Rape and the absence of leadership

From the time of the Delhi rape, to the time of writing this column, around 960 rapes have happened in India. My clever words are meaningless, I want to smash the faces of the rapists.

Amir Khan, the actor, produced a series of TV programmes on social issues in India in an effort to educate the masses. TV and celebrity can do what no other medium or individual can achieve – especially in India.

So where are you Sachin Tendulkar? Why haven’t you spoken up about the rape in Delhi? Where are you Amitabh Bacchaan? Shah Rukh Kahn? For all those critical of Bollywood importing Western values – it should have imported the values of Angelina Jolie, of all those US actors and actresses who use their celebrity to highlight pressing social causes. Why hasn’t India imported more Western values? Where is the leadership?

Of all those critical of India for having imported ‘Western values’ – you imported Sonia Gandhi, an Italian, when you voted her to be PM (which she declined) – so where is her voice and the best of ‘Western’ values in standing up for women’s rights? She has forgotten her Western values.

Don’t worry, you actually haven’t imported ‘Western values’. By the way, it’s not a Western value, it’s a universal, yes universal, human right that you keep calling ‘Western value’.

The issue is not whether a woman chooses to work, to wear scanty clothing, to get drunk, it is that she has the right to choose and the worst of all consequences that are allowed to befall her, or a man, are social criticism, right or wrong, not physical attack. You have the right to be embarrassed. You have the right to think whatever you want. You have the right to look. You have the freedom to speak out, she has the freedom to choose. You do not have the freedom to physically harm. That is not Western, that is just civilised and the oldest civilisation is better than this.

For all those who say India has a culture of protection of women, and respect for women, explain to me why the respected Reuters ranks India the bottom of the world’s 20 largest economies as a place to be a woman. Saudi Arabia beats India on this league table.

For all those who say rape happens in India, not Bharat, tell me you are saying more than ‘no true Indian would rape’. Tell me how in the same breath you also say, ‘a woman’s place is housework alone’. Tell me your subtext in ‘protecting the dignity of women’ is not also to remove the freedom to choose of women. Find a way to explain dignity and provide freedom to choose. Tell me there is more dignity in free choice and free will. Tell me a drunken son is as undignified as a drunken woman – rather than his manhood is shown by his capacity to intoxicate himself.

Tell me that when you say, but we have Goddesses and the Ramayan in which Ram saves Sita, you really think the rapists in Delhi did not bow down and prayer to the Godess Lakshmi and Saraswati, before the same evening gang-raping. Tell me you forgot Ram also asked Sita to prove Her chastity by undergoing a trial by fire because Her word was not enough. That no God would be asked the same in the scriptures.

By the time you read this, I will have had a meeting at Number 10, and my ethnic origin will be raised. What am I to say? That these things happen in Britain too? Well sue me, because I wanted better for India, India is better than this, India was supposed to be the greatest nation on earth, not America, the Ramayan tells me, the Gita tells, Gandhi tells me. Not in my lifetime. Maybe in yours.


  1. As much as I’d like to say I love this post, sorry, I don’t. It’s not that I disagree. It just sounds a variant of the many, widespread “blame the government” posts. Except lobbying governments is one thing, lobbying all Indian celebrities as an entity is another. A friend of mine, M.S., wrote a poignant counter-argument, which goes to the heart of the issue. Ingrained issues in Indian society and psyche:-

    “Don’t put all the onus on the Government. You take some responsibility too. You, the father whose masculinity stems from controlling the women in your house. You the mother, who has different rules for your son and daughter. You, the brother who believes you are far superior to your gender counterpart. You, the teacher who has different expectations for your male and female students. You the friend, who perpetuates this in your social circle. You. Start within.”

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