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.
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While I liked the general tone and tenure of the article one can give counter examples from within Indian tradition.
For example Yayyati’s marriage to Devayaani (Shukraachaariyas daughter) and Yayaati’s relations ship with Sharmishta’s (who was actually the daughter of the King Vishaparva, whose Guru was Shukraachaariya). The three families from Devayaani (tribes) of Yadu, Anu and Puru (connected to Kauravas and PAndavas), and two Drhyu and Turvassu’ from Shamishta form the core of Rigvedic tribes in and around SaptaSaindhva. Sharmishta was not formally married to Yayaati.
As far as I know Yayati-Sarmistha was a gandharva marriage – neither Sarmistha had any other marriage nor were her kids unaware of being the king’s sons. I stand corrected if it is not so.
Vedic wisdom on how to control crime:
Bhagvaan Krishna says in Gita:
दंडः दमयिताम् अहम् ॥ That means the criminals need to be caught and punished.
Then there is another Vedic line:
यथा राजा तथा प्रजा ॥ That says that if the ruler is criminal, the public freely does crimes, and vice verse.
Then Vedic scriptures also say:
धर्मः रक्षितः रक्षति ॥ That means dharma protects one who lives per dharma.
Living per dharma means live per one’s varNa dharma whichalso are described in Gita by Krishna. Krishna also says that one’s varNa is determined by one’s guNa and karma, not by birth.
A brahmana is one who understands dharma from a guru in a bonafide Vedic sampradaya,a nd lives her dharma and guides the society how to live per dharma. A kshatriya is one who makes sure all have freedom to live and act per their dharma and no one takes that freedom away or take away others property or women. He fights with the criminals if so necessary. A vaishya is one who does farming, cow protection and trade per dharma; and a shudra is one who provides labor to the Vedic society and the society cares them – pays nicely and keep them happy.
No varNa is to hate, look down, or oppress any other varna. Do do such thing is sin.
So, when dharma is spread more and more in society by the genuine dharma authorities, then the crimes rate in society will reduce.
Hope this helps.
jai sri krishna!
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@Skandaveera: Very impressed by the clarity of your thinking as well as the incisiveness of your powers of perception. I have not come across a deeper or more original exposition by anyone on this tragic issue. I would be interested to know what, if any, sources you yourself used to arrive at these insights. Or are these a product of your own individual thought process?
@g, thank you. Being an experienced civilization, the basic human tendencies and civilizational problems are quite well dealt in the Dharma texts. The understanding of what a civilized society should look like and what it will be reduced to when its moral and civilizational values are lost, and what should be done to prevent such fall, is well covered. Raja Dharma in MBH, as well as the Dharma Sastras and Puranas are clear in this matter – the protection of stree-bala-vriddha-jnani becomes primary responsibility of the ruler. The rise and fall of civilization depends on how well these soft but enriching elements of society are treated. Where they are not, you see rise in barbarism and reversal of civilization. In turn, where that happens you increasingly see the soft elements unsafe.
Jaggernaut is not an English origin word but rather, like you say, “Jagganath” which is a Sanskrit word which has been bastardized in English. However “adultery” is an English word and it means a specific thing. If you are going to use English than use it properly with its correct meaning. Call adultery what it is and call pre-marital relationship what it is. There is no need to confuse the two. They are entirely different relationships with entire different words to describe them.
You are falling into misconceptions as outlined in the article I previously posted by attributing similar shame to voluntary, consentual relationships between adults and involuntary, non-consentual contact which is not only vyabhichara, but it is a crime punishable by law in India and elsewhere.
You may not choose to have a consentual relationship with the opposite sex and you are free to refrain from such. But there are millions of Indians who are exercising their legal and moral right to do so. There is absolutely no shame in being attracted to someone and spending time with them. That is how people choose to their future spouses, at least it is one way.
Those who opt to have an arranged marriage are free to do so. Nobody is stopping them.
“Jaggernaut is not an English origin word but rather, like you say, “Jagganath” which is a Sanskrit word which has been bastardized in English. However “adultery” is an English word and it means a specific thing. If you are going to use English than use it properly with its correct meaning.”
You are just confirming my point that words mean different things in different regions, different cultures, different times and societies. Still you are trying to make me use words in your sense, which I will not. On the other hand if you are to talk about Indian morality, you need to learn how Indian worldviews understand the words morality and vyabhicara. Not what their legal connotation is in US or in the understanding of westernized Hindu minds.
