Nirbhaya, Shraddha Walkar and now Anjali Singh, everyone has reported shameful and gruesome events from the national capital Delhi. The accompanying atrocities and graphic details associated with these horrors have been discussed extensively at the dinner table.
Politicians, celebrities, advocates, police officers and even ordinary people on the street each add their own perspective and angles to the rote debate. But it’s a tedious and repetitive narrative.
A sense of déjà vu is unmistakable, as the template for the latest horror flick follows a well-documented path of tiny details, public outcry, the usual finger-pointing, and then some hints of vested interests for those with agendas of their own. .
Essentially, the plot, formula and ending of each social outrage is the same as Nirbhaya in 2012, i.e., we fret until the next outrage drains us of pointless verbosity and passion again.
In addition to the brutal insensitivity of the criminals involved and the obvious dereliction of duty of the police, the broader social regression, indifference and even revisionism are obvious and shocking.
So, who defines or influences these dark winds that blow? In a word, leadership ~ political leadership, religious leadership, and all other important positions of social impact.
If the “leaders” can talk and walk the hard path of meaningful social reform, instead of pandering to populist positions and sentiments, things will change.
The eternal problem of Indian populism is at its peak as there is a political frenzy that “beats” the persuasion of other parties with reckless nativism, reinterpreted “culturality” and retaliatory notions of justice – all from The authoritarian playbook.
Social media is flooded with thinly veiled superficial “cultural” chauvinist comments questioning women’s right to go out partying or walking late at night, as happened in Anjali or even Nirbhaya case~ if it is a valid concern regardless gender, but apparently not. Supreme Court Justice BV Nagarathna had the foresight that “respect for women is an important value in society and must be instilled in the minds of young boys as this will go a long way towards ensuring the safety of women in the country”.
But such sage advice hampers downright sexist comments on wealthy urban women like “par kati mahilayen”, i.e. women with short hair (10th MP from Bihar) or the more vile “ladke, ladke hain”… … galti ho jati hai’ or boys will be boys…they made mistakes (by three term chief minister and ironically defense minister).
It appears that this backwards stance is more conducive to political and leadership opportunities. Populism is inherent as this toxic stance seeks to position emancipated women as an elite group unworthy of “culture.”
The next failure of leadership is to constantly invoke populism instead of more reform discourse, twisting raw social sentiment into unbridled vindictiveness that diverts and fuels other phenomena like lynching and vigilanteism instead of the rule of law.
Chattering about “hanging criminals,” “letting criminals parade” (says one current chief minister) or “shooting criminals in the streets” sounds like medieval justice in some emirates and may appeal to wounded emotions instinctively, but the actual The world is doing immeasurable harm by weaponizing society and its discourse. In times like these, unhinged politicians don’t waste time on the symbol of the “blindfolded female judge” holding the scales of justice, but try to proudly position “The Bulldozer” as a tool for powerful social action. symbol. Ironically, the “blindfolded female judge” itself suggests impartiality, not the location chosen specifically for the bulldozer. When unconstitutionality is normalized and heroized, societies automatically become violent.
The national leadership has done little to reform policing (most importantly, decoupling law and order from the control of politicians), judicial reform (judicial vacancies continue despite staggering caseloads), or political constraints/ Reform (every day allows for more complex forms of “hate speech” with silence, dog whistles and innuendo).
While there is enormous enthusiasm for “rewriting” and “correcting” the history of the land in school syllabi across the country, there is no such enthusiasm for instilling social freedom and inclusion in countless social “others,” whether in religion or religion. Aspects, race, gender, orientation or ability are equally hotly discussed. If anything, every such incident is denied any reasonable opportunity to suggest a partisan point of relevance/differentiation, e.g. in the case of Shraddha Walkar, the culprit religious affiliation was used to blame the wantonness of the community presumptuous.
A well-planned, signaled, and protected universe conveniently dubbed “Fringe Elements” (with specious denials of any official connection) and a handy army of trolls are reserved to sew up and then dial in a universe full of implicits. A storyline of accusations and hate-mongering.
In a pluralistic society like ours, populism is a bull’s curse because it can easily undermine hard-won reforms and oppose the inclusive constitutional spirit. Populist politics also normalize age-old stereotypes and perpetuate the rights of minorities. The Anjali Singh case brought disgrace to Delhi after the Nirbhaya case and clearly no lesson has been learned for a decade.
In a symbolic reflection of that era, the government set up a Nirbhaya fund for “the empowerment, safety and security of women and girls”, which remains underutilized according to a 2021 report by NGO Oxfam India and exploit (Oxfam itself has been facing raids and other restrictions later on due to unrelated issues).
Meanwhile, TV channels trumpeted “breaking news” detailing the case, sanctimonious panelists discussed the issue disgustingly, and there was little or no pressure from leadership to change course or reform the system.
The parallel drama of the color of an actor’s clothing surface and the equally strong emotions piled upon it are sad reminders of the triumph of populist politics rather than the spirit of constitutionalism and reform.