‘News Channels Often Tacitly Back Mob Justice For Rapists’

Namita Shetty, 39, trained in India and Germany to be a professional psychotherapist, and provides help to the stressed. She tells LokMarg how a combination of factors lead to a ghastly crime such as rape and calls for mob justice

I am a certified psychotherapist based in Mumbai and have been practising for 15 years now. Last year I worked with the Telangana Police. Yes, the very Telangana Police that was recently involved in the encounter of the four men accused in the Priyanka Reddy rape-murder case. I was invited by a senior police officer to provide therapy, guidance, counselling to the men in uniform. Telangana Police was doing a really good job in reforming prisoners which is the aim of the judicial system.

Few people know this but Telangana Police has one of the highest reform rates. However, it also needs to be said that our police forces are working in very difficult circumstances. Near zero holidays, no fixed duty timings, cramped workspaces, bad condition of living quarters in smaller towns, not much time to interact with family members and much more. All this means they are functioning on high stress-level most of the times. If we want policemen to be sensitive to the needs of the victims, we need to be sensitive to their basic needs as well. 

Coming to the rape accused, as we witnessed in the Nirbhaya rape-murder case and, more recently, in the Hyderabad, all of the perpetrators were from lower income groups; this is not to state that the tendency to mistreat women is restricted to the lower income groups. Only that the lower social strata has lesser recourse to psychological help, more so in India, in the absence of a social security apparatus. If we want a better and safer country we need to take care of everyone’s emotional and mental needs.

The sense of shame related to sexuality has become deep-rooted in our society and thus sexuality has become repressed. The more repressed sexuality is, the more depraved forms it will take to come out. Each case, be it Unnao, Muzzafarpur, Hyderabad or Delhi, each criminal act is becoming scarier than the next. As a psychotherapist, I listen day in and day out to the trauma that women face or have faced as children. It is heart-breaking to hear their sense of powerlessness. As a society we need to have healthy discussions as well as healthy expressions of sexuality and the aura of shame around it needs to be removed at the earliest if we want the women in our country to be safe. 

While one half of the rape problem occurs because of repression, one cannot deny that the other half is about power. For, it gives a sense of power to the perpetrator in such cases. We need to give a sense of dignity, the dignity of being human, to everyone in our society from the very rich to the very poor. This will ensure that they don’t have to indulge in such heinous crimes to feel good about themselves or feel powerful. Unregulated emotions of individuals wreak havoc on society. 

I also feel that entertainment and news media should also be held responsible for the state of affairs we are in. Shows like Savdhaan India and Crime Patrol have created a sense of fear and mistrust among the already scared and it has given the anti-social elements newer ideas to hide traces of the crime they have committed, especially after heinous crimes like rape and murder.

It is the news media’s job to highlight important issues, not to whip things up into a frenzy; such heightened emotion will trigger the call for mob justice. The mob has no conscience and it can turn into any direction anytime. It might be baying for someone else’s blood for some reason today, it might bay for your blood for some other reason tomorrow.

Encounters aren’t the solution to stopping rapes, urgent dialogue between all sections of society is. So, the news channel should refrain from conducting media trials and creating a sense of paranoia. The media behaves in a way which says: heads I win, tails you lose. Everyone needs to inculcate patience in these times and take a pause before reacting to anything. 

On my part as a citizen, I not only provide psychological aid to people from the elite classes but my association with a charitable trust in Mumbai has helped me extend help to people from lower income groups as well, those who can’t afford to take even a few hours off work to come for therapy. Be it maids who face abuse or a street vendor who is feeling depressed about life, we provide support to anyone who reaches out to us. Our charitable clinics are located at Versova and Andheri.

Watch – ‘Fake Encounter Is Not A Solution In Rape Cases’

A large section of society welcomed the police encounter of four rape-murder accused in Hydearbad on December 6. However, there are many who raised concern about such extra-judicial killings. LokMarg asked Delhi-NCR residents if the police action was justified in view of growing number of audacious rapes across the country. Most believed that a fake encounter would never solve a social malaise like rape; it will only make police highhandedness worse.

‘Glad That Muslims Have Accepted SC Verdict On Ayodhya’

Dheer Shant Das, 50, a katha vachak (religious narrator) at ISKCON in Uttar Pradesh, a temple for Ram at his birthplace holds great value for the practicing Hindu 

At ISKCON, we routinely conducts kathas (religious discourse) both on Lord Krishna as well as Lord Ram. I am deeply attached to the virtues of Ram and Krishna, and therefore I am happy with the Supreme Court verdict on Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute. The Bench said in its judgement that Babri Masjid was not constructed on vacant land. There was a structure underlying the Babri Masjid which was not an Islamic structure. After a long legal journey, the foundation for a Ram temple at his birthplace has been laid.

