Crime and Social Tagging- What’s Common and Dangerous?

The Culture We Spread!

I recently saw the first season of ‘Delhi Crime’ on Netflix. The series has been inspired by the brutal gang rape of ‘Nirbhaya’ that shook the nation in December 2012. It was not the first gang rape the news channels talked about and we had prayed it should be the last, but what followed was a trend and how! It gave future rapists ‘ideas’. Broken beer bottles and lit cigarettes were used while raping girls as young as three years old. The monstrous mishap opens in front of us multi-dimensions of what can be termed as a linear crime. Economic disparity, sexual restrictions, lack of healthy interpersonal relationships, the more open culture they witness but cannot replicate and the silence at incidents of adultery, domestic violence, substance abuse etc. But who bore the brunt eventually? The innocent Nirbhaya!

The kind of language we use breeds the culture we thrive in.  Our generation looks for a congenial work environment because employment is something we can choose. Can we choose our social culture? Not really! The first influence is our home and family. With due respect to our forefathers, those generations have been open about their bigotry and labelling the communities they did not like as ‘inferior’. I remember I was asked not to touch the sweeper or her bin while disposing off trash. Two of my uncles say that they like Narendra Modi because he is cleaning the nation, and no, they were not referring to the ‘Swachha Bharat Abhiyan’. What they were really doing was to label certain communities as ‘dirty’. The self-proclaimed upper castes and upper middle class believe they have the privilege to do so and exploit the same unapologetically. Children observe and catch the same phrases, and sadly, they use them without understanding or reasoning their foundation held on a fake sense of supremacy. If the current generation of the British comes to dictate us again because of our history, would it be acceptable to us? Taking individual and social responsibility for public behaviour should be higher on our priority. Family dynamics still dominate collective decisions. The whole family votes for the same party just like it shares the same meal. And it doesn’t take one’s own children to realise the repercussions. Our digital communication is open to the whole world.

We have in our circle people who tag anyone with opposing views as ‘terrorist’ and ‘naxal’. A respectable, second generation lawyer and social activist Prashant Bhushan fights seventy-five per cent of his cases pro-bono yet is labelled as ‘Naxal’ on receiving some foreign funds like many other credible NGOs. Now let’s look at how this thing gets bigger and national. Narendra Modi’s campaign is all about the language. Many of his followers do not even bother to match the proposed manifesto with the actual achievements. They are high on the language of nationalism leading to jingoes like ‘anti-national’ for anyone with contradictory opinions. On the contrary, how the New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern dealt with Christchurch Mosque shooting is much more humane. She is certainly not going to spare the perpetrators, the Intelligence Minister is using intrusive spy agencies to catch them. She addressed a press conference soon after and changed the whole narrative to ‘solidarity’ by wearing a burqa, a symbol of oppression otherwise. And many other women followed. As an Indian I feel proud of the gesture, imagine the culture of empathy she must have sparked in her own country. Back at home, we were either tagging the harassment of Kashmiri students in Dehradun after Pulwama attack as fake or justifying it because of the beliefs we inherited as children. Such an irony!

Gujarat is a state with relatively lesser crime, allegedly. The existent rate of crime is openly and unapologetically blamed upon migrants from UP and Bihar, especially for rape cases. I have heard that all fingers point North based on the statistics from the police department. Now, the record police has is of ‘reported crime’, not ‘total crime’. Secondly, the junior staff is sometimes not even interested in filing a FIR. I have personally experienced the difficulty a woman feels to communicate with them in multiple police stations. More than half the rape cases are not even reported because the family is ashamed to, the girl does not have the energy to, they have been threatened, they belong to a community which is never taken seriously as victims (for example Dalits) or the culprit is a relative. Add to that a rape reporters’ first-hand information confirming that the majority of rapists are local.

Some of us may have had extremely unfortunate incidents with our forefathers during communal tensions or with immediate family as children. We subconsciously put Muslims, Kashmiris, Pakistanis and terrorists, all under the same tag and desire revenge. We rarely mention those memories as the reason behind liking a certain leader who supports that ideology because we know the moment we do that, every other reason will fail. We also start name-calling those who are against that leader on social media because expressing and convincing while hiding the core takes extra and often baseless effort. We are good people, but we forget the language we spread, its implications that have sometimes turned into rumours and killed people, innocent people. But they are strangers, so we don’t care. Also, we love to assume that the culprit we have always hated must be from a specific clan, did we check their Adhaar cards while the mishap occurred? Political groups have been known to kill some of their own people to spread rumours against others, it serves their purpose. Does it serve yours? Whatever happens in the Lok Sabha election this year is not in our hand, but our language certainly is!