Delhi Gang Rape Verdict – Quenching One’s Conscience?




A Delhi fast track Court has satisfied ‘the collective consciousness of the Indian society’ by granting death sentence to the four accused in the infamous Delhi gang rape case that roused huge protests through out the country. All the political parties have welcomed the judgment. ‘Justice is done’ howls the media all over as they move on to search for the next ‘interesting story’.

The media has played a big role in molding the public opinion in this case. This too, like during the India Against Corruption (IAC) led protests in 2011, the coverage of these events was hinged upon by the “TRP rate hungry” media, devoid of all sensitivity on the issue. While every such issue needs the attention it deserves and the public outcry, the media cannot escape its notoriety for being biased towards upper middle class only, by canonizing the victim as in this case, as if rapes and violence against women only affects that section of the population.

In the nook and dark corners, where poor urbanites and vast majority of India’s impoverished rural areas, women are violated with impunity every second of every day. These too are ghastly incidents but will never find space in the so called independent Media; the co-called ‘conscience keepers of the nation’. The ‘main stream’ press and electronic Media in India acts more like an event management company or a tabloid on behalf of the rich and powerful. Right from day one focus has been on the death sentence for the accused. Justice has been equated to revenge in this discourse and that such an act would purportedly deter rapes in future. But contrary to this even after this unfortunate incident, rapes have been reported from various parts of the country. But the media hasn’t changed its discourse.

Further the search for a singular cause and a singular solution to the problem has derailed the whole debate from any meaningful conclusion. Rape is viewed as an act of individual(s). But the real question is why do such violent crimes keep occurring in the first place? Undoubtedly rape is a heinous crime and those who committed the crime need to be brought to books. But is that alone sufficient?

If capital punishment is the magic wand that will stop all the crimes then given more than 3 millennium of human civilization no crimes/ socially undesirable acts should exist by now. The very fact that such crimes happen itself proves that death sentence/ torture is not a deterrent.

They were not men who jumped out of the sky and committed the crime. Patriarchal social consciousness, alienated self, de humanized exploitative work conditions, the social environment, capitalism’s portrayal of women as sexual objects to market any product etc., are all factors that need to be taken into account. It may irk some to think “why talk about exploitation when the discussion is about violence against women?” When exploitation is the norm and the system is based on the pseudo social Darwinian model of ‘survival of the fittest’ so dear to capitalism, how can one aspect alone i.e., respect towards women be expected to flourish, when large sections of the population is left toil under inhuman conditions. Without tackling these issues, no amount of law or harsh punishment will be an effective deterrent as far as violence against women is concerned.

The friend of the victim in the Delhi rape case stated in a television interview, that they pleaded for help after they were thrown out of the bus but no one came forward for over two hours. The opaqueness, absolute authority and the long process in the police apparatus is the prime deterrent for the public to come forward to help victims. The State which is keen to remove red tapes in favor of corporate interests has not introduced an iota of democracy into the police apparatus and is happy in continuing with the same colonial structure. Demands have to be made to reform the police apparatus which the state will resist, as it needs a repressive police apparatus to silence the voices of the Indian poor and the marginalized.

Is it going to be another wait for the next rape to rally around for another bout of candle light vigils and once again cry death for the rapists? It is no more a question of quenching of one’s own conscience, if the issue is about changing the system. Capital punishments just like other repressive laws like AFSPA will only make the state more undemocratic and unleash its terror.


Arun Kaliraja