It seems like just yesterday when the nation shook with the gut-wrenching news. A young girl was gang-raped in a moving bus in Delhi, later dying of her injuries. The heinous act made us flock to the streets in large numbers with candles in our hands and outrage in our hearts. We protested, we demanded justice and the death penalty. We even vehemently protested the ban on the documentary film made on the incident.
And here we are three years later after many, many more such have incidents made the news -- from gang rapes to assaults to honour killings. Yet, we've held out the hope for more stringent actions on the part of the authorities, harsher punishments for perpetrators, more awareness in society. And then there came this horrific headline:"Indian Village Orders Gang Rape Of Two Sisters"
What is worse is that I am not sure to what extent the village panchayat can be held accountable for this. Because the fact of the matter is that our country's law and order machinery has turned a blind eye to the continuous functioning of such khap panchayats, "informal" legal settings that sanction actions that would be considered criminal anywhere else. These misogynistic panchayats in Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country are notorious for meting out such outrageous sentences, and though the courts have deemed them illegal it seems as if they haven't skipped a beat.
In the most recent case, a man eloped with a married woman and the panchayat somehow believed his two sisters would pay the brutal price for the transgression. Then there are the many "honour killings" of both men and women who've decided to cross the so-called line. Why is this allowed to continue? Who are the real criminals here?
In the case at hand, all that is being done is a petition that was filed by the elder sister as a plea to the Supreme Court for their protection. The petition has been sent to the UP authorities, while the two sisters with their family have fled to Delhi, hiding and likely praying for an acquittal in a case that we already know they had nothing to do with.
While human rights groups like Amnesty International are frontrunners in these efforts and I am a signatory of this noble cause myself, I cannot help but wonder why these pseudo-justice systems that have been playing mercilessly ruining lives for years haven't already been eliminated or in the very least restrained to only day to day village administration and civic rulings.
We as a country witness rapes, murders and violence every day. Naturally, it is not possible to eliminate each and every rapist or change every mindset. But, it is a blot on us as a nation if we cannot do whatever is possible within our power to ensure that our women are protected and "justice" is not just a word being misused by murderers at large deciding to take matters in their own hands.
My sincere hope is that our judicial system does more to protect us by forcefully stripping such barbaric groups from any authority that allows them to condone or incite violence.
"It takes a village" as the saying goes but in this case, our villages need us, our women need us.