As much as you may want to avoid soaking in all the despicable things happening around us all…and the news teeming with negativity, there is no easy way to block out any of it. The ghastly bulletins infiltrate in from all angles.

As a country, we are getting rather (in)famous for heinous acts, hate crimes, intolerance, religious based politics, rapes, murders, killings, plundering, bureaucratic criminality… The list is endless let me tell you. Rapes and gang-rapes on a daily basis – forget what the world thinks about us… How do we live with this happening all around us? On top of all this add fake allegations, witch-hunting, media hungry after TRPs and what not.

We have leaders twirling around in saffron, (un)holy figureheads that pretend to be what they are not, those that run police states, rising situations of lawlessness, we have elected representatives who are nothing but spin doctors and we have leaders who do everything in their power to deflect issues that are urgent and need immediate attention. What have we come to?

The ‘jungle law’ being followed questions no one, allows perpetrators to either roam scot-free or hide behind powerful thugs and mafias, and only challenges and hunts those that question the powers that be. Suddenly, everyone sitting on news panels (the same old faces – they know it all) are experts in Law/Forensic/Constitution/Fundamental Rights… They know everything – We know nothing!

There is no justice and no law… Everyone’s basic rights are being trampled upon. Dissenters are quashed… Those with voices are silenced and those questioning are arrested. There is growing intolerance towards free speech and expression. Democratic rights are under attack. Intimidation and arm twisting is the rule on ground. Those that dare to ask questions are manhandled and physically assaulted. Are we ok with all this? No, I don’t think so. The earlier murmurings of discontentment are getting louder and more vocal. You cannot shut out the voices and rights of your own people. Knowledge is power and can set us free from the atrocities we are witnessing.

I want to get an important point across that every time a girl/woman is raped in our country – Remember, she is an Indian. Don’t look at her colour/skin/caste/religion/community/ethnicity/background. An Indian has been raped…yet again…and again and again! The fourth most common crime against women in India has staggering numbers. It is a tool of oppression.

Most go unreported or are silenced. Marital rape is not even counted in all this. Those from the lower strata of society are scared to report a complaint as there is police apathy. 88 or more rape cases are reported per day – of these not even a third get convicted for the crimes committed.

It is our duty to report a crime…not shield a perpetrator and we must ensure that the guilty are punished. For this, we need a transparent and impartial system, with stringent laws in place and one that clearly shows the path to get justice. We need well-laid out systems and checks in place that include a clear-cut method of carrying out inquiries from the state of the art forensic labs, fast-track courts, to top-class investigators. A victim must be treated as one – as a Citizen of India and not according to the background she comes from and that cannot take away anything from the heinous crime that has been committed.

There is a pervasive rise in sexual violence against women in our country. Gender-based attacks are a massive problem. Deep-seated patriarchy plays a huge role in this. There is a culture of violence thriving. Mind-sets need to change. The way boys are brought up needs to change. A crime is a crime at the end of the day and caste/religion/background/political affinity cannot play a role. Rape is no ordinary crime.

Patriarchy has been rampant in India for centuries and therefore it comes as no surprise that women are treated as inferiors, pushed beneath a man’s level and used for self-gratification. Men think it’s ok to be a misogynist, to rape, to treat women to be subservient, to look at them with contempt. This sickness also allows the man to shame the victim of rape rather than the perpetrator. This thinking MUST change in every home and then only will things change in India.

In the Hathras atrocity, much has been seen, said and written. It has shaken us to our core yet again…making our blood curdle. Yes, she was a Dalit – a minority but she was a woman first. A Citizen of India. And something has been niggling my mind ever since: If our country is so obsessed with throwing the caste angle here, where is our Head of State…who has been mum even though he is a Dalit himself…not a peep from that office – the defender and protector of the Constitution of India.

Is it a crime to demand justice in this country? Is it a crime to stand up for women? There is definitely a crisis of leadership and how.