ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Understanding the Incomprehensible

Understanding the Incomprehensible

Can one understand the how and why of the rape of the young woman in Delhi and its brutality?

The horrifying sexual assault that took place around 9 pm in a private bus plying in south Delhi on 17 December has shocked the nation, provoking widespread outrage, protests and intensive media coverage. Politicians like Sushma Swaraj have predictably demanded the death penalty for rapists yet again. As the victim continues to battle for her life, this murderous act unleashes its most paralysing effects on other women, spreading fear, anger and helplessness.

Rape invokes the primitive and reminds us that the veneer of our civilisation remains thin and fragile. That is why there is always some aspect of rape that is beyond the reach of our understanding. But almost everything seems inexplicable in this case which is so extreme that it defies our comprehension comprehensively. Gang rape by a group of drunken men is hardly unknown, but how do we “understand” the mind-numbing fact that the victim’s body was not just violated but mutilated and maimed with iron rods, blades and other such weapons? The nature and extent of her injuries is such that it has baffled the doctors trying desperately to save her. The gruesomeness of this case invites comparison with the pre-planned attacks on women during communal or caste riots. But unlike the rape and murder of Muslim women by Hindu mobs in Gujarat in 2002, or the attacks on dalit women by upper caste men (most recently in Haryana), there was nothing premeditated here. According to one report, the accused declared that the whole incident was triggered by their anger at the defiance shown by the woman in defence of her male friend.

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