As long as I have precision in my definition, I don’t see why a “freedom lover” who talks of legal validity of relations of consent, post after post, tries to deny me the right to define the words the way they suit my society. Rights, you said, eh? At least, you would have been justified if you presented any counter-argument – so far you did not.
“You are falling into misconceptions as outlined in the article I previously posted by attributing similar shame to voluntary, consentual relationships between adults and involuntary, non-consentual contact which is not only vyabhichara, but it is a crime punishable by law in India and elsewhere.”
Rather you do not seem to have read any single post with care. The question in consentual relation is not “legal” but “moral”. Vyabhicara is also not what you are trying to reduce it to. And this reduction is the direct cause of fall of morality and rise in crime in India. Law in India hardly affects the standard of social morality – social awareness and common man’s conformism does. Evidence – rise in western values in India is a direct result of the conformist mindset of west-educated Indians.
Pre-marital consensual relations are not treated as legitimate relations in Hindu worldview (which is different from Hindu legal code, and also Indian legal code), because of their challenge to commitment, and that absence of commitment is a direct impact on social conscience. No matter how much you beat round this point, your claim is not going to change my argument unless you present data or counter-argumentation. Do enlist where the alient concept of “relation of consent” if not through marriage is morally justified in Hindu texts (or examples where such relations are depicted in positive terms). Do present data to say that rise in crime is nor related to the loosening of social morality, which in turn is because of rise in individual “free conduct” which is “their own business” and “regardless of the valueset imposed by the regressive old fashioned folks”.
You need not labor to enlighten me what is the difference between what is pre-marital and what is extra-marital, what is acceptable and what is objectionable PDA, what is free and what is value-free. You can assume that when someone is trying to make statements about social conscience the basic homework would have been done. Try getting to the real point – how exactly is the benchmark for something “objectionable” decided, how it raises or falls, and how it affects society’s sensitivity to crime? So far I do not see you have made any worthwhile point about the main argument.
” But there are millions of Indians who are exercising their legal and moral right to do so.”
Of course, they are “exercising legal right” (you have so far not shown any argument to call it moral) and society is seeing the consequences. Is it tightening or slackening social conscience and its sensitivity to crime? And unfortunately after so many posts, you are still stuck making repeated claims with no argumentation or data offered.
In addition, survey data of areawise crime history in India where free and value-free are defined synonymously, where Russian communism and American notion of open society have influenced the most, where unHindu population thrives and where Hindus live with unHIndu values. And come back to me if my claims are factually wrong.
“If thousands of youth fancifully took to smoking looking at Akkineni Nageswara Rao’s “style”, and if people in the last decade take 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?”
I would clarify your definitions first.
“If immoral conduct like extra marital relations becomes legally acceptable”…
“extra-marital relations” means a sexual relationship outside of one’s own marriage, which is seen as legal grounds for divorce, while “pre-marital relations” or a relationship between two mutually consenting unmarried adults is and has always been legally acceptable in India.
Now, although a philandering spouse is legal grounds for divorce, there are many instances where Indian wives (and sometimes husbands) are encouraged
by their families or in-laws to overlook it, tolerate it, forgive and forget. One example is from the next door neighbor to my Maasi. Her husband had an ongoing affair with a lady and we all advised her to divorce him but her in-laws and even her own parents pressured her not to! I have several other examples to give which had led me to conclude that its more socially acceptable for an Indian wife to tolerate that and stay married than it is for her to divorce, although by Indian law, it is certainly grounds for divorce.
I would also like to know why you link PDA with “immoral and illegal practices”? Surely hand holding and hugging is not illegal in India, nor is there anything “immoral” about showing modest public affection to someone you love.
Of all the things I have felt offended or threatened by in India, happy hand holding couples were not amongst them. In fact, they often brought joy to my heart.
You don’t need to clear my definitions – you need to understand the framework of your definitions before applying them to a society that has a different reasoning and framework. Try to at least understand that framework.
Unfortunately you are talking from a superficial observation about topics that are not so superficial. The moral acceptability of any practice depends not on mutual consent, but on what its becoming a norm in the society does to the social morality – to its common element, to its fringe element, to its level of self-regulation. Mutual consent is at most legally tenable – that is all there is to it. It doesn’t become sufficient from moral acceptability. Because it
is not the “right examples” but the “wrong examples” from where the fringe element picks. Now where do you draw the line, and how exactly does your legal condition of “mutual consent” address this problem? And how do you expect to control the misbehavior of the fringe element? Mind you, the question is not whether such element has the right to misbehave, but when public behavior affects it, what a self-regulating society does to avoid it.
