My old friend, Hira Singh, and I have not spoken together for a very long while.
I did seek him out recently, when I read a few reports in the paper about an incident of child rape in Delhi.
Three men got together and abducted a ten year old girl. They then proceeded to gang-rape her for three days, before they tortured and killed her by strangulation.
Our President, Pranab Mukherjee, has in the last few years rejected the ‘mercy petitions’ of rapists, and recently a minister, Uma Bharti claimed that she made rapists beg for mercy, and tortured them.
Apologists claimed that she had not done anything of this sort, and neither should she.
Rapists are humans too, came the rejoinder, and should be treated with dignity and compassion.
So, I went to my friend Hira Singh with my dilemma in hand. Yes, I told him – rapists are humans, as are the rest of us. However, was Hannibal on the right track, when he spoke about an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth?
What is it that would deter a rapist? Yes, rapists are humans, and so are rape victims.
Yes, both rapists and rape victims are human, and what is the recourse to prevent, and punish rape?
Is it that we must follow the process of due justice, or is it that we must follow a more brutal recourse?
I queried if a rapist should be chastised with public castration, and Hira Singh demurred.
“It is my theory”, he said, “that rape became a habit to institutionalise man’s bestiality, sense of power, and in war – to plant his genetic code in the vanquished. We live in dark times…”
“But, bestiality is an unfair thing to say”, I replied. “Animals and ‘beasts of burden’ do not rape. It is only us, in our enlightened and educated ways of living, who rape. Why compare animals to us?”
“True”, he said, “But castration is savage, and not civilised at all”
“Neither is rape”, I replied. “Rape is violent, cruel and has no redeeming features to it at all. The psychological damage done to the victim can outweigh the physical.”
We spoke and went back and forth on the topic for quite some time. Neither of us could come to a satisfactory outcome, though we both seemed to concur on the fact that a more brutal recourse would be needed if we were to bring a rapist to justice, and to deter them from future crimes.
What about those who silently aid and abet such crimes? Policemen who take bribes, neigbours who pour shame on the victim, and other such people?
How do you punish them? How do you enlighten them?
Do we bring rape from under the carpet and address it upfront? A policeman who silently aids rape – should he not be jailed?
What think ye, my friends?