The Beast Within

Newspapers these days are crammed with innumerable cases of murders, rapes, extortion and child abuse. Hardly a day goes by, when one doesn’t read about the murky details of one crime or the other. But why do certain cases stand imprinted in our memory. These cases either stand out due to acts of extreme depravity or due to the nature of the crime itself. But the crimes that really shake us to our core are the ones that are depraved and ones, which could happen to any one of us. These are crimes committed against ordinary people in ordinary circumstances. These could happen to you or me while doing any of the normal routine chores that we go about doing, during our day.

Delhi’s rape incident was one such case, extremely brutal and depraved, it happened to a woman who could be any one of us, in an extremely ordinary turn of events. What could be more ordinary than boarding a public bus after a movie at a not-so-late hour, with a companion?

If we take the case of the rape or of the recent shootings in Connecticut, they clearly point to the handiwork of some depraved individuals. One school of thought propagates that terming the perpetrator of a crime as ‘depraved’ creates a divide by which the larger populace alienates itself from the perpetrator, thereby providing not much leeway for the community to rectify itself as a whole.

The person doesn’t become depraved after committing an act of crime. There is no metamorphosis that suddenly happens and transforms an apparently normal individual to a deviant personality. The individual had these traits in him even before anything happens. It is just that a crime brings it to the spotlight. These are passive tendencies, which come to the fore when the opportunity presents itself. Tomorrow, it could be the friendly neighborhood grocer, the milkman, colleague at office or any of the people we meet in our day-to-day lives. They are ‘normal’ people and in one sudden shocking instance, they become ‘abnormal’ and are ostracized from the society and categorized as being ‘depraved’. The point here is that the ‘depravity mindset’ exists in us and amidst us.

Painting by William Blake
Curtsey: Wikipedia

While there is no denying the need to impose much harsher and stricter punishments coupled with a swifter judicial system, I would liken it to a leash restraining a rabid dog. The leash will restrain the dog but the dog will attack at the slightest chance if the opportunity presents itself. The leash doesn’t cure the dog.
Even assuming that the perpetrator was actually ‘depraved’ and mentally unstable, the question which begs an answer is why the society is producing more and more of these kinds of ‘depraved’ individuals. As a society are we an accomplice to producing individuals with personalities more tuned to committing violence on women?

In a country, where women routinely face physical and mental torture in the hands of their own family, cases of rapes might just be extensions of the mindset that has already conditioned itself to adhere to subjugation of women.
Even an apparently innocent statement saying ‘This is not a girl’s job’ , will provide the foundation in the mind of a child who will later grow up with preconditioned notions of what women should or should not do. When conditioning like these are provided to a growing child on a routine basis through different channels, the message gets re-affirmed over and over again. The problem of objectifying /sexualizing women or treating them as a commodity then just becomes a continuation of their already established beliefs.
Every instance of a dowry being given/taken, a girl being denied education, stereotyping a woman’s roles, establishing male dominated control structures, lends to the overall psyche of a society which is geared to produce the so called ‘deviant’ individuals.

The crimes should not be viewed as isolated incidents committed by people who are not part of the society but viewed as offshoots or grotesque manifestations of a wound that is festering within us. It is this malaise that needs to be cured.

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16 thoughts on “The Beast Within

  1. “As a society are we an accomplice to producing individuals with personalities more tuned to committing violence on women?” A very important question indeed…”The crimes should not be viewed as isolated incidents committed by people who are not part of the society but viewed as offshoots or grotesque manifestations of a wound that is festering within us. It is this malaise that needs to be cured.” couldn’t agree with you more….

    1. Thanks Rohit ! It is like a stone on a riverbed which slowly loses its roughness over a period of time..the psyche change wont happen overnight.. but the message needs to be again and again emphasized and probably over a couple of decades we might evolve..

  2. It is a deep rooted, hydra-headed malaise that will have to checked at various levels. Indeed, as you say, a through overhaul of our male-dominated ethos is the need of the hour. But such changes do not happen overnight. While gentle but firm corrections are required at every level, the role of deterrence can never be played down. For sanity’s sake, the case such as this will have to be treated differently. Applying the existing laws is like fitting a rectangle into a circular slot. What kind of witness is needed for a monstrosity like rape but medical evidence like DNA etc. What if it is a child? And it has to be swift, a maximum of two months. And yes, the delinquents must be hanged within that period. And this should apply to every male 15 years of age and above. They all know it well enough. And it is a folly to identify a ‘main culprit’. Each and every participant should be made equally liable.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Umashankar.
      The deed is indeed so heinous that capital punishment is first thing which comes to mind. But, our country has never been very quick on capital punishments even for mass killings and have deferred them till it becomes unavoidable. We also have to consider when we talk about capital punishment, do we mean all rapes including rapes within a marriage, underage rape etc or do we mean only rapes which are accompanied by torture. If we consider torture, then many more things come under the purview like burning a bride which may have resulted in 80 to 90 % burns but may not have caused death. The problem is the subjectivity..as the supreme court also said about the high rate of subjectivity which exists within our judicial systems leaving it to the judge’s interpretation of the same. In this case, it has already gained sufficient media/public attention but there might be many others which might not be in media glare.

