The ugly prejudiced face of India - or is it Bharat - has now made itself known to all of us, in the aftermath of the night of December 16th. It doesn’t matter who wears it - Abhijit Mukherjee or Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar or Anisur Rahman or Mohan Bhagwat or Kailash Vijayvargiya or Sharad Yadav or Vibha Sharma or Satyapal Singh or Asaram Bapu - the message is the same.
Women who dare to step out of the boundaries drawn for them by men must be prepared to face the consequences. Men, they say and they imply, will be men and there is no likelihood of them changing: They are by nature rapacious and anything with a whiff of being female is fair game for them.
Suppose in a moment of extreme kindness, you were to give these people the benefit of the doubt: That at heart, they were concerned about the safety of womankind. But there are two problems which lie at the bottom of their most considerate thinking. The first is that the only way to protect women is to incarcerate them. And the second is that all men are criminals at their core.
Asaram the so-called godman wonders why the woman got on to the bus in the first place. Had she been a god-fearing girl, she would not have been to see a movie with a boyfriend and so would not have got on the bus. You cannot clap with one hand. If you are in the presence of a man, there is every chance you will be assaulted or worse. Your mere existence is a incitement.
Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh declares that rapes only take place in India and not in Bharat. Many believe that he means rural India when he refers to Bharat and declare with outrage that rural India is rife with rape. But Subramaniam Swamy - educated at Harvard no less - informs us that India is every place where Hindu sanskriti has been forgotten or is not properly followed. From this you can safely conjecture that Bharat is a mythical place, populated only by Bhagwat and the RSS.
The Puducherry government has looked straight to the Taliban for inspiration and decided that schoolgirls must wear overcoats to protect them from men. The Jamaat-e-Islami meanwhile has decided that the problem lies with coeducational schools - regardless presumably of whether the girls are in overcoats or not. Kailash Vijayvargiya very helpfully reminds us that for every woman who steps over the line drawn by Laxman, there is a Ravana waiting to kidnap her. He smiles as he says this because he knows that he is right; he knows what men are like.
So what are men like? Are they really like this? That no one can trust them? That your father, brother, uncle, friend, husband, cousin, colleague, stranger can turn on you at any time? Much as the ongoing battle for women’s rights has to be fought by women, I would humbly submit that men better get into it as well. All those men that is who are tired of being seen as perpetually potential rapists; as men who could with the least provocation turn into one of those six rapists in that Delhi bus on the night of December 16, 2012.
If I were a man I would be appalled and sickened at this stereotyping of my gender by so many worthies, both political and spiritual. Of being condemned without being a chance to prove that I was capable of empathy, sympathy, compassion, intelligence, honour, strength, courage, integrity, discipline, control and all the better aspects of the human experience. Of being reduced to the common denominator of my gender, characterised solely by my genitals and some sort of sense of insecurity. Asaram the godman and the rest must first apologise to the men of the country - India and Bharat - because they have done them a great injustice.
Ranjona Banerjee is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona
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