Nirbhaya’s friend recently told the world that nobody stopped to help them, and some stopped only to stand and gawk at the wounded woman. The statement is a telling indictment of our society; it reveals, yet again, just how apathetic, perverse or both a part of India has become.
However, as difficult as it might be to distance ourselves from safe, comfortable generalizations that essentially hold us all guilty of every single act of injustice ever perpetrated at any time, place or dimension, we must not make the mistake of adding this latest shameful revelation as yet another in that long list of reasons to lash out at ourselves, hurl accusations at everyone in general and no one in particular, and force the best, most conscientious among us to assume a far, far greater share of responsibility for shocking acts of brutality than what is in fact true or constructive.
Of course, turning the gaze inward is an absolute must. It is one of the important steps in the right direction which we all agree should be towards a safer, freer and egalitarian society. But there arises a problem when we allow this inward gaze to dig its claws so fiercely, so deeply and so firmly into our collective psyche that we end up placing us all, despite our capability to often be compassionate in the face of systemic odds stacked heavily against us, almost exactly at par with those who cannot but be termed as depraved, sadistic maniacs.
It often results in a far harsher indictment of those who fail to help the victim than of those who are fond of literally chewing people up and spitting them out.
Therefore, the message to the conscientious Indian is: try not to drown further in that sea of guilt a certain policeman’s death pushed you into a few weeks ago. You did not want him dead. Similarly, you were not among those who ignored those desperate pleas for help on the night of December 16. You definitely did not stand and ogle at them. You would never do that. There is a very visible line between you and scum of society; don’t blur that line, even if the apologist on TV tries to convince you otherwise. You absolutely do not represent that messed up part of the society which loots, rapes and murders and then pins its hopes on your propensity to allow remorse to completely engulf you. For it is exactly this paralyzing fear of being ‘just as bad as any of them’ that forces us to become defensive and allows blame to be redistributed to ridiculous levels of dilution.
So stop being apologetic, resume those impassioned cries for help, and rage against the system out there, however ugly or incoherent your voice might sound to those who like their protesters well-behaved and their demands, cut and dried. Indeed, let us all, if we don’t already, stop our cars, no matter how real the fear of getting drugged-mugged-killed might be. Let us all go out of our way to help those who need it. But let us definitely not feel so ashamed of our own imperfect conduct that we stop asking why cops in three PCR vans reportedly stopped, saw the injured, squabbled over the matter and did not- in blatant dereliction of their official duty– carry the victim to the van just because they feared their uniforms might get stained.