By Ramesh K Dhiman : As the country braced up for the Independence Day celebrations, last year, a Dalit woman was ‘picked up’ by a gang of ‘upper caste’ goons, bashed up in a remote Haryana village, with her helpless hubby looking on as a mute witness. The spoilt brats first sexually assaulted her and later ‘threatened’ her to withdraw the rape case slapped against them or face dire consequences. Another hapless woman had to face the wrath of men in ‘khaki’ in a bustling township of Punjab, while in yet another non-descript corner more of her ilk were subjected to domestic violence, as back-to-back rapes of girl students down south ripped apart our soul and so on and so forth.
Ever since we freed ourselves from the alien hegemony, decades ago, we have been performing this perfunctory ritual with utmost gusto and gay, year after year, recounting the supreme sacrifices made by our founding fathers, who had to shed their blood to buy freedom for us. We also seize this opportunity to rededicate ourselves to carry forward the immortal flame of ‘azadi’ ignited by them and sing paeans in praise of their exemplary bravery, thus earning some brownie points for keeping the flame of ‘azadi’ burning still.
This year, too, elaborate arrangements have been made for the razzmatazz where oodles of public money would be squandered away on the perfunctory ritual symbolizing the solemn spirit of the occasion. Rhetoric and harangues by those at the helm of affairs, in their high-flown words, recapturing the spirit of ‘azadi’, would mark the occasion. At this spur of moment we sit up and muse over the fact that though we have set ourselves free from the shackles of age-old slavery, we have yet to come out the spooky confines of servility and servitude. We have to go miles to go to get rid of the stigma of longish spells of the alien rule that has been chasing us like a bad dream ever since.
We feel sad as we look back counting on our prominent hits and misses that we have achieved during the post independence phase. The country is riddled with rampant corruption, with the ‘messiahs’ of us teeming millions in ‘khaki’ and ‘khadi’ mired in scams and scandals. In the world’s ‘biggest’ democracy, people with a criminal past manage to hop on to the centre stage of power grid. They even get elected to the state assemblies and other public forums while cooling their heels in jails on charges of horrific crimes, like rape, murder and land-grab and so on. A common man has lost his/her abiding faith in the law-enforcing and legal dispensation in place.
Day in and day out, we come across screaming newspaper headlines and TV grabs reporting horrific incidents of crime against women. We are privy to the ever-burgeoning number of sexual crimes unleashed against them, even as we helplessly watch them being assaulted, gang-raped, kidnapped, eve-teased, and even murdered in cold blood and so on, with the perpetrators invariably walking free without any qualms of conscience. The sudden upsurge in the incidents of broad day light heists, daring bank robberies and a litany of other crimes speak volumes for the shaky law-enforcing dispensation, with those at the helm of affairs maintaining a stoic silence.
We need to do a little soul-searching to seek a plausible answer to the questions that follow. Have we been religiously following the path of righteousness carved out by our forefathers? Has the dispensation done a precious little to allow womenfolk taste the toast of ‘azadi’? Have we succeeded in containing the killer virus of corruption plaguing the country and tame the cult of criminalization of politics? Have those safely saddled in the corridor of power ever mused over bridging the gap between the haves and haves not? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’. Why this mumbo jumbo? I try to dig deeper into the layers of history to churn out a plausible answer to the million-dollar question: “Where do we go from here?”