29 December 2012

Ladenge - A Song of Protest

LADENGE is a people's song. It asserts our right to protest about injustice. It is a song for citizens who want things to change for the better in our country. Yes! You can raise your voice and register your protest!

I wrote and composed this song in 1993. The recent protests on the gang-rape of a girl in Delhi reminded me of it. This version of the song voices support to the cause of justice for women . May it become the voice of those who want to change things for the better! Please remember to protest peacefully.

Here is the link to the song on Youtube: Ladenge - A Song of Protest

How safe are our Daughters?

This article posted below was published in the Oct-Dec 2012 edition of the Family Mantra Magazine published from Bangalore by Kutumb Communications. It was written in September 2012 much before the 23 year old woman was gang-raped in Delhi. Needless to say there are no words to express my grief, sorrow and anger at what happened to her. It is time India brought about a change so that her daughters can live safely. 

She remains unforgettable, etched in my memories. She was a girl of twelve living in a Remand Home in Delhi. I was a student of Standard IX visiting the Home as part of our SUPW – Social Work Classes. We were given case studies of girls who were lost, kidnapped or caught for petty offenses. She was not one of them.

When I sat to interview the girl assigned to me, she came and sat beside me. During the next couple of visits I found her near me. She made me curious. I was shocked to learn about why she was there.

Laila was gang raped by four men from her village. She was on her way to deliver food for her father and brothers. The four men gang raped her inside a truck and threw her away.

They stole everything from her in that one dastardly act they committed against her. She lost her childhood, her family, her future... and everything she knew about herself and her life. She never had a normal life after that incident. The perpetrators of the crime were not convicted as she could not tell them anything about them.

When I met Laila, her limbs were distorted and curved, she could not walk upright. The trauma had taken its toll on her body and mind. She was an isolated girl who feared even the shadow of a man. She was raped even by the policemen. She was afraid to cross the verandah at the entrance if any policeman was sitting there.

She was treated by others as nothing. They mocked and ridiculed her as she walked with her bent legs. Her daily activity was cleaning and washing the compound, after which she would go and sit in a corner. I asked her about her family. She said it was more than a year since anyone came to see her. They too had rejected her. Who wants a gang-raped girl who tainted their family’s name?

My encounter with Laila made me wonder what happens to girls like her. Is there hope for them? My mind was deeply disturbed by her predicament because girls like her cannot help themselves. I wonder if justice will ever be done to Laila who spends her life in a Remand Home while those who did this to her are roaming around scot free. Who knows how many girls they could have raped since then?

A Shame for India

The National Crime Records Bureau reports that there has been a shocking 873% rise in rape cases between 1953 and 2011. 42,968 cases of molestation of women were reported last year. 2,61,000 cases of crimes against women, including sexual harassment, cruelty by husband/his relatives, kidnapping, human trafficking were recorded. India’s report card for women’s safety states that one woman is raped every 22 minutes! [1]

Among the 53 cities of India, Delhi accounted for the highest number of such crimes at 13.3 per cent (4,489), followed by Bangalore at 5.6 per cent (1,890) and Hyderabad at 5.5 per cent (1,860). [2]

On 9th July the whole country was aghast to see the video of a 17-year-old girl being dragged, beaten, stripped and molested on a busy street in Guwahati by a mob of about 50 men. Though the Police station was just 1 km away, they arrived at the scene after 45 minutes. No action was taken by the police until the video of the assault went viral on YouTube and caused national outrage.

To add insult to injury Karnataka's Women & Child Welfare minister C. C. Patil was quoted saying that women should “know how much skin they should cover.” He stated that incidents like rape and sexual harassment can be attributed to the decline in moral values in men, indirectly caused by women dressing “provocatively.” [3]

Top cop Kiran Bedi wasn’t left far behind in belittling the trauma of women who are raped when she lashed out at the media for what she called inadequate reportage of Team Anna's alleged exposes on corruption. She said, “Ask yourself. On a small rape case or assault which a low ranking police official commits, how you would discuss it?” [4] 

A Tehelka investigation reported, “According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the conviction rate in rape cases in the capital was a dismal 34.6 percent. In case after case, courts have been acquitting the accused because of flawed first information reports (FIRs), erroneous procedures in collating medical evidence and shoddy investigation. Lawyers and women rights activists have continually been flagging the deep prejudice prevalent in the police against women in general and rape victims in particular, as the single biggest reason for the repeated failure of justice.[5]”

In the same report, Satbir Singh additional SHO of Sector 31 Police Station, Faridabad who completed 27 years in service and investigated around 20 rape cases said that he believes half of all rape charges were false. He was unapologetic about questioning the intent of rape victims when they came to file complaints: "One lakh. Two lakh. Fifty lakh. People have understood this is a lucrative trade for women; it's business. They've found an income source. It's common; you're short of money, your parents don't give you money to spend. You make compromises." [5]

One wonders that if this is the attitude of our ministers and top police officers of our country, what is the future of women in India? How safe are our daughters in a nation that brands and punishes the victim for being raped rather than the criminal who destroyed her life and robbed her of her dignity?

What can we do?

It is our primary responsibility as parents and teachers to teach our daughters to be safe. We can protect them by teaching them precautions they should take to avoid suspicious strangers. We need to teach them to guard themselves at all times, especially in moments when they are most vulnerable. They have to learn to trust their instincts about people and situations. They need to be alert to their surroundings and be aware of the first signs of danger.

Teaching our daughters to be safe doesn’t mean that we are inducing fear into her. It means that she will know how to act if ever she is attacked. It is our responsibility to teach her about keeping away from danger just as we would tell her to keep away from fire.

At home and in schools too we have to teach our sons to respect girls and treat them with respect. Any untoward behaviour should be handled very carefully.

Our Duty as Citizens:

It is useless to have laws that are supposed to defend women if citizens don’t act against lawlessness in society. Each citizen has a voice and we can use this voice to speak out against the ills of our society. We can demand for the police force to be made more sensitive to gender related crime. We can take action against legislators who dishonour women through their words and action by not letting them continue in office. We can send across a message loud and clear that crime against women will not be tolerated by us anymore.

It is time to wake up India. If every parent does his or her part as a citizen we can initiate action that will change things for the better.