Looking into a ‘Minor Incident’

veiled girlShock? Too trifling a word when we speak of the Juhu molestation case. The reported number of the actual assailants is still contested, but most sources claim a mob of around 50 was present when the two women coming out of J W Marriott Hotel were assaulted. The police commissioners’ comment dismissed it as a ‘minor incident’. In retrospect, these two words seem like a terse irony on what is an affliction too commonplace to be the cause for alarm for society to notice. A little dose of pesticide in every meal goes unnoticed. Agreed, a boorish parallel to what is a question on the civility and sensibility of a society. However, all the accumulated lead can be compared to the silent cancer of sexual assault that stalks unchecked everyday — on the roads, in our homes.

Right on the heels of the appalling incident, comes the Shiv Sena’s directive, admonishing the media for sensationalizing the case and supporting the police. Their moral policing takes the debate to an entirely unrelated dimension, to the question of the ‘outsiders’, the non-Marathis, who they accuse of having a hand in the day’s incident, and the Marathis, the ‘rightful’ residents of the city, who they feel, have been humiliated by the acts of these outsiders, their image spoiled by such episodes. The advice attached is even more incredible, blaming the people for ‘dancing and drinking the whole night’ instead of ‘doing good’ and giving donations as alternative ideas for celebrating the New Year. What is shameful, as per them, is that society has forgotten its ‘culture and values’. What good comes out of their ‘advice’ (note: not moral policing), is unfathomable for me. Sermons come easy, the ones on culture more readily so. What does sexual assault have to do with the creed or the background of the assailant is for the Sena to explain. Cases of molestation can’t be explained with such logic, the assailants are of no particular race or background, and nor are their victims.
What is more upsetting is the number of people who agree with the above. I happened to browse through the responses on a certain web community portal. Many people, mostly men, had expressed their agreement with the Sena. Most of them had added to it their own judgments on what is ‘proper’ conduct for women, and the ‘right’ dressing sense. A certain person even prescribed a ‘lakshman rekha’ for women, in college and cinema halls, with set limits to ward off provocative dressing. This inane logic cannot explain the rape and assault of year old girls, and sometimes, even day old infants. Most of the rape complaints do not reveal any indications of such reasoning; hardly any victims are really dressed ‘indecently’, most of them are ordinarily dressed women, and not the promiscuous nymphomaniacs as these comments make them out to be. Facts apart, the rightful agitation by the media in this particular case has been termed excessive sensationalism. Well, by those standards, this piece of rant also falls in the same category, adding to the countless such laments that holler after ‘minor incidents’, filling pages of every newspaper. And if you too gloss over this page in the same vein, then the cancerous sore just throbbed again, unnoticed.

Rashmi Singh