Shambu S Jayachandran
“Silence is a Crime when Justice is denied”
The headlines and scrolls of the media have shaken the country with Jisha, a 30 year old law student, being the victim of a brutal rape and murder. How different is the incident from that of Jyoti Singh, ‘Nirbhaya’? The chilling similarities evoke the country’s memories of helplessness and shame. This dalit woman, named Jisha, has been brutally raped and then murdered in Kerala’s Permubavoor. This young law student was left with several stab wounds all over her body with the intestines being pulled out with a sharp-edged weapon. These are the facts that we read in the newspapers. The question is how many Nirbhayas and Jishas will the country witness? Are we going to create histories of helplessness and torture for the better halves of the Indian society? Headlines with cases of sexual assault, harassment, molestation and violence against women have become so usual. Definitely this indicates something. It speaks volumes about the increasing trend of sexual overdrives. Jisha’s incident triggers the very fact that the life of women have remained as savage as ever.
With the Indian law strictly prohibiting discrimination and violence against the Dalits, we still find incidents of atrocities and torture as daily occurrences. The International Dalit Solidarity Network states, “Violence, including sexual assault, is used by dominant castes as a social mechanism for humiliating entire Dalit communities”. It has been estimated that every week, 21 Dalit women are victims of rape and assault. They are considered ‘untouchable’ where the women face triple discrimation on account of caste, economic status and gender. Such statistics may rock the world, but are they enough to trigger strength and outrage to protect the rights of women? Permubavoor, a small industrial town in Ernakulam, has a large section of migrant labourers. Although the police have hinted at the locals, yet, the country has not witnessed any significant breakthrough till now. Protest from all quarters is the only weapon at the moment to fight the battle. #JusticeForJisha is the lonely cry for justice aiming to stand strong beside every woman in this country. The time has come to look at the factors responsible for such heinous crimes choking the throat of women’s liberty. Is it a lapse in the legal system or is it a dirty blame game that politicians keep playing? If not the system, then who is going to protect the dignity of women and help her live the life of a human being?
Our memories haven’t yet recovered from the 2012 Delhi incident of the brutal rape and fatal assault of Jyoti Singh, our Nirbhaya, on 16th December, 2012 in South Delhi. Since then, the numbers have only increased. Post the Rohtakgangrape case where 7 persons raped and killed a 28 year old mentally challenged Nepalese woman, the judge relevantly questioned, “how many times Nirbhaya would die?” September, 2015 gave the country yet another chilling experience with a woman being gangraped in a moving bus in Bhopal. National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) of India has reported the increase of crime against women as 6.4% since 2012. In 2013, Delhi reported the highest number of rape cases at 1636. This number is simply double the number reported in 2012, which was 706. Mumbai was right behind and reported around 391 cases with Jaipur and Pune reporting 192 and 171 cases respectively in 2013. NCRB has released numbers which have shaken the country’s confidence in law and order. The total number of cases reported in India in 2013 was 33,707 as against 24,923 in 2012. The discussion is not intended to lay down bold statistics. Instead the figures send shivers down the spine when we contemplate the status of justice for the Indian woman. It is clearly evident that a woman’s honour has been thwarted time and again leaving her in the midst of atrocities without being meted out with justice. Laws have to be stricter with faster implementation to protect the women of the country against atrocious crimes committed by the opposite gender. After the entire country embroiled in waves of protests following the Delhi gang-rape, certain laws have been amended to fight the case of women victims:
i. The 2013 Criminal Law Amendment Act, popularly known as the Nirbhaya Law, was there to address the earlier loopholes in the Indian Penal Code.
ii. Introduction of a minimum 20 year sentence for gang rape
iii. Those guilty of recurrent harassment or gang rape, were also liable to death penalty.
