The story behind the horror stories
As I write this blog, I can see at least five stories on rape, violence against women and child abuse, among others, making up the news list on a day when there hasn’t been much action in the nation’s capital to report.
A 19-year-old girl in Madhya Pradesh was gang raped, a MMS of the crime circulated and when the matter came to light, the panchayat of the village forced the victim to marry the main accused – a married man in his 50s. In Kashmir, a 13-year-old mentally and physically challenged was abducted and sexually assaulted by her neighbhour. While in Bengal, a college girl has gone missing after a lewd MMS involving her started doing the rounds. The more horrific news from the state, which has lately been making headlines for all the wrong reasons, came with the disclosure of how bodies of four inmates at a women welfare home were buried under official instructions after they died under suspicious circumstances. Then there was the follow-up news on the death of seven children caused by a wall collapse at an Anganwadi in Odisha.
Some would say, such crimes happen everywhere and that in a country of 1.2 billion people these are rather aberrations than the trend. That the media might be playing up these things as there is not much happening by way of news. That the more dramatic incident involving the molestation of a young woman by a mob outside a pub in Assam’s capital — a video of which went viral last week — may have been just the trigger to draw the media’s attention to similar news from elsewhere in the country.
While there may be some merit in this argument, it would be naïve to suggest that these are isolated incidents and are not a reflection of a possible social crisis confronting us.
On the contrary, these are warning signs of a growing sense of decadence that has come to characterise the state of our society. Such crimes may have happened in the past, perhaps with similar frequency and in equally horrific styles, but some things have changed. A molestation was not videotaped and circulated; state-run welfare shelters didn’t become horror homes; a public outcry didn’t have to wait for a dramatic incident such as the Assam girl’s molestation. Worse, the political class was not so indifferent to these incidents in the past.
Over the past week, there has also been a spate of news reports on child abuse from across the country. From sale of girl child to children being tortured by their own parents, we have had such unnerving stories that one rarely expects in a country aspiring to be a world power.
All of these underscore the malaise afflicting new India where financial prosperity and technological prowess have mostly been appropriated by a minority, while the majority — faced with increased economic hardship and a resultant culture of decadence — might be slipping into a dark age.