      I had written a post about the whole capital punishment issue some time back which might interest you..
      https://themoonstone.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/crime-and-punishment/
      Do check it when you find time and I would be interested to know what you think..

      1. I read your article, Moonstone. We are a modern world compared to the dark ages or the ‘Middle-earth’. Yet a serious chunk of the latter seems to be co-existing with the modernity today. Ideally, the unenlightened should be brought to light. As the Upnishad says, ‘tamaso mā jyotir gamaya,’ I don’t see that happening. Hell, there could be even a reverse exodus!

        Yet, retribution was quick even in those undeveloped times. More than ‘removing the filth’ from the face of the earth expeditiously, it is the deterrence of the punishment which has relevance today. The agonisingly slow judicial system is seeing to it that even if the retribution comes, it has no meaning. Justice delayed is justice denied. And if I may be allowed to amend the adage, Retribution delayed is deterrence wasted.

        Carry on the show, crusader!

      2. Thanks for reading the article Umashankar ! Yes definitely. Retribution has to be swift and should act as a deterrent. Those actionables which can be implemented in the short term should definitely be done at the earliest.Strengthening the judicial system and taking practical steps in that direction is definitely do-able. For actually bringing about a psyche change, its going to take a long time.
        Unfortunately people involved in the judicial system itself need a psyche change as just today I read this link and was quite repulsed by it.
        http://www.firstpost.com/living/from-the-delhi-police-six-reasons-why-women-deserve-to-be-raped-269957.html

  3. PhillyGuy

    Just a minor but significant correction. It wasn’t a public bus. The lady and her friend were waiting for one, when this private bus came along. With tinted glasses and curtains, and offered them a cheap ride. How I wish alarm bells would have rung in their heads. Perhaps the girl had her guard down because she had company. Don’t know. Can’t second guess. I suppose nobody can anticipate evil and depravity like this. Two decades out of Delhi, I still wouldn’t board a private vehicle like that…actually anywhere not just Delhi.

    You are very right about women being treated as objects btw. That is a deeply ingrained cultural challenge that will take a generation to rectify! India is in trouble otherwise.

    1. Good point ! Yes, it was a private vehicle and yes, wish in retrospect alarm bells could have rung.. you can never be too careful these days considering that you are the only person who can help yourself. So many crimes happen in public where bystanders stand and look or even take part in this themselves. Only thing which can save you is to keep yours wits about you and do what you can to survive.
      Actually another point which I kept thinking about.. if one is ever god forbid caught in a situation where there’s no way out.. just keep your senses and think of saving your life.. everything else is secondary..

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  5. Actually, I always say we need to work on our morals, which would eventually help in every aspect of society but as they say, it is easier said than done. Witnessing what is happening on daily basis, we are nowhere close to being morally stable or educated. Putting a blame game or reasoning with crime is no solution. Neither fancy things like candle light march or petition, high time we set some strict precedents.

    1. Completely agree. But social media, candle light marches etc create awareness which is very much needed to act as a catalyst for change. But the change is something else entirely – steps which are both preventive and retributive. Steps which we all need to take as a society poised on the edge of modernity and conservative thinking where traditionally it was a man’s stronghold.

  6. (We seem to have run out the Reply thread!)

    Read the link you provided. Unfortunately, and God forbid, but people like Dharamveer Singh will not feel the impact until someone close to him gets devastated. I am sorry to have said this but then there doesn’t seem to be an alternate prognosis.

    1. True.Its shocking. And I am not sure whether even then somebody like that will feel an impact coz, it could be put down to loose character and will be taken care of by an honor killing. Sorry to say, but people like that cannot truly be ‘related’ to any woman.

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    1. Phillyguy

      It was a chartered bus that did school shifts. So yes, this monster drover kids to school. Gives one pause doesn’t it? Such are the times.

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