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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Abraham

An Open Letter to all Young Protesters

Originally Published in 2013 for Progressive Indians For Change [ ] Dear Young Protestor, Violence can never be muted by violence. The recent act of brutality against the young woman from Delhi has left me distressed much like you. But what has me surprised is the reactions that have poured in. Clearly this young lady wasn't the first victim but none had taken up this issue before. Suddenly there were protests around the country with young people taking to the streets demanding justice. The social networking sites were ablaze with the seriousness of the crime and how women are so unsafe. Pause. Is this really news? Pictures of protestors carrying “Men respect your women not rape them” are still doing the rounds. If you thought holding a placard with the above slogan would stop these savages from devouring their next prey, Utopia would not be far away. You are standing in various parts of the country, Protesting. Alright. Against what? Are you protesting against the fact that a woman was raped? Are you protesting against the fact that this country has a disproportional ratio when it comes to police and the people? No. You are supposedly protesting against the Government. Again I ask Why? Do you expect that the government by some miracle with a swish of a magic wand will dissuade these perpetrators of injustice from their acts of savagery? A clarion call was made by a few “Interested” members of society stating that rape should now entail the death penalty. S. 302 of the Indian Penal Code, has been on the statute books for 152 years now and murders are still happening. The point I am trying to make here is retributive laws may make for extra paper work in the Parliament but as far as acting as a dissuading force, the chances are slim. I have no issues with the Statute being amended but I have my doubts on how effective this will be. The protests on Raisina Hill were not a display of the courage of the youth to stand up for themselves. And I know this because even here in Pune we had a similar protest. As a young person and as a woman myself let me just introduce you to reality. In a bid to get a few extra sound bytes the media has been effectively stirring up the people against the political class and these protests were anything but peaceful. A friend of mine living in Delhi witnessed young people attack a few cops. When he voiced his opinion on Twitter, he was effectively silenced by people who thought they knew too much and he was lying. And this is the moot problem. People no more want the truth. A few protesters vehemently stated that the police system is useless and ineffective. Has it struck you that in the process of standing guard at the various protest sites so that unwanted miscreants don’t take advantage of the situation, at that very moment you may have perhaps deprived another victim of a crime of timely help and he/she is helpless because the police are busy trying to keep things under control at these protest sites? If the police aren't doing anything what are you doing? Have you forgotten the Jessica Lall case? It is easy to state that the judiciary is slow but how many of you have taken the conscious efforts to find out why. Countless incidents go un-reported, many more cases are registered and then closed for lack of evidence and witnesses. The truth is that as mute spectators to crimes we are also guilty of a crime whose penalty isn't seen in the statute books but whose criminality is worse than that of the offenders. As I write this I am receiving a message that reads: I request you to boycott the 26th January, 2013 Republic Day Parade as a sign of protest. To the dimwit who started this, I will never insult my country for the pleasure of a few and for those who think that boycotting the Parade will help, here’s to remind those considering this a wise move that you are not wounding the Government or the political class but you are definitely insulting Our country as a whole! For all those who marched on the streets in different parts of the country, if you are genuinely interested in helping women here are a few things you can do: 1. Sensitise women to stop bearing the brunt of even the slightest act of immoral conduct. Most women refrain from reporting instances and incidents that have happened with them for fear of social repercussions. Embolden women to stand up for themselves. Even the smallest act of indecency must not be tolerated. Raise your voice immediately. 2. Sensitise men to understand the importance of women. It takes two hands to clap. The cases of young love- failures killing their lady love is an indication that these young men are viewing women as objects of desire nothing more. This not only a social problem it is a massive psychological problem too. There must be a remedy sought out for this. 3. Make volunteer groups and talk to schools and colleges to make Self Defence compulsory and part of the curriculum. In Pune a gentleman teaches young girls self- defence each day. Can we not have more such people to help? 4. Talk to the owners of shops whether it is your local grocery store or chemist. Make pepper sprays available freely. As on today a normal pepper spray costs anywhere between Rs. 150- 500. Can all women really afford this? You could make a difference by talking to the dealers and getting them to lower the prices of these essentials. 5. Instead of taking to the streets make a special appeal to companies and owners of workplaces which expect their female employees to stay late hours at work to start early and end early. 6. Encourage the masses to stand up against injustice and not turn away from the crime happening in front of them. The police must be intimated immediately. 7. Ask for police patrolling in the late hours of the night too. Apart from this there is one other point I would like to shed light upon. A few women quite vociferously stated, “We have the right to wear what we want, walk the streets as we like, etc, etc.” All very well but given the current circumstances is it practical? Even law enforcements will take time to buck up. Can’t we as sensible thinking women practice a little restraint for now? Cautionary measures are essential and practical. The society is neither made up by the 750 members sitting in the hallowed halls of democracy, is not defined by the law enforcements and can by no means be determined by the judiciary. Each system works in sync with the other. But these systems are pointless and spineless without the help and support of the people as a whole. Laws can be amended, Parliament and Police systems changed but what about the mentality of these human beasts, can they be rectified? This is why I will not register my protest by standing in full view of a television camera screaming “Stop Rapes and rapists” and promote my country to be a successful failure. Instead I will use my voice, my liberty and my freedom of expression to appeal to the conscience of the masses. Temporary pressure on the government will not give a permanent solution to heinous acts of violence. A progressive mindset is the only solution. The Mayans predicted that 2012 was the end. Yes it should be the end to intolerance, apathy and insensitivity. May the New Year 2013 bring in hope of a new tomorrow and an India that is free from the clutches of intolerant savage brutes. I hope this letter reaches maximum number of young people. I am one of you and I am appealing to you, Let’s create change, not just talk about it! Stop bragging about the problem, start finding solutions NOW! Yours in the cause of justice and peace,

Katherine Abraham

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