Does society’s self-regulation become confused or rigid or inefficient with what you are calling morally acceptable? If the self-regulation weakens and crime rises (as it is actually happening), what do you attribute the crime to? Your causation logic is also quite superficial – for instance saying PDA is least harmful. Causation goes much deeper into social psychology than that. Victim of crime in many cases is never the inspiration for crime but only an unfortunate outlet.
Society’s self-regulation depends on the fine lines between what is a bright example, what is a good example, what is a common example, what is ambivalent but not unacceptable, what is unacceptable as norm but acceptable as exception, what is absolutely unacceptable. By talking of a dichotomy of moral acceptability you are ignoring this fine layering that shapes social morality and trivializing the issue.
Your use of the word “adultery” to include pre-marital relationships between unmarried persons is completely wrong. Going forward call things what they are.
“Your causation logic is also quite superficial – for instance saying PDA is least harmful. Causation goes much deeper into social psychology than that. Victim of crime in many cases is never the inspiration for crime but
only an unfortunate outlet. ”
So are you saying that some people will rape because they see couples holding hands!? Explain your rationale.
Also, in a case such as the latest gang rape and murder, the mental health of the perpetrators must be examined. What they did was completely beyond the pale of normal human behaviour, even “normal” dysfunctional human behaviour. One could not exhibit such cruelty, such a lack of empathy and utter disregard for the condition of another human being as they did without having a very serious mental condition. It was clear sociopathic and psychopathic behaviour. It indicates that these were mentally ill persons who had not received any medical or otherwise professional help for their conditions. It cannot be blamed on society or the behaviours of others (unless perhaps they were abused themselves as children, which is quite possible, and which sometimes leads to socio-psychopathic criminality later in life.)
This was not an episode of “eve-teasing” or the day to day type of sexual harassement that North Indian women experience regularly as a part of their public life. That is also dysfunctional behaviour that needs to be dealt with but it is a type of behaviour that is actually easy to change with awareness, education, family culture and social conditioning.
Sociopathy and psychopathy are an entirely different phenomena and need to be dealt with by medical professionals before its too late. Its obviously too late now and thus should be dealt with by the death penalty.
There are a large number of Indian boys and men who are eve teasing in the streets but who would never think of raping and murdering someone, what to speak in such a gruesome fashion. To commit such a crime
indicates a very serious mental illness. Someone who is so far beyond that pale that ordinary measures would not have changed them.
“Your use of the word “adultery” to include pre-marital relationships between unmarried persons is completely wrong. Going forward call things what they are.”
I do not think – I even gave you the right word in the Indian parlance. Both come under vyabhicara. If you are comfortable, you can use the Indian words, since after all the topic is itself about India.
“So are you saying that some people will rape because they see couples holding hands!? Explain your rationale.”
I gave you a complete gradation – to put each of these actions in that is not difficult. But the point is, what is the influence of each action on the surroundings and how the surroundings affect your actions.
The point is what becomes an exception at what level of sensitivity. As it is evident, crime and rape had been quite frequent of late – but it took this level of a barbaric activity in Delhi for society to react at this level. Social conscience and self-regulation’s limits are too stretched, which is the reason it woke up so late. But when a higher standard of social morality is maintained, the society would have been more sensitive to crime and reacted to less brutal crimes. That limit is stretched of late, and its reasons are what are under discussion. Eve teasing happens to be much smaller issue, but the point is how we are desensitized to things – to treat small offenses as normal, big offenses as small offenses and only brutal offenses as big enough to react. If the definition of “normal” or “acceptable” is based on legal terms, this desensitization is bound to happen – because legal framework cannot deal with all aberrations but only with big offenses.
“There are a large number of Indian boys and men who are eve teasing in the streets but who would never think of raping and murdering someone, what to speak in such a gruesome fashion. ”
But you fail to see the fact of gradual fall. The “number of Indian boys and men who are eve teasing in the streets” was small, and it became large over time. When the average case falls to below average, how much would a bad case fall? There is a continuity between each layer in the society, and is not walled into two partitions of criminals and good characters. The above change in eve teasing does not happen in isolation, it would be a parallel change to people who are on the border line of crime mind to slip down into a crime mind. It would also be parallel to the moral desensitization mentioned above.
I am aware of the concept of vyabhichar but where in any of our Hindu texts is a mutually consentual relationship between two adults described as “vyabhichar”?
