Of women, children and freedom…

Updated: Aug 10, 2014, 17:46 PM IST

Manisha Singh

At midnight, on August 15, 1947, in the words of country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, ‘India awoke to life and freedom’. In his historic ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech made to the Constituent Assembly, Nehru spoke about, among other things, the need “to build a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.”

It is 2014 now and one wonders as to whether ‘justice and fullness of life to every woman and children’ has been bestowed upon by this nation. At the risk of being a cynic, one can say that the answer is an obvious no. Needless to say, those who gave their blood and sweat to realise the dream of a free India and who sacrificed everything to achieve it, would be shocked and shamed at how vulnerable and unsafe the women and children of this country are today.

The question has been asked multiple times in the past and it needs to be asked again even as we celebrate India’s Independence Day – can a nation which cannot protect its women and children from the vultures that prey on them and who are lurking at every corner, call itself truly free? The question also needs to be asked whether we – government, politicians, administration, police and the society as a whole – are doing enough to protect women and children of this country and striving to guarantee them the basic right to live with freedom and dignity.

Day in and day out news of brutality and cruelty towards women and children hogs the headlines. A para-medical student gets inhumanly gang-raped by six men in a moving bus in Delhi. A five-year-old child is taken hostage, and raped and brutalised by two men in their flat again in Delhi. A tourist from the United States goes back to her country and narrates her harrowing experience of being subjected to repeated sexual harassment in India during the course of her study trip and terms her stay in the country as a ‘women’s hell’.

A seven-year-old child is raped within the school premises in Bangalore and two minors are raped and hanged from a tree in Uttar Pradesh. A lab assistant is raped, tortured and killed in Lucknow and a photo-journalist is gang-raped in the Maximum City while working on an assignment. A 52-year-old owner of a charitable trust forces minors to watch pornographic films and act them out with one another. It goes on and on and on. The shock, horror and revulsion of one crime does not even fade away when another hits us in the face, shaking us from within and jolting the insides of our being.

Did anything change after the December 16 gang-rape in Delhi which had shaken the conscience of the country? A tougher anti-rape law was brought in by the government but has the ground reality changed? What about the attitude of the administration and the police and for that matter the politicians and those who rule? The answer to all of the above questions is sadly in the negative.

Women and children (both boys and girls) are preyed upon at home by their own family members and by outsiders when they step out of the house. They are being assaulted by their fathers, brothers, cousins, neighbours, and teachers and just about anyone. It seems that there is no place where they are safe.

Year after year and statistics after statistics we see an increase in incidences of crime against women and children in India. The latest National Crime Records Bureau, `Crime in India 2013` report, will put anyone to shame. As per the latest NCRB report, 93 women are raped in the country every day. There is also a gradual increase in number of rapes - from 24,923 in 2012 to 33,707 in 2013. States like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh accounted for more than 40 percent cases registered in 2013, i.e. 994 cases. The national capital continues to be one of the most unsafe cities in the country with number of rapes almost doubling from 585 in 2012 to 1,441 in 2013. Delhi is followed by Mumbai (391), Jaipur (192) and Pune (171).

And data given by the Union Home Ministry in Parliament last month revealed that over 3.25 lakh children went missing between 2011 and 2014 (till June). This amounts to an average of nearly one lakh children going missing every year. The very statistics is staggering and horrifying. It is also said that the percentage of girls missing is higher than that of boys.

In another shocker, the number of cases reported on incest rape, has increased by 43% from 346 cases reported in 2012 to 489 in 2013. And the number of victims has increased from 350 to 501 in the last one year (2012 to 2013). What is disturbing is the fact that maximum number of victims is minors, aged between 14-18 years.

These are just some of the figures. It’s ironical, that even as the country is progressing in many areas, there is no sign of crime against women and children abating. On the other hand, it’s on the rise. This is a worrisome trend and points towards the decaying moral fabric of the country. Thus, India may have awaken to life and freedom on August 15, 1947 but how many more years, when her women and children will ‘awaken to life and freedom’ is the question we need to ask ourselves.

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