Hang ’em high
Sep 13 2013
Finally, a sense of closure as Nirbhaya’s killers get the noose
Four agonising days after the judge deemed the four guilty on all counts, the country waited impatiently for the quantum of punishment to be pronounced. When the judge made the announcement today, for Nirbhaya’s immediate family (her parents and brothers), and her extended family — thousands of young men and women who took to the streets in solidarity, this couldn’t have come a moment too soon. Especially after the judgment last week where the underage rapist, now 18, was let off with just 28 months in a correctional home. The law was on his side, the judge had said, that was the maximum he could do.
The law this time is not on the side of these four, who have now been handed the maximum punishment. They will, of course, appeal in a higher court, but in a rarest of rare case such as this, it looks unlikely that any court will set aside this lower court verdict. To all intents and purposes, it is all over for the convicts and for one the most closely followed cases of our times. Thanks largely to the public outcry that led to a change in rape laws, justice has been served.
That the so-called fast track court took a long seven months to serve that promised “speedy justice” is another matter. But then, think of other cases that are yet to reach anywhere — in 2012, out of 100,000 pending cases in courts, only 14,700 resulted in a verdict being delivered at all. Out of this, only about 3,500 of the accused were convicted. Hopefully, the government’s fast track courts will manage to rectify this lacunae soon.
Meanwhile, there have been many debates on capital punishment ever since this case came to light. Many feel death penalty is not the answer in a civilised society. But then, are rape and murder acts of a civilised society? Many human rights’ activists have also termed the public outcry of death for the rapists as nothing more than retribution and revenge. What they fail to understand is that this goes beyond that. This outpouring has come out of frustration at our government’s longstanding failure to address rape and violence against women. And at our society’s patriarchal set-up that does not consider rape a heinous enough crime.
Rape has been used as a tool of suppression for centuries in most cultures; it is about the use and abuse of power to intimidate, degrade or control others with less status. In other words, women. In a male-dominated milieu like ours, women have always been second grade citizens, and therefore, stripped of their dignity at the slightest pretext. Ours is a society that does not even recognise marital rape, and deems it the “duty” of a wife to submit to her husband when he demands conjugal rights. Ours is a society that looks the other way when fathers rape their daughters and brothers rape their sisters. Ours is a conspiracy of silence that needs to be broken.
The Nirbhaya case has clearly been a catalyst in that. It’s not as if more rapes have occurred since December 16, it’s that more women are coming forward to report them. The conspiracy of silence is slowly being broken. If not, could you have ever imagined a 15-year-old minor taking on the might of a much-moneyed, and hugely venerated, godman? She could do this because, unlike what most parents would most likely have done some years ago, hers did not tell her to hush up and stay quiet.
There has been enough talk about altering the male mindset and sensitising men to gender issues, we all know that isn’t going to happen in a hurry. What can however happen, after this case, is a fear of the law. The message has to be loud and clear: you can no longer get away with rape in this country. Both the severity and the surety of punishment have to come into the picture, only then will there be any kind of fear.
Which is why these four need to hang, to sound a warning to all potential rapists about our zero tolerance policy. This isn’t about an eye for an eye as the defence counsel, invoking Gandhi, tried to persuade the Saket court judge when pleading for clemency. This isn’t about retribution or revenge, as human rights’ activists say when defending every individual’s right to live.
This is about plain and simple justice. This is about social equality. This is about respect for our women and their right to live in our country as freely as our men. This is about all our Amanats, Nirbhayas, Daminis and Jyotis who can, now, finally, rest in peace.