Speed kills

Updated: 08 December, 2019 07:09 IST | Paromita Vohra | Mumbai

Not so quick to call their colleagues in the right jurisdiction to ensure speedy help. Apparently, guns are faster than mobile technology, in Cyberaba

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Paromita VohraIt began quickly, after the news of the Hyderabad veterinary doctor's rape and murder became known. The spitting contempt in social media posts about 'lumpen elements', and 'unemployed animals'. Words people use to distance themselves from an act, instead of expressing concern as a society at a violence that has occurred. Then, Members of Parliament said rapists should be lynched in public—law makers essentially disregarding the process of law. In barely a few hours, Twitter showed me that #RapistJalao was trending at 5,000 plus tweets, and lower down, at 1,800 #HyderabadVet—a digital rendition of how, when it comes to sexual violence, women themselves quickly recede in the face of vigilante fantasies cooked in a patriarchal pot with class and caste prejudice.

The fantasy became real with frightening speed. The four accused were killed in an 'encounter', because apparently the only way to prevent four unarmed men from escaping is to shoot them dead. The police were quick on the draw, eh? Quite unlike their inertia and buck-passing when the victim's sister was fobbed off with jurisdiction excuses at various police stations. Not so quick to call their colleagues in the right jurisdiction to ensure speedy help. Apparently, guns are faster than mobile technology, in Cyberabad.

The celebratory responses about justice being served, also came in quickly. But speed is selective too. Ask the Unnao rape victim who just died after being set ablaze by her rapists. She ran for a kilometre before someone helped her. The police are already saying she never reached out to them for protection. Or the other Unnao rape victim, not allowed to name the BJP MLA Sengar in her complaint, whose father was swiftly framed in the case and died quickly in custody.

Other kinds of speed are in evidence too. For instance, the speed with which politicians, media and people on social media ignored the gang rape and murder of a Dalit hawker in Asifabad, on November 24.

Selective outrage about victims swiftly reveals the biases underlying social structures. So does selective outrage about perpetrators. When it comes to sexual harassment accused in high places, we are suddenly advocates of reasonable consideration. No baying for blood ensues. Empathy for men is advocated. This selective outrage and sympathy is the first step in the stairway to injustice hell. People may inevitably be in the grip of their subjectivities but the justice system is not supposed to mirror our selectiveness. It is meant to embody the possibility of the weak and the strong being addressed on an equal footing, without prejudice; it is a society's commitment to structures which redress unfairness, not handing out random retribution depending on whose voices and moods the media amplifies.

So, if you celebrated the encounter killing of the four accused in the Hyderabad case, please do not imagine you care about women—because the opposite is true. It's a way of not thinking about what women need. If one were to ask women, raped, dead, what they wanted they would say first, they wished these horrible things had not happened to them. Justice lies in demanding a system where this prevention, this freedom is a priority, where the system values women of every context and demonstrates empathy to their needs. And help is at hand as a norm, not an exception, for everyone.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at paromita.vohra @mid-day.com

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First Published: 08 December, 2019 07:00 IST

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