பாதகஞ் செய்பவரைக் கணடால்
நாம் பயங்கொள்ளலாகாது பாப்பா!
மோதி மிதித்துவிடு பாப்பா!
அவர் முகத்தில் உமிழ்ந்துவிடு பாப்பா!
This translates to:
If you see anyone who troubles you
We should not fear, child
Attack and trample them, child
On their faces, spit, child!
Mahakavi Bharathiyar, the revolutionary poet penned his thoughts on women empowerment more than a century back which is as relevant today. But how many of us will resort to the above written verse? Why is the female sorority a victim of constant brutal attack? Why have we as a society failed in equipping them with the skills needed to safeguard their personal safety.? Are the responses to violence an outcome of nature( genes) or nurture(societal conditioning)?
It was a horrific incident that I experienced twenty years ago while travelling in a
night bus to Manipal, where my daughter was pursuing her undergrad in
architecture. Until this day, guilt haunts me that I let a pervert go scot free. I boarded
the bus and was allotted a three-seater. To the window seat was a senior lady and a
student in the aisle seat. The senior lady dosed off and me the social animal that I am
engaged in a conversation with young girl for sometime and got to know she had liberal parents. I was glad we were moving towards an egalitarian society!
The bus started and we spoke for a while and went to sleep. It must have been
around 1.30 pm, when someone violently shook me and I woke up startled. The young girl beside said, “Ma’am, the person behind has been laying his hands all over me from behind for the past one hour”. I was infuriated. I got up from my seat and screamed on top of my voice requesting the driver to switch on the lights and stop the vehicle. The vehicle stopped and I saw that the passengers were fast asleep and this aggravated my anger. I shouted again telling the people that a pervert is misbehaving with a girl and they need to resolve this. I was shocked to hear the bystander response! “Madam, yaake galaati maadthiri, Ayyo, hogi malkolri madam!!” (Why are you creating chao, go back to sleep). They told the pervert he should not have done this and that he should apologise to the girl. Was it that simple a solution? I went up to the driver’s cabin and told the driver the bus will not move without the creep getting off the bus. The driver was a kind hearted person who told me that he could not throw the person as it was in the middle of the ghat section. I thought he was right and composed myself. I told him I wanted to lodge a police complaint for which he agreed. Until then, he said he would have him seated in the driver’s cabin. I was convinced and we went to sleep.
At the next town, he told me that we were nearing the police station and he would
stop there. I was feeling relieved and I told the girl she needs to go along with me.
The girl who thanked me for helping her out now held my hand and whispered in
my ears ”Ma’am, let’s leave it at this, I don’t want to lodge a complaint as this may have negative outcome.”
But I tried convincing her saying this is why perpetrators get away scot free. But she was insistent and I realised she was not my daughter and I could not cross my boundary. The same time the thought of her mentioning having liberal parents crossed my mind. What is the definition of liberalism? Is it not speaking and standing up for oneself? Dragging her feet was also understandable as the fear of being victimized must have bothered her. It’s so unfortunate that for no fault of theirs, women are constantly at the receiving end and pay a heavy price if they shame the perpetrator. Nevertheless, there are stories of hope from which we can take a page or two. About ten years ago, Prescilla Nadar, young girl on a Mumbai local bus who was in a similar situation was in the news. She asked the driver to take the bus to the nearest police station to lodge a complaint as he was harassing her by playing porn clips on his mobile phone. She made sure he got what he deserved. BRAVO and kudos to the parents for raising a daughter to stand up for her rights when violated. And like charity begins at home, having conversations on stigmatized topics like any other topic, raising them to stand up for their rights along with a systemic institutional change will certainly help in addressing this burning social issue. And as socially responsible citizens, we need to intervene in resolving this and not be a mute spectator to any form of atrocity. The bystander intervention is such a crucial step in resolving the same . Of course, it’s easier said than done.
How apt it would be if we could rephrase the saying by the brilliant Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify a hunter” to “Until the female sorority have their own historians, the history of violence against women will always glorify patriarchy”. The stories of those in power will be the only narrative heard! Counter stories are so important to be told, heard and counted. Else’ “The one story becomes the only story and a single story can be dangerous”! Adichie
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