rohtak’s Nirbhaya’ because of the kind of brutality involved, but that is what is fundamentally wrong with our human psyche – we slip into apathy and acceptance, when something is repeated. It was shocking when it happened the first time. The second time we start numbing ourselves to it and learn to live with it (and ourselves). We give it names and numbers, so they merge into each other.
With each such gang-rape that comes to light, we are degenerating as a society into an irrecoverable mess – Men tilt the power elements in their favour again and again, by burying a woman’s choice to say ‘No’. They reiterate and define ‘manhood’ by standing up for one man whose ego was bruised by committing crimes collectively.
And when the government authorities are involved, the horror which hits us with full force as we read about it, seems to skim the surface for them. This case was registered as a case of starvation and possibly the body of a mad woman, when it first came to light on 11th May – the apathy of the police has set in. The medical tests were conducted more than 24 hours later by the government hospital – the apathy of the doctors, came next. We are almost able to forecast with absolute clarity that the apathy of the State and Central governments, and then the judiciary will set in next. Then another long wait, till justice comes along. And the moment it does, another gang-rape of such violent proportions will becoe news.
As we watch this unfold, our shaken conscience is hoping to see a break from this cycle of apathy – because calling each victim Nirbhaya and paying each affected family ‘compensation’ is only about false sense of glorification and sympathy. Let’s not look for crimes to happen and call our girls fearless. Our girls are ‘Nirbhaya’ when they say No to a man they do not want to marry, as was the case here. And to be able to do it confidently – without the deep rooted fear that it can result in retaliation of this magnitude. And that is the responsibility of the government in the short term, and the society in the long term.
Meanwhile as factual data goes – Haryana will continue to remain the highest in terms of gang rapes for a third year in a row – or so goes the statistic.
By Simran Oberoi
Simran Oberoi is an independent HR Consultant in Bangalore, with HR Advisory, Knowledge Development and Research expertise of over 13 years, in Rewards & Compensation, Diversity & Inclusion, Talent Development, HR & Social Media. She has worked with consulting firms like Hay Group, Aon Hewitt and PricewaterhouseCoopers in the past, in India as well as Asia-Pacific leadership roles. Simran is also a keen baker – you can find her recipes at https://ovenderfulhealthybaking.wordpress.com/