A rape of the senses in Kolkata
'How can a mother of two leave behind her children and go to a bar to drink?'
'She is a divorcee, she drinks beer, she goes to bars, makes eye-contacts with strangers and gets into their cars'
' Why should police be blamed? Why did she take two days to file a complaint?'
'What was she doing in the middle of the night at Park Street?'
'It's an attempt to malign the government. Truth will come out.'
'How is it possible in a moving car? Which position was he in?'
They ask in whispers. They demand answers. They make pronouncements. They insinuate, they doubt.
From the common man on the road, to the woman at the helm, to the men in uniform, to the netas in the studios, everyone has a question, an opinion and an idea.
They ask who, why and how.
We are talking about an alleged rape of a woman who has every right to be called a victim till proven otherwise.
In the throbbing corners of the news studios, men and women huddle together to sit, judge and pronounce.
Some take her name, detail her background, announce her address, question her intent, doubt her character, and pinion her drinking habits for all to see. All this while the probe is still on.
The Supreme Court directive of masking her identity and protecting the victim is only confined to clever peek-a-boos.
We are all invited to spend our evenings in this theatre of outrage. The word 'rape' hangs at our dinner table waiting to be sliced and devoured. We could smack our lips but only if it wasn't too err insensitive!
The case if anything exposes the deep-seated patriarchal assumptions that makes registering complains of sexual assault so difficult in our country. Which rape victim would want herself to be a conversation topic where everything else subsumes the actual incident of violation?
No one knows what happened that night. The probe is still on. Rape or no rape, assault or no assault, genuine or concocted, true or false, couldn't we wait? Weren't we scared for once to ask-what if it's true?
Couldn't the chief minister who once stormed Writers Building to give justice to a rape victim, wait for the truth to come out before feeding the press. Couldn't her minister almost on cue stop dissecting the victim's past on state television? Couldn't the media take rape laws of our country more seriously and chide those who dared to defy it?
Couldn't the police be on the victim's side with a solid intention of looking for evidence to give her justice instead of being lulled into a sarkari stupor?
Couldn't we wait for the truth to come out?
PS: I live in Kolkata. I go to Park Street for dinner, for drinks, for books and sometimes just for a walk. I have been there at 8 in the morning, at 3 in the afternoon, at 2 at night. I am a woman. And I dare you to judge me.
(The piece must not be read through the prism of journalistic observation, it's solely a personal expression of outrage. It is not a reflection on the merits of the case. The author believes that the probe will reveal the truth and whoever is guilty must be punished.)
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