The idea of rape is implicit in ideologies of nationalism and community. This becomes explicit in rapes that occur during communal riots, or in ethnic conflicts, where rape plays the same role as mutilation of the soldiers’ bodies at the LoC
Karen Gabriel Delhi
Although some publicised rapes like that of the Maulana Azad medical student in 2002, Thangjam Manorama’s rape in Manipur in 2004, the 2009 Shopian rapes in Kashmir and the 2012 Guwahati molestation and assault have evoked angry reactions, the ferocity and longevity of the recent Delhi gangrape protests were surprising. Not just because some of us have the continued misfortune to be familiar with the callousness, greed and corruption that characterise Delhi as a city, but also because the rapes, molestations, assaults, and the murder of women have been routinely occurring for as long as one can remember.
Furthermore, the routinely occurring continuum of violence against women, which begins in the womb and includes denial of food, resources, social justice, political representation, safe living environment and freedom from sexual and other violence, is barely nodded at by the mainstream media, despite protests from women’s groups and rights activists. For most people, it’s business as usual. So the spontaneity, energy, independence and endurance of these protests is remarkable and evoked both alarm and celebration.
They began at India Gate and then moved to Raisina Hill in Delhi, which the protesters accurately identified as the visual, actual, and symbolic hub of imperial power. That gesture itself constituted an assertion to entitlement, which had to be disabused.
Core Congress leaders went into panicky huddles, at which many disgraceful decisions born of the imperious arrogance of the political class were taken. One of these was to clear Raisina Hill of the occupying riff-raff, and ready it for important State business (Russian President Vladimir Putin’s impending visit was a perfect excuse). In a violent action that demonstrated the nexus between the police and political class, Raisina Hill was ‘tidied up’ and the protesters were packed off to Jantar Mantar — the protest ghetto of Delhi.
The masculinist machinery of war and some of its dented-painted corporate and political beneficiaries will be on ceremonial display as well. After all, there’s no business like show business and war
But that was not the only shameful decision.
Unforgivably, in a manner reminiscent of their recent secretive hanging and burial of a known criminal, they cremated the girl secretly. The police, armed with Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Sheila Dikshit and Minister of State for Home RPN Singh, dispensed with all decency and sensitivity toward the family of the victim (and the public). With unparalleled obscenity, they intruded into the home and grief of the family, hijacked the funeral, denied them the time or space to grieve, and literally intimidated them into cremating her body secretly, within two hours of it reaching her home. The body reached her home at 4 am and was ready for cremation at the Dwarka crematorium by 6.30 am. They were prevented from cremating her in the dark only because Hindu customs forbid it. Who knows, they may have dispensed of that and more, had there been no milieu of public vigilance and outcry. After all, what did her ravaged body mean to the high-powered and wily entourage?
They were there only to protect themselves. They were there to ensure that the tragic evidence of the collective failure of the State machinery to first prevent, and then respond to the savage crime and its medical challenges, was destroyed opportunely. They were there with the ardent hope that all the ugly facts and uncomfortable questions that have been raised about the State, our society and the structures of power within both would somehow dematerialise along with her body. They were there to obliterate the material and symbolic site of their culpability. They must have been impatient for it.
Interestingly, no queasiness was displayed when it came to the mutilated bodies of the Indian soldiers on the LoC. Though quickly cremated, they were honoured by the State. Everyone seemed to know their lines and spoke them on cue. It was a concert of harmoniously coordinated voices, confident in the validity and value of their orthodox sentiments, assured of the value of the quintessentially masculinist values of borders, territoriality, honour and war mongering. There were no Asaram Bapus, Abhijit Mukherjees, Sharad Yadavs, Mohan Bhagwats, Sushma Swaraj-es, Kailash Vijayvargiyas or Anisur Rahmans to offer implicit or explicit justifications for the beheading and mutilation.
Once Chhattisgarh adivasi Soni Sori was identified as ‘an enemy of the State’, her marginalised identity was further devalued, and the custodial rape and torture of her body became barely consequential
Nobody blamed the soldiers, or the fact that they were men, for the end they met. Nobody alleged that they invited it in the way in which women are implicitly or explicitly blamed for their own rapes and murders. On the contrary, responsibility was clearly fixed with the violators. The mutilation and violence practised on those bodies was not allowed to qualify the meaning, status and legitimacy of the men or their bodies since they were seen and were upheld as bearers and agents of State nationalism. In fact, their value and legitimacy as agents of both nation and State intensify further because of their LoC location.