I am also happy that by and large our Muslim brothers have also accepted the court’s decision. Many Muslim organisations have in fact welcomed the judgement. They see in the verdict an end to the acrimony between two largest communities of the country.

The birthplace of Ram holds great value for the practising Hindu. Even though Hinduism speaks about both sagun upasana (idol worship) and nirgun upasana (worship of the formless), the former is seen as a stepping stone towards the latter. For the layman, grasping the intellectual concepts of formlessness isn’t an easy task and thus temples and idols are important for the peace of mind of the common man. 

It wouldn’t be wrong to call Ayodhya the kendra bindu (centre point) of the Hindu sentiment. Ram as human incarnationset down the rules or laws for how a state should be efficiently run and taught us that one should have a balanced personality. One should never go and hurt another without reason, but one should not tolerate injustice too.

We read so often about Muslim rulers in the past who destroyed or desecrated Hindu temples and people let go of many temples. And even though I believe the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 was a violent act and unlawful yet, I feel it was an outburst of people who were angry with subsequent governments ignoring the sentiments of the Hindu population. I know human feelings and faith don’t abide by the rules of law, they just exist. I am a Law graduate. And before my spiritual journey began, I had wanted to be a lawyer. Good jurisprudence can differentiate between matters of faith and law.

If we take the story of Ram into consideration, he waged a war on Ravan only as a last resort and then asked his brother Lakshman to sit at Ravan’s feet and seek gyan. Ram would never cross the line or act in rage without a valid cause. Similarly, his followers or bhakts must also imbibe such values and work towards a system that ensures justice for all.

A good politician or party should take care of everyone in the country. It cannot discriminate on the basis of religion. I am not a BJP supporter. But I am happy that there is finally a government that isn’t afraid to take tough call and skirt important issues.

‘Forget Mandir-Masjid, Focus On Issues That Matter’

Mufti Danish Ashrafi Qadri, 29, teaches at a madarsa in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh. Qadri feels Muslims should let go of the Babri Masjid issue and concentrate on solving real problems

I teach at a madarsa and conduct the namaz at a local masjid. As a mufti, I have read the Quran and Hadees in detail (a 9-year-long study is required) and have legal powers under Islam. Being a Mufti, I can tell you that the Quran says that Allah’s ibadat can be done anywhere. I also subscribe to the thought that God can be found in one’s heart and even though a place of worship is more ‘conducive’ and ‘helpful’ in finding peace, if any place of worship is causing non-peaceful situation, a Muslim should let it go. And therefore, I am okay with the Ayodhya verdict that came out on November 9.

A masjid is also known as Baitullah (the house of Allah). People were asked to come an offer the namaz together because it fostered a feeling of community-bonding and love among people. It is similar to kirtans and kathas in Hinduism. And the word masjid comes from sajda (which means bowing down), a place where you bow down in front of Allah, and let go of your ego, and surrender. I would say people should now leave the Babri Masjid / Ram Janmabhoomi temple issue into the hands of the very God who is at the centre of this issue.

The Quran talks about sabr (patience) and shukr (gratitude). One can be patient only when one has deep faith in God, otherwise it is difficult to be patient. So each moment in life is either an opportunity for sabr or shukr.

Islam focuses a lot on community building. About 1,400 years ago when Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was blessed with being a messenger of Allah and when Islam started, masjids were meant to build communities. Not only people came together collectively to surrender their egos, masjids also functioned as community halls as well as places of justice where people could bring their problems and the elders and the knowledgeable could help solve them, much like how panchayats function. It was meant to be a place where everyone felt loved and accepted. However, some people who are what I call possessed ‘mazhabi shiddat’ or are under the influence of ego, and very passionately at that, cause problems in the name of mandir or masjid. Someone who has truly felt God becomes peaceful. 

Many people who consider themselves the thekedars of Islam (the protector of Islam) have only known ego, and not really known Allah, or even the Prophet. The word Islam (it contains the word salam or salamat) also means people who convey peace. And many people who wrongly interpret Islam to create non-peaceful situations haven’t truly read the Quran or interpreted it properly. 

In the end, I would just like to say that people, be they followers of any faith, should come together and figure out ways to make the present better rather than bickering about the past. There are so many important issues like pollution control, education, health etc. to be taken care of and we should behave like human beings first. At the end of the day we are all humans. 

