It happens, because we let it happen.
We don't lift a finger to stop it happening.
What is really infuriating, to me, is not the news of the gang-rape itself, nor the (alleged) abdication of responsibility by the railway cops from UP or MP. What is infuriating is the assumption that the 'system' was, as expected, dysfunctional, and that we - the comman man, if you will - are suffering because the cops failed in their duty.
As if we had no duty of our own!!
Have you all traveled in a 'general' compartment in UP? I have.
There is not once square inch of space in that dabba. People lie down on the narrow luggage-racks overhead. People squat in the aisles. A space meant for six people is occupied by twelve. By the most conservative estimate, there are at least 200 people in one general compartment. Maybe more.
How many dacoits/rapists/robbers/assailants/whatever-they-were?
Maybe 8. Not more than 10.
Ten men. Two cops.
[Okay, so there should have been five cops according to the rule-book. But that's neither here nor there; the rule-book rarely works anywhere.]
The point is that we - the aam junta of this mahaan rashtra with it's mahaan sankaar and centuries' old tradition of dharma - expected those two cops to fight off those ten men, while we sat back on our cowardly little backsides.
Three men protested, anf were pushed off the train, for their pains. What galls me is that there were only three of them.
Even if these 8-10 dacoits were armed - and I doubt they were carrying bombs or even fancy automated weapons that would have silenced the whole compartment in one blaze of fire - are you telling me that five men couldn't have stood up and pinned down one assailant each? You'd only need fifty men....
A woman was getting raped, but not one man had the guts to even reach up and pull the emergency chain!
I remember people pulling the chain when some member of their travel party got left behind, as the train began to pull out. I remember people pulling the chain when someone from the platform called out 'Pull the chain!', without waiting to find out why. 'Why' comes later.
Yet, not one man or woman, in that probably jam-packed compartment, reached up to pull the chain.
What really scares me is this sense of deja vu... Names, places, dates change. The story doesn't.
Remember August 2002, Mumbai?
Mumbai... that haven for women. That one 'safe' city in the country. Where women aren't assaulted so easily, even if they're alone, even at night.
But when they are, the city looks on, not lifting a finger. Even if it's a 12-year old girl being raped by a one-armed man.... Not one man will have the sense to pull the chain. Trains, late at night, stop at almost all stations - the average time between smaller stations is two minutes, maybe three, maybe five. Not one man tried to step off the train when it stopped, to interrupt the raping.
When citizens - you and I - do not want to take on criminals, because we're afraid of getting hurt, why should we expect the cops to be any different? Toting a gun doesn't make you a superman, for God's sake! The cops are just extensions of this system that is 'us'. They get paid to do a job, but money cannot buy courage, or even social responsibility.
The cops will pass the buck, if they can. No society can ever be made secure through state-sponsored forces alone. We are our own security.
Why do I feel safe when shopping at Lajpat Nagar in the evenings? Because there are hordes of people there.
Why do I hesitate before taking a walk down the more deserted streets of Central Delhi, evn in broad daylight? Because there aren't enough people about.
Why do I not hesitate before watching movies at the mulitplex-cum-mall complexes at night? Because there are hordes of people.
If there were no people, but only five cops, I'd be scared out of my wits.
Because a man with a gun is only as dangerous as his whims - a uniform is no guarantee of my safety. The 'public' is. The hordes are.
Or so I used to think. I guess, I have another think coming.