The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Some weeks ago India Today ran a lead story on rape. The cover page highlighted the detail that in India a woman is raped every 54 minutes. As a matter of fact, the incidence of rape and crimes against women is much higher, and increasing by the day both in urban and rural areas. A majority of cases does not get reported as common people have no confidence in the police or criminal courts and do not wish to expose the victims of such crimes to publicity.

The magazine’s team of researchers also revealed that 75 per cent of rapists are married men, a substantial proportion of them relatives or friends of the victim’s family. This does not cover incidents of gang rape. Besides adducing data on sex-related crimes, the researc-hers had little to offer by way of solutions. They quoted R.S. Gupta, Delhi’s commissioner of police, to the effect that if girls dressed moderately and did not expose too much of their bodies, the incidence of rape would be reduced by half. This is as silly a statement as I have ever heard. And even sillier is the deputy prime minister’s statement that rapists should be sentenced to death. In most advanced countries, even murderers are no longer executed; to hang rapists would be a retrograde.

We need not indulge ourselves in horrendous stories on the lives of rape victims. Pinki Virani’s Aruna’s Story about a nurse in Mumbai who is still in coma a quarter of a century after being raped, while her rapists, having served the sentence of imprisonment, are scot free, is enough to keep you awake for many nights. We have to take a common sense approach to the problem.

Rape and the molestation of women take place all over the world, but their incidence is much higher in male-dominated societies than in societies where women matter as much as men. India is still a patriarchal society, where women are regarded as less than second class citizens. The situation in Pakistan is much worse — there, violence against women is more prevalent than in India. Only recently, an innocent woman was gang-raped with the sanction of a tribal council. We too have had cases of caste panchayats conniving in the rape of women of other castes to settle old scores. It will take time for the man-woman power equation to be balanced.

In advanced societies, rapists are treated as psychopaths needing medical treatment. In backward societies like ours, they are more often normal people who suddenly feel the urge to expend their lust on unwilling females. Lust can be an expression of love; it can also be an expression of hate, revenge or misdirected masculinity. Whatever be the motivating factor, it is a heinous offence against the dignity of women and deserves punishment.

First, we must ensure that the offender and not the victim is exposed to public disgrace. With us it is the other way round. Victims of rape get unwelcome and often unsympathetic media attention. This has to be reversed. Another necessary step is to legalize prostitution in whatever from it exists, provided the prostitutes are adults and have not been forced into the trade. The more you try to put down prostitution, the higher will be the incidence of crime against innocent women. You may find the idea repulsive but ponder over it and you will realize there is substance in the argument.

A radical change must be brought about in punishments for crimes against women. We have blindly followed laws which punish such crimes with imprisonment and fines. Neither is deterrent enough to prevent men from committing them. We should re-introduce our age-old method of exposing rapists to public disgrace before suitably punishing them. Courts should be empowered to order them to be taken to the localities in which they reside, be stripped of their under garments and lashed on their bare buttocks. Nothing can knock out a man better than to be humiliated in front of his friends and neighbours. And finally, the most appropriate punishment for a rapist is not being sent to jail for a long period or hanged, but to be deprived of manhood. The sentence of castration should be made mandatory.

Led astray by the senses

One morning I was listening to the keertan relayed from the Hari Mandir (Golden Temple). It was very melodious; the words of what I presumed to be gurbaanee, appealed to me and so I put them down on a slip of paper. I could not identify the composer. I rang up Reema Anand whose translation of the Sikh evening prayer, Rehras, was published by Penguin last year. Next day she sent me the exact words with their meaning in Punjabi.

It was not a composition of any of the Sikh gurus or bhaktas enshrined in the Granth Sahib, but by Bhai Gurdas, amanuensis to the earlier gurus. His theme is that human beings never tire of indulging their senses and cling on to life without understanding its purpose until they meet the right guru to guide them.

Akkheen veykh na rajjeean boh rang tamaashey — eyes never tire of watching the colourful pageant of life. Nor ears tire of listening to praise, slander, crying and laughter — ustat nindaa kann sunn rovan tay hassey. The tongue never has enough of tasting and relishing delicacies — Saadee jeebh na rajjean kar bhog bilaasey. The nose never has its fill of fragrance and foul smells — Nag na rajaa vas lai durgandh suvasey. He sums up: Rajj naa koee jeevia koodey bharvaasey — no one says he’s had enough of life, all on false hopes abide. And lastly, only those take the right path who find the right guide: Peer mureedaan pirhadee sacchee rehraasey.

I go along with Bhai Gurdas in believing that we spend our lives enjoying what we see, hear and taste (he left out touch) and never go beyond them to try and find if there is more to life than indulging in them. He was lucky in having gurus to show him what lies beyond. What can mortals like us do to find the right rehnuma – path shower' They are there in their dozens spouting pravachans (sermons) on our TV channels. I find them amusing for their antics but not one would inspire me to take the path indicated by them.

Confessions of a drunk

I was director, public relations, Punjab, for some years. In this period, I made contact with mediapersons, editors, including PR men in Central ministries. One afternoon while I was entertaining mediapersons at the New Delhi Press Club, the club’s then president, A.R. Wig, entered the bar with someone who was introduced to me as major —, PR man from the ministry of defence. I greeted him and requested him to join us over drinks. While Wig obliged, the PR man declined saying, “Dinay Kadi Cheri Nee, Rat Nu Kadi Chaddi Nee” — at day time I do not touch it, at night I never miss it.

(Contributed by J. Puri, Jalandhar)

Medical prescription

There was an urgent call to the town doctor. Picking up the phone, the doctor found a woman complaining that her husband had swallowed a pen.

“I’ll be there in a second,” said the doctor.

“What am I to do in the meantime'” asked the woman.

“Use a pencil,” came the immediate reply.

(Courtesy: Reeten Ganguly, Tezpur)

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