Guest post by – Neshat Quaiser

Gang-rape of a 23 year girl student in Delhi on 16th of December 2012 has produced an outburst of anger. The episode signified not only controlling sexually the woman’s body by force and damaging her physical self but more crucially it signified brutalising the body of innocence. The innocence of believing another fellow human being was brutalised. Wide sections of educated public have lost no opportunity to air their views on the issue. Vociferous insistence has been on punishment. Various forms of punishment such as capital punishment, castration – chemical or surgical, public hanging, lynching, quick justice through fast-track courts, handing over the culprits to the public, victim’s right to decide the form of punishment have been stridently suggested and demanded for the perpetrators of heinous crime. In order to provide security to women in public places various suggestions have been marshalled, of these most disturbing is the uncritical demand for the increased public presence of the police. Electronic media organisations as usual have competed with each to make a spectacle out of this display of anger predominantly by the middle class educated public.

Display of spontaneous anger is much welcomed but instead of taken-for-granted attitude it should provide an opportunity for critical reflection. But expectedly much of what have been said are commonsensical responses which have produced a thoroughly misplaced public debate reproducing the same stereotypes against which this public ostensibly intends to protest. The very intention, even without critical reflections, of the general public, however, should be welcomed at one level as it may signify transference of multi-locational anger, but what is disturbing is that even the informed educated people too have actively participated in reproducing stereotypes.

There is need to critically reflect on the whole episode. Here I will touch upon few critical questions that have been subsumed under this outburst:

Firstly, the strident demand for increased and efficient presence of the police in public spaces needs serious reflections as it would lead to further policisation of society. In the given situation an ‘efficient’ state with its organs such as police in any way is not a very good thing as it would further increase surveillance on all kinds of critical thinking and action which could conveniently be defined as threat to agenda of state and ideologically dominant groups/classes.

Secondly, there is unequivocal and one-sided emphasis on state and its organs as the lone site of the problem. State of course perpetuates violence is in many ways, but there is no mention of society’s doings. What is needed is critical reflection on ideologies that sustain relations of domination in society in which many members of this very protesting public too very actively participate. That is why much emphasis has been put by this public on the rape and quick punishment, and not on the vehement opposition and valiant fight back by the girl. It was not only a rape but also brutalising the innocence. The very fact that the girl opposed vehemently, angered the rapists, is some thing that this protesting public must pay attention to. This thinking is reflected in various forms in everyday life – in and outside home. It is the critical self-reorganisation for a humane society that alone is the answer, which would entail the critique of the state that perpetuates relations of domination in the society including gendered relations of domination.

Thirdly, there has been unequivocally vociferous demand for quick justice through a fast track court for this heinous crime. Yes, the case should not be dragged and justice should not be delayed. But the demand in the given situation is fraught with serious consequences as it would lead to bypassing the due course of law. We know that law itself is inscribed with statist agenda and crucially contributes in the construction of inverted truth. The logic of the demand for quick disposal of cases of such heinous crimes can have further serious ramifications for the religious and ethnic minorities, workers peasants and other disenfranchised sections who already are facing prejudices of all kinds by the law enforcing agencies. There has been growing demand quick disposal of Muslim terrorist case. The demand for quick justice and quick disposal of cases would further strengthen the hands of state and ideologically dominant social forces in defining what constitutes a heinous crime or anti national activities and that needs quick disposal. Such an approach would further diminish the scope of law as a domain of struggle.

Neshat Quaiser is Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

can be contacted at [email protected]