Just like the Hindu philosophy of ‘VasudhaivKutumbakam’ (the whole world is one family), Islam also believes in equality and brotherhood. When people offer namaz together or go to perform the Hajj, all differences are removed and people are treated as one. Everyone who goes to Mecca to perform Hajj has to wear similar kind of clothing and has to stand in the same line. So people should behave like humans first with each other, in a humane manner. Islam also says that the best way to set the world right is to set oneself right, and if anyone else is doing wrong as per a person’s perspective, let God handle it.

‘Our Society Hasn’t Changed Post-Nirbhaya’

Asha Devi, the mother of the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang-rape victim Nirbhaya, tells LokMarg that rape cases hold up a mirror to our society that despite the outrage on her daughter’s murder, little has changed

Seven years after my daughter was raped and murdered in a moving bus in the national capital on a cold December night, our society has not changed a bit. In fact, the situation has deteriorated as rapists have become more brutal now. They are worse than animals. They crush a five-year-old girl with a boulder after raping her; not even an animal does that.

More worrying is the fact that such rapists are being defended by people in government, politicians, lawyers and even cops. In the Kathua case, a cop was involved. Where we will go when the protector becomes the predator?

It is so disheartening that to divert attention from the gruesome crime they are also trying to give a communal colour to a five-year-old’s murder. Rape can never be communal. I can’t believe that a rape victim can be identified by her religion. That comes from politics.

We have no options left. Our system has made us helpless; we have nowhere to go but to hit the streets for justice. In our country, a father goes to a chief minister’s residence seeking justice for his raped daughter but he gets beaten to death. What can we do now?

It is sad to see that the ones who gave the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save our daughters, educate our daughters)’ slogan are now defending their own legislator in an alleged gang-rape case of a minor girl and her father’s custodial death.

People now see hope in us but I can’t help thinking how little I can do for them when I have failed to get justice for my own daughter. Nirbhaya died in 2012 and after six years, we are still clueless when the accused will be hanged.

Our pain and trauma is their politics, no matter which political party is in power. If they are serious, they should hold a one-day session in Parliament to discuss such brutal rape cases and find a solution. Even these politicians have daughters, mothers, and wives at home.

Not even women politicians take up such issues; even they are quiet. TV debates are just more political blame-games. When there is a solution to everything, then why there is no solution for rape?

After my daughter was brutalised, the politicians who were in the Opposition then had organised candlelight vigils and marches and had forced the government to make the law more stringent. How many daughters must we lose to get a stringent law that works? I demand that these criminals should be hanged.

And, of course, there’s a Nirbhaya Fund. But who is using it and how is it being used? Who’s been benefited? I have got no response from the government so far.

It is so shameful that people are questioning rape victims. I feel all these things are being done to divert attention. If they continue to ignore it, more such cases will happen. People in power are sleeping as poor people are getting raped but if they continue to stay quite sooner or later their own daughters will have to pay the price as these rapists are only getting bolder.

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‘Kids Can’t Go To School On Children’s Day Due To Smog’

Ajay Dev Singh, 40, a parenting counsellor based in New Delhi, is at pains to see his two young daughters suffering from breathing disorders and sore eyes

The other day I overheard my four-year old speaking with her friend in our gated community playground (the schools had been closed after Delhi government orders) and guess what they were talking about? Yes, pollution! What have we done? We have created an atmosphere where four-year olds discuss ‘pollution’ and 16-year-olds (Greta Thunberg) talk about ‘solution’ (for climate change). What are we grown-ups doing?

Well, many of us are trying to live sustainable lives and doing everything not to harm the environment, right from reducing plastic usage, segregating waste, recycling water etc. But on the other side the majority of us don’t care about the condition of the city they live in.

Despite so many news channels and newspapers talking about reducing the usage of crackers, there were many parents in our neighbourhood who were encouraging their children to burst crackers late on Diwali night.

I live in Dwarka which is almost on the outskirts of Delhi and I wonder what the condition of the children in the heart of the polluted city must be. It was difficult to see my four- & six-year old girls suffering because of the pollution.

Parali (stubble) burning in Punjab isn’t something we as residents living in Delhi- NCR can control, but not burning crackers is something that is our decision. It has been over a month now and both my daughters continue to have running noses, itchy eyes and laboured breathing.