I disagree with you that eve teasing could lead to this type of heinous crime in someone who has a normal neurology.
“I am aware of the concept of vyabhichar but where in any of our Hindu texts is a mutually consentual relationship between two adults described as “vyabhichar”?”
In the Hindu texts there is nothing like “mutual consent” relation as such. There is only marriage, before which one is a brahmacari. After marriage, one is a grhastha. Fidelity to spouse after marriage and brahmacarya before marriage is what texts call as dharma. Violation of any of these is vyabhicara. Even in cases where unmarried persons come together, they are bound in an informal/semiformal marriage – either secretively or otherwise (there are many kinds of marriages explained in smritis). The real point is about commitment, towards the partner as well as offspring.
“I disagree with you that eve teasing could lead to this type of heinous crime in someone who has a normal neurology.”
Where exactly did I say eve teasing leads to such crime? Rather, the fall and desensitization happens at every layer, and is visible at every layer. And where individuals are on border line, such desensitization causes them to fall from one layer to the other. For instance just take the extreme cases in eve teasing and where they lead. Consider casual and extreme cases in ragging. The change of small nuisance becoming normal is never isolated – it comes with another change of big nuisance getting the treatment with smaller severity. And when the fringe case becomes extreme, it is escapism to attribute it to neurology. It is a failure because of social conscience, and is very much possible to minimize by elevating the standards of social morality.
“For the word adultery, it just happens to be a western equivalent of the word vyabhicara”
Absolutely wrong. Adultery specifically means a married person having a sexual relationship with someone besides their spouse, without the known permission of their spouse.
Vyabhichara is a general term for wrong conduct, which includes many areas, sexuality being just one of them.
In my reading of Puranas and other texts like Mahabharata which showcase and comment on a wide variety of behaviour, nowhere have I seen a romantic or even sexual relationship between two consenting persons being condemned as “vyabhichara” despite the fact that there are not just a few descriptive instances of such goings on in those texts. For example, Krishna had relationships with both married and unmarried gopis. The readers are cautioned not to imitate his behaviour in context to the married gopis only.
You had referred to an overall “Indian view” of these matters, as opposed to the views of individual Indians. But what you fail to understand is that culture is created by individuals. Once a tipping point is reached in the collective views of individuals, the culture transforms. Cultures are not static, but they continuously morph over time and with each passing generation.
You are witnessing this before your very eyes every day.
“Absolutely wrong. Adultery specifically means a married person having a sexual relationship with someone besides their spouse, without the known permission of their spouse.”
The word “absolutely” shows how abosultely wrong you are. There is a word Juggernaut in English dictionaries published in the west, read it and let me know if it comes anywhere near to its real meaning in Jagannatha Puri. So don’t get stuck on a notion that you are familiar with. Each society has its ways to define its words and its norms. If this society happens to use English, does not mean it will use those words in the same sense you use in the west. Meanings are what are socially relevant, not what you find in dictionaries.
“Vyabhichara is a general term for wrong conduct, which includes many areas, sexuality being just one of them.”
Hardly makes a difference to this topic.
“In my reading of Puranas and other texts like Mahabharata which showcase and comment on a wide variety of behaviour, nowhere have I seen a romantic or even sexual relationship between two consenting persons being condemned as “vyabhichara” despite the fact that there are not just a few descriptive instances of such goings on in those texts. For example, Krishna had relationships with both married and unmarried gopis. The readers are cautioned not to imitate his behaviour in context to the married gopis only”
I have mentioned that smriti enlists several kinds of marriages and there are no “relations of consent”. Get me examples from Purana that refute this – right from Dushyanta to Bhimasena. Enlist the relations that are “romantic” and do not come under any of the marriages.
The whole thread about Radha-Krishna was about the topic of Krishna’s “relations”. But please demonstrate where exactly Krishna in Purana is mentioned to have “relations of consent”, what his age was at that time and whether you are logical in calling them “relations” at all. Krishna’s wives and relations are fairly easy to make out from Itihasa or Purana. I just do not understand people’s obsession to attribute sexual relations to him.
“But what you fail to understand is that culture is created by individuals.”
Culture is shaped by macro or collective outlook, which in turn is shaped by several factors – the examples set in front of people, changing times etc. The whole point in the article is about how it is being shaped.
” Cultures are not static, but they continuously morph over time and with each passing generation.”
Which is why this is even a topic being discussed – and what that transformation is doing to this society.