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It’s only words

Perhaps the distance, or my circumstances, gives me a slightly different perspective on the gruesome event in India, last week.

The more I read about it the more two aspects leap out at me.
1. The fact that some guys thought in some corner of their brain that this was acceptable behaviour
2. They also expected to get away with it

And as I look at those two things it strikes me that while this particular incident had to do with the murder of a woman, the issue is more widespread. I believe it affects all ages and sexes. And the two are inter related.

Let’s look at them one by one.

Acceptable Behaviour : What is unacceptable behaviour in the country? Is it breaking a red light? Is it eve teasing? Is it an MP slapping a cop? Is it a teacher punishing a child by stripping him? Is it a father and son clubbing another biker to death with their helmets because they bumped into each other on the road? Is it Shahrukh Khan slapping some director in a night club because he was irritated?

As a nation we have lost the meaning of respect for the other individual. Respect in rural India goes upwards by caste. Respect in urban India goes upward by class/wealth. That is the only respect that is accorded.

Have we on FB not tried to bribe a cop or a government official to get our way, be it right or wrong? Have we not cut in front of that other car because we were in a hurry? Have we not tried to get away with it, because we’d not get caught?

It is a very slippery slope. Where is the line drawn? Death? Rape? Are those the only two ‘must never dos’?
Looking outward at the more developed economies, you see a healthy respect for the other person irrespective of colour, creed or any demographic. I have been on a quiz team in the UK with a butler. I have had drinks with waiters, cooks, salesmen, college students, cab drivers and the type in various parts of the US. Who they are has/had no bearing on the way we interact. We are two human beings, who at that point in time are complete equals. And that is enough to decide how we behave with each other.

In my school pledge in Poona, the first line read, all Indians are equal and they are my brothers and sisters. We all know that is a lie. We are not equal. I am always trying to be better than you and prove it in every way I can. And that shows in my behaviour. So what is acceptable behaviour?

Get away with it : If Salman Khan can driver over 4 people in Bandra and get away scot free, why can’t I? If Saif Ali Khan can beat up a fellow diner and claim innocence why can’t I? If politicians can steal crores of rupees and not even be charged why can’t I? The whole ‘do you know who my father is’ syndrome is widely prevalent in so many parts of the country. And sadly the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to get away with it. If you don’t fear the law then you have no care in the world.
Across the road from my brother’s house in the US, lives a cop. Not a big cop. Not an IG or whatever the corresponding title is. Just a normal everyday cop. He gets the respect that a cop deserves to get and no hanky panky around him.

You drive down a quiet lane and as you come to a crossing there’s a sign that says ‘STOP’. The area is deserted. Clearly you don’t need to stop, but every American will stop. Because that is the law. It doesn’t matter if you can get away with it. The law is meant to be followed, whether anyone is watching or not.

So while the event of last week is terrible, looking at it from the lens of a woman crime, I believe, ignores the wider malaise that strikes the country. One of fundamental respect to the other individual.

So if that’s the problem, what’s the solution?

A couple of wild thoughts
Thought 1: Focus on shaping the youth. I am focusing on youth because they are the most impressionable and if we get the youth sorted the generations that follow will learn by example, and the youth will keep the adults in check.

I believe youth learn behaviour from their parents, society and mass media. While little can be done wrt parents, can we focus on cutting out violence in movies and TV serials for example? Some of the Tamil movies I’ve seen show such gruesome violence committed by superheroes that I am not amazed that the youth think it is fine to behave that way. Just as smoking has been cut off from movies and TV shows, can the same be done with violence? No shooting, stabbing, scalping, maiming, slapping. Can we imagine a move with no violence? We’d lose many of our stars. We’d get back to the days of Rajesh Khanna, Manoj Kumar and Dev Anand. Perhaps banning violence 100% is unrealistic. Maybe it is some level of cutting back, but let’s look at the messages sent out by media and manage those to create a better influence?
Thought 2 : Bring in court martials. We can never go the way of Saudi Arabia perhaps. Also we recognise that the cop system is corrupt and it is well nigh impossible to weed it out. But the belief in the army runs high. What if every assault case was treated as an act of war and you were sent to a court martial. Quick hearing and sentencing. No more, ‘do you know who I am?’ You hit somebody, kill somebody you go straight to a hearing and are sentenced. I believe the way Uganda got rid of guns in private hands was by calling it ‘treason’. If you had a gun it was treated as declaring war on the country, which meant army rules applied. Result? Today no guns.

Wild thoughts as I said, but it is time to have all thoughts on the table. Thoughts that lead to action.

Tough times call for tough measures and someone needs to do it.

We don’t want a Singapore styled state. But we all want a Singapore styled safety.

At the end it come down to

What kind of person are you? and Will you obey the laws of your land?
The rest is only words.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Priya
    December 31, 2012 at 12:51 am

    Harish, pithily, pragmatically said.

  2. Srini
    December 31, 2012 at 5:17 am

    Well Said Harry…”IF” only we can instill that sense of respect for self & society in our countrymen, and stop the rot in our political and judicial system in our beloved nation, we would be the envy of the world..

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