My six-year old knows what’s going on and as part of a school project on letter-writing, she wrote a letter to the Delhi CM about the high levels of pollution. And by that I don’t mean setting up an oxygen bar where people can breathe clean air for some time. I mean doing something where the whole city feels like one big oxygen bar. This is the capital city of our country; what signals are we sending to the rest of the world? Seeing kids play their innocent games wearing masks feels like I am living in a dystopian and weird setting.

I was just thinking about how when we were kids in the 80s-90s, people would go to see new gadgets purchased by a particular family. Often it would be new TV set, and now perhaps we go to the homes of people who have bought air purifiers. Frankly, the kids are tired of sitting inside and even then we have to keep the windows closed many a times. Is this the price we have to pay to live?

And what about kids who live on the streets, who don’t even have homes where they can find refuge from the toxic air for some time? What about children who have to live on picking rags? My young kids ask about how other kids and animals who live on the streets are faring in such a condition. I came to Delhi to do my graduation in the late 90s and lived here till 2010 after which I shifted to Mumbai. Work brought us back to Delhi again in 2014.

Frankly, till 2010 the condition wasn’t so bad and I think it is because of the burning of parali by farmers that is wreaking such a havoc on Delhi air. I have read in-depth about this matter and I got to know that earlier the farmers would decompose the parali in water and that would not pollute the air but it would reduce the groundwater level drastically and summers would be unbearable because of this.

So it is like being caught between the devil and the deep sea. Both Centre and state governments need to look deeply into the matter and find a solution urgently otherwise our kids will continue to suffer. Our world be bereft of their laughter if they are constantly cooped up in their homes and don’t get to play. Kids can only ask for change, but it is only the grown-ups who have the power to bring about change.

I received a letter from the school principal in which she mentioned that she was missing the children for whom the whole school had been decorated for Children’s Day and a film festival had been organized. That is sad, woefully sad. Our children are losing out on beauty and art and the joy of growing up. Soon we will have more days when the children won’t be able to go to school.

‘My Children Have Stopped Playing In Parks’

Rakhi Singh, a resident of Indirapuram, Delhi-NCR, says Indians are neglecting traditional values of a sustainable living

I have two sons, 14-year-old Rakshan and 6-year-old Rakshit, and while the elder one is somehow coping up with the unprecedented pollution levels in Delhi-NCR, the younger one’s health has taken a hit. He has a lot of difficulty breathing, and we as parents feel quite helpless seeing him suffer so much. He is scared to go to sleep and fears he might stop breathing if he lies down in bed. My husband and I have to use different methods every night to divert his mind so that he can go to sleep.

We have been feeling the severity of pollution since 2016 which is when I think the levels of parali (stubble) burning by farmers in Punjab and Haryana went up. In my village in Bihar, farmers remove the parali from the fields by hand and then soak it into water and then after it has decomposed, they put it back into the fields as manure. As far as I know the farmers in Punjab and Haryana were promised machines to remove parali from the fields in an effective manner, but they haven’t been provided the machines yet.

The condition is such that we keep the windows closed at almost all times.Kidshavestopped going out in the society play area and they just go to their friend’s homes if they feel like playing. Both my kids are very environmentally aware and they always do their bit to keep the environment clean. Both my kids have decided not to burn crackers voluntarily. They don’t waste a single drop of water from their bottles and always make sure that any leftover water is used to water the plants.

My elder son even went to the extent of asking us to remove the water purifier from our homes became he couldn’t bear to see the wastage of water that comes with RO machines. The children get upset when they see other people living in our society bursting crackers as well as encouraging their kids to burst crackers on Diwali. They wonder how grown-up and educated people can behave like this when 16 year olds like Greta Thunberg are leading the conversation when it comes to climate change.

Since Diwali the schools have been opening and closing sporadically, as per the government’s order. Not only is the pollution taking a toll on the physical health of kids, it’s also taking a toll on their emotional health. Apart from missing out on their studies, they are also missing their friends badly, especially when they can’t go out to play even though they are at home.

I feel Indian traditions were always more eco-friendly. Even today in villages plates made of leaves are used for functions. There was (and in many small towns and villages it is still present) the tradition of giving rotis to animals first (cow, dog, crow and ants) and it somewhere taught us to respect animals, in fact to put them before ourselves. We gave them food before we ate it ourselves. We need to learn many a things from our ancestors of we want to truly master the art of sustainable living.

Watch – DU Students On JNU Fee Hike

Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University are protesting against hostel fee hike and other new rules. LokMarg visited Delhi University, a few kilometre from JNU campus, to find out how DU students see the protest. Few supported the JNU protest. While several said JNU students are in a habit of creating disorder, others batted for parity in facilities among all the universities in the National Capital.