We are coming across a lot of crime news of late, not just of incidence of crime but also on the crime laws, their fairness and effectiveness. There have also been cases where laws themselves are debated for their consequences in human suffering.
While we are concerned mainly about crime in India, there is a striking difference we need to note between crime in the west and India. In the west crime is largely a result of broken society and weakening of self-regulation in the society, and happens in spite of state and security. In India it is partly the reverse – crime happens in spite of society’s self regulation and because of the failure of state. This is an important bottom line for going about control of crime.
The recent assault on a woman in a moving bus resulted in huge furor and protests in the country. But as expected, and quite similar to the anti-corruption protests, it is primarily people’s frustration with the situation resulting in protests on the road. In a democracy this is an easy outlet governments can give people, without doing much about them in the long term. At most there would be promises and short-term steps like aggressive police activity and quicker judicial process. But overall, nothing would change in the system that keeps causing the crime.
In the recent case there are reactions from probably all sections in India. Some point to woman’s vulnerable position Delhi, some point to police not doing their duty, some point to weak punishment code that does not deter criminals, some point to lethargic judicial process etc. But by and large most of them seem to ignore the basic premises that underlie all this – the crime and its cause itself.
Who is to be blamed?
There are two aspects – morality and legality. As a matter of fact, no amount of diligent police or judiciary can eradicate crime in a billion strong society – it is just not possible. They can only handle the exceptions or fringe cases that happen outside the self-regulation of society. So while it is easy to point finger at them, we need to understand that a live, vigilant and self-regulating society is the only way any crime can be controlled. But over decades since independence, in which direction did India move?
First of all, this is a country ruled by a party for decades, which corrupted the polity, beurocracy, government departments and media, a party which turned a free India into a top-to-bottom corrupt country in six decades, a party that kept trying its best to replace the morals and native ethos of this country with alien, value-neutral thought processes. This is a country where campaigns are organized for public and legal acceptance of unethical and immoral codes of conduct, systematically targeting the native ethos and morality. This is a country where partisan politics is rampant – crime against people of some communities becomes a rage in the media and polity, which against people of some communities just goes unnoticed. Some communities are targeted by the media and polity themselves, while some communities are as good as licensed to commit crime. This is a country where media is outright against the native ethos and systematically derides those, and glorifies alien ethos. This is a country where public media shows every kind of negative human tendency – lust, greed, vanity, extravagance, jealousy in glorifying terms and takes the unforgiveable excuse of natural depiction.
In fact it is not really state being diligent and society failing, but society struggling against a state that not only failed its duty but is actively anti-society. Rise in crime and atrocity in wake of this fact, is only a natural consequence.
And when people do protest in anguish, we need to understand that these are only nozzles turned on and off schematically by government and media to give timely outlets to growing frustration and to give a pretence of democracy and of an open society. That has nothing to do with either media’s or the governments’ real sense of responsibility in addressing the problems of the society. One must also notice that both these systematically try to curtail or downplay elements that are morally strong and really direct at some sort of solution to the real problems. In case of anti-corruption Anna Hazare was sidelined and Ramdev Baba targeted while the harmless folks like Kejriwal given enough media space, attention. In the recent protests sparked by rape, Ramdev Baba was booked – as if they are not citizens of this country and do not have the right to stage protests. That is not at all because he was “politically motivated”, but simply because he poses serious questions and because his questions go beyond protests and are directed at the real perpetrators of injustice – governance and media.
The motivations of media are quite apparent, leaving us in no need to make guesses. Any suggestion to a moral approach to control the crime is falsely implicated as blaming the victim, or worse, as justifying crime. In fact blaming the victim is an old habit of state and media in India, when people other than their favored communities are on the receiving end (as happened in case of Godhra train burning, Kashmiri Pandits, Bangladeshi and Pakistani Hindus and Hindus of north-east), but that is a different point. Even in this case, victims do not come from media or state – the victims come from the crime fearing households while criminals are created not by them. In fact even provocation for crime as often said, does not come from these households. The victims in many cases happen to be outlets to the criminal tendency of people who derive their inspiration/provocation elsewhere. So if an average family cries foul on those inspirations/provocations, they cannot be the ones to be criticized – in fact it is the responsibility of the state to address their fears and declining safety.
While media takes enough pains to suppress the native version of the issue (as seen by the Hindu intellectuals and conservative households that fear their loss of safety in the growingly loosening and non-vigilant society) and puts in every effort to misinterpret and reverse the message, facts show otherwise. No one ever said “provocative dresses” or “pub culture” or “PDA” are invitations for crime or justifications for crime. It is not even the illicit relations that invite crime. The question is, what these things cause to a society.
If thousands of youth fancifully took to smoking looking at Akkineni Nageswara Rao’s “style”, and if people in the last decade took to more immoral and illegal practices looking at the “natural depictions” of illicit relations, PDA, glorified crime and provocative conduct (not merely dressing) on the screen, do state and media really not know what they are doing to people? If eve teasing was seen as something done by spoilt brats twenty years ago and is seen as something common today, do state and media really not know what they are doing to people? If immoral conduct like extra marital relations becomes legally acceptable today, do state and media really not know what they are doing to people? If someone says there is no relation between rise of immoral conduct and crime, is that something worth believing?
The Real Issue?
The media’s attempt to portray crime as Indian society’s inability to accept “progressive changes” or “woman’s empowerment” is fundamentally flawed and demonstrates the above. Free, immoral and illegal conducts are three apparently different things, but have sufficient overlap and lead to each other. By making the native criticism look extreme and conservative, the blame cannot be shifted. In fact, such “progressive changes” have not come in any society without eroding social strength and self-regulation, and have not come without steep rise in crime.
The feminist angle to the issue, namely calling on the society’s inability to accept woman’s empowerment, is also flawed. First of all the victims of crime are women alone – rise of crime is systematic and is inversely proportional to the section’s strength, namely the weakest affected the worst. Sexual assault on women is definitely on rise, but so is child abuse of all kinds. The state of old people is also worsening, and so is the position of the physically weak individuals who are otherwise contributors to the aesthetic and intellectual fields (with physical and brute force, machoism being advertised as the order of the day). In short, all the soft elements of the society – stree-bala-vriddha-jnani are growing to be increasingly unsafe. And this is not a sign of not being able to accept progressive changes, but the primary sign of undoing civilization and culture. A civilized society is one that protects all these weak elements (which in turn enrich the society), and that has been the primary principle of Indian society for ages – so if anything, what is happening is not India’s reaction to progress, but a regression that is happening in spite of India’s resistance at social level.