As per reports of a citizen journalist in Hindustan Times of 18th December 2012 front page headlines, a 23 year old physiotherapy student who was returning from a movie in the Select City Walk in Saket in the evening was gang raped in a luxury bus by seven men and then thrown off at a highway toll plaza from where the police discovered her lying unconscious. The girl was accompanied by her male friend, a 28 year old software engineer both of who were headed for Uttam Nagar. It appears that troubled by the fact that they were getting late; they boarded the above mentioned chartered bus headed to Dwarka, a locality close to their homes. The victim and her friend were discovered by the police lying unconscious at the spot where they were thrown off. The girl was not only raped brutally but also assaulted by a blunt instrument being hit several times in the stomach. In every act it was a show of destruction of the feminine in the public sphere. What seems to be even worse is that the crime was apparently unprovoked; the girl was just encountered accidentally and the victims did not seem to know her at all. Her mere presence provoked the hate and contempt in the offenders making it a hate crime of the worst possible degree. If the victim succumbs to her injuries, then unfortunately the offenders will only qualify for the sentence awarded in the rarest of rare cases, death.
What makes the crime ever more heinous is the fact that the circumstances of it all are so normal and routine. The girl went for an evening movie; it was only 8 pm when she left the Saket Mall, not late by any stretch of imagination. She was not partying as late as past midnight. She was not alone; she had a male chaperon, a responsible and young adult. She was anxious about getting late and boarded a chartered bus which is very usual in Delhi. Before her friend and she boarded the bus they faced many auto refusals. She took some extra caution not to board crowded buses where she would have been poked and mauled by male passengers; she was in all probability not of the social class where she would call a radio taxi because of its costs.
The offenders were out on a joyride looking for victims. The fact that they had looted a fruit vendor and likewise thrown him off at the IIT flyover shows that this was a regular criminal gang looking for victims as game. The main accused of the crime also has a brother in jail on rape charges. This is a serious matter when crime is pursued just as entertainment. This alone makes it into a matter to qualify as rarest of the rare.
Ritwik Mallik posts a video on his FB Timeline where a television reporter from a news channel was testing out the safety of Delhi roads at 11.30 pm and she got lewd comments from a tacky set of boys aboard a badly maintained Indica. The boys challenged her to capture them on camera. I have no idea why the police are not catching the boys for obscenity. But certain things are evident from this small video clip about the intent of the rapists and muggers. It is true that they pursue crime as game but also that they are eager to show off themselves as being criminals. These acts are not merely directed at the usual hate categories, the poor vendor, the woman, and the elderly but also are acts to shock the public. The public outrage which brings together the people and the Parliament, the demonstrations and the candle lights, the press coverage and the social media site communications are all those the offenders are looking to arouse. Like terrorists, these offenders also want to create terror, tear through the fabric of the public sphere, and puncture the public space and somewhere even if they are convicted with the death sentence they feel that they have made their point, which is that they have revealed the vulnerability of a world confronted with their prowess. In this manner, the offenders of the gang rape, the shoot outs in the US, hate crimes in Europe and terror attacks are one and the same only.
As individuals they might be nice in their private spaces but in that part of them which is social happens to be deeply impaired. Kasab was nice, Dhananjay Chatterjee hanged for the rape and murder of a minor was polite and intelligent and even spiritual and cultured, Adam Lanza an absolute darling; no problems here with individual personalities. But come the social persona, these offenders are in deep danger. While the personalities of these offenders seem to be absolutely fine within the family set up, the moment they encounter the society something in them snaps. What snaps, why does it snap are some of the issues which lie in the preserve of sociology.
Looked at carefully these offences seem to say one very simple things to their victims and which is why are you so contended, why are you so smug, why do good things happen to you and why are you not ruffled? This means that there is something which deeply unsettles them. In case of the above mentioned offenders, one thing seem to be common to all of them and which is that they seemed to have attained everything that they felt was there to achieve in society and yet when they reached their current consumer class they find that they cannot belong to the core society. Take for instance, the offenders of the gang rape case; they had a level of income which is very new to them as they have made more money than their families ever could earn; they own gadgets the early generation in their families never heard of and indeed when they dress up in fake or even genuine brands they cannot be made out from those who have been urbanized and anglicized over generations. Yet, these wannabes are not accepted in the society of the elite.
Ranjita Mohanty observes the rising incidence of crimes especially car theft and eve teasing in her colony in Vasant Kunj. The offenders are boys from Kishangarh who have used the money paid towards compensation of land when Vasant Kunj was being built, used the money to buy cars and transport, saw fortunes rise and entered the high consumer class. It is through the consumption of brands or their imitation that they imagined they could date girls from Vasant Kunj. The girls never cast a glance. Contempt had them eve tease, make lewd remarks, become obscene, put on blaring microphones, ravage the colony by over speeding and other acts of defiance and indecency. It is a mistaken notion which these wannabes have that they can belong to the club class by only spending like them. This is a malaise which has badly affected the youth of that zone which today emerges as literally the cultural no man’s land between well settled agricultural villages and the megacity of Delhi as the former grows into these areas.
The violence of the exhibitionist kind is warfare of those who wish to be assimilated into the culture of the city and yet are disallowed entry, those who are therefore dressed up and nowhere to go. The attack on women is an attack on the city life at large, the city which makes them feel inadequate at every step by rejecting them even when they are the required qualifications like ownership of mobile sets, I Phones, cars, jeans, sunglasses and all. The rejection is a surprise to them because the public discourses are so arranged in advertisements that dominate not only the visual culture but the overall meaning of life where it seems that if one eats that packet of chips or drinks the cola and swishes past in that car, life is fulfilled. Our entire development process tries to make consumers of us; we treat politicians as people who fetch us water, supply us electricity and render us with various services; our idea of citizenship is slowly turning into consumerism. Our citizenship rights are locked in aadhaar cards which are needed because we need to consume cooking gas, buy a car or register property. The relationship of the State and the citizen is in the bundle of goods the latter demands and the former supplies.
What this consumerist philosophy obliterates is that there is a culture class one that grows over generations of cultural privilege and exclusivity and which lies at the core of our social differentiations; this culture class is very possessive about who gains entry in it. And this cultural capital is not easy to acquire by only watching television and moving about in the shopping malls. It is this barrier of culture that really angers those who seem to have attained the entire necessary consumerist aggregate performance indicator scores. That frustration shows itself in an attack on society. Hence rape of the kind just discussed may be treated as a hate crime and punished thus, by death whatever the circumstances be producing it.