These facts prompt us to reiterate the spine chilling incidents of injustice over the past few years. We all perhaps remember the name of Govindachami, hailing from Virudhalam in Tamil Nadu, the sole criminal in the rape and murder case of the 23 year old woman named Soumya from Manjakkad near Shornpur. It was February 1st, 2011. Govindachami tried to rob Soumya in an empty ladies’ compartment of the train. Once she resisted, he smashed her head against the wall with finally throwing her out of the train. Later he found her in the nearby woods and brutally raped her. The victim finally succumbed to injuries and died at the hospital. The only consolation was that the Trissur Fast Track Court accused Govindachami and has announced capital punishment. The unsolved case of Aruna Shanbaug is another shame in the pages of history. This nurse, in 1973, while working as a junior nurse, was raped and assaulted badly by one ward boy, Sohanlal BhartaWalmiki. Consequence: Aruna continued with her vegetative existence for a period of nearly 42 years after which the Supreme Court granted passive euthanasia. On 18th May, 2015, Aruna succumbed to her condition and passed away. Incidents are many. There are people to term them as ‘unfortunate’. Some would call them ‘mishaps’. The concern delves deeper. There might be agitations and protests. There are still hundreds of times when we should speak up. The issue of safety has taken the forefront since 2012. We wonder who is actually responsible to ensure safety of the women. Primarily, we should be in a position to understand the implication of the word ‘safety’. Precisely, it means, freedom from any kind of violence. And a lack of this has restricted an Indian woman’s mobility over the past few years. There are numerous protests, demonstrations and movements raising this issue of violence against women. It has reached the status of a national agenda.
However, in reality, such campaigns fall short of deterring such violence and ensuring a safe environment for a woman in India. The root cause is sheer inequality. The birth of such inequality is primarily a gender bias and this is coupled with structural inequalities of caste and economic condition. These further clarify the cause of the fatal attack on Jisha. However, such clarification does not open a room for justification. It rather triggers the need of an immediate judicial law to punish the merciless act at Permubavoor. The one thing that the government needs to realize is that women safety is an inherent part of public safety. It is absolutely important to recognize violence. It starts from home. A parent discriminating between the son and the daughter, the birthday gift for a boy being a toy gun and for a girl being a lifeless doll, the wife compromising with ‘yesterday’s roti’ offering the husband a fresh one, lead to a society where women play the role of the ever-compromising living being! The same little boy, once becomes the ‘man’, forgets to pay the slightest respect to the woman next door. The predominance of male preference creates an atmosphere where groping becomes the usual hazard when a woman gets on a crowded bus! Hundreds of women passengers are heckled and this goes on without being noticed or confronted. The question is why? Is the law of the country peacefully sleeping? In every house, gender violence must get the status of a conversation topic. Sufficient recognition of harassment followed by awareness of existing law will instigate the rise of thousand Malalas ensuring victory of the many Jishas, victimized daily without being noticed.
People play an important role in resisting acts of violence against women. Women are considered to be the weaker gender and helpless victims of domestic violence, abuse, trafficking, rape and murder. The people or the ‘we’ form the community. And the community must resist any kind of battering to continue. There are laws to punish the offenders. But why is the time taken so long!Why not immediate? The common people’s protests, expression of agitation at the right time, pointing fingers at the law-breakers, will ensure protection of women’s freedom. Why today do we still have to wait for the justice for Jisha? Why is there such inaction in identifying and arresting the criminals? Are we waiting for another Jisha to get victimized? The people’s court is there to punish the criminals committing such abhorrent crimes. If a woman is constantly surviving with the fear being molested or raped, if a woman finds it unusual to walk on the street at night, then the time has come to control that fear and terrorize those unknown evil men lurking behind to attack. It took us years to finally pass the Anti-rape Bill in 2012, where the criminal is liable to life imprisonment or capital punishment. Till then, rape was not considered a major crime! Hence, the verdict of the Nirbhaya case took almost two and half years where out of six, four have been given the death penalty. Following the 2013 Shakti Mills gang rape in Mumbai, on 4th April, 2014, death penalty was awarded to the three repeat offenders in the photojournalist rape case. Such dates lead us to one fact: the inordinate delay in declaring verdict. Perhaps, this delay is the most disturbing cause of not being able to provide justice to Jisha and her family.
With the emergence of the brutal rape and murder of Jisha, #justiceforjisha campaign echoes in every nook and corner of Kerala. The users, expressing agitation, include celebrity names like Mohanlal, Mammootty, Dulquer Salmaan, Prithviraj and Manju Warrier . The campaign has given vent to anger and protest in the state. It is such public outcry, harping on the government’s inaction to arrest the criminals, which acted as the catalyst to make the investigation gain momentum. Let the #JusticeForJisha campaign unite the Indians to stand like a wall to protect our own women, break the silence and speak up!