The Chennai Gang Rape Proves That It Takes a Village… to Violate a Child

Social Commentary

The Chennai Gang Rape Proves That It Takes a Village… to Violate a Child

Illustration: Akshita Monga

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here come days when trying to make sense of something is almost impossible. Days when any attempts to inject emotion and anger into the keyboard, flattens into a self-loathing moan of existentialism. I felt the same way as details emerged of the horrifying gang rape in Chennai. As journalist Rohini Singh pointed out in a tweet, “An entire community got together to rape a child.”

On at least one occasion, I have demanded women to not generalise men – what a short-sighted response. There are cities in this country, like Delhi, that will die with blots like “rape capital” appended to their name. And then there are those like Chennai, perennially branded the good city, a place of kacheris and culture and filter coffee, where none of this happens. This is where we make the most crucial mistake of evaluating people by statistics, and humans by culpability. But maybe perversity is a generalisation we should make – that we should assume that we are all monsters – if we are to stop those most degenerate.

Because it takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a village to violate one.

To call the 17 men who violated the hearing-impaired Chennai minor “lunatic” or “fringe” wouldn’t be missing the point – and yet it would be. These weren’t one-off moments of excess or hampered cognition. This was an engineered series of attacks and violations, the sheer slow pace of which is terrifying. It is as if 17 men, raped a girl, went back home, probably to their own daughters, or sisters, or neighbours, and could never bring themselves to introspect. Now remove “it is as if” from the previous sentence.

If this goes beyond the urban-rural divide – as it did in Chhattisgarh – and beyond religion – as it did in Kathua – and beyond caste – as it did in Uttar Pradesh – where are we to begin looking for the men who do this?  

Most alarming is the ease with which predators are forming coalitions, unshaken even by the vice of one or the other.

The absurdity of the news these days lies in the inexplicable, alien horrors of human behaviour. The only mistake we could make right now is to distance ourselves from all of it, to allow the blanket of dissociation to cover these men in a fog, as an isolated evidence of human deviance. There are lecherous monsters in your backyard, in my backyard, and in our homes and families. If we cannot accept that, then our humanity is as much at stake as any notion of security the women of this country can hold on to.

How much of a display of degeneracy do we need before Indian men begin to rein in their toxicity, their perversity? How much is too much? It is one thing when a man is solely responsible for his decisions, it is another when a whole bunch of them sit together, somehow unperturbed by how mutual their animalism is. Most alarming is the ease with which predators are forming coalitions, unshaken even by the vice of one or the other. It would be preposterous to think, but isn’t anymore, that men on a WhatsApp group can murder as easily as they can rape a girl repeatedly for months. The fluidity of that anger and indifference toward violation is as morbid an idea as it was unimaginable a couple of years ago.

As someone who makes his bread feeding thoughts to words, there are days when you feel like putting your hands up, not as mere tokenism, but because you actually feel helpless. In the aftermath of the Kathua rape case, I texted a senior editor to ask how does one cope with the stories being filed or sift through their nuances that would probably eat into their sleep. “I read closely, because I don’t want to forget,” she replied.

At that point, I could only marginally agree because my naivety let me convince myself that days of such happenings were at an end and I could probably archive any memory of having had to contemplate the aftermath. That was me, a man, thousands of miles away, feeling apprehended by the monstrosity of a brutal act. Imagine, then, the state of women this is happening to right now.

And it is a near certainty, that while you read this, it is happening. There is no escaping that fact. I agree with my friend, that we shouldn’t try to either.

Most of us are riled in agony and anger, and pine for an outlet to unburden ourselves. This time, I’d say, hold on to it. File it in the drawers of memory and wait for the moment. You won’t have to wait for the distant future to see an act of violation occur around you next. That, must be your outlet, however close to home, to family, to friends or colleagues it might be. Irrespective of whether you are a man or a woman do not let the memory of such barbarity die. Because as the film Spotlight pointed out, “It takes a village” – especially, one that forgets.

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