Time, they say, is the biggest healer. But I wonder if this wound will ever heal. It was not just an assault on a helpless girl, it was an assault on our pride and our faith. We prided on the fact that Manipal was one of the most liberated places and yet the safest one. We had seen our girls in the middle of the night walking fearlessly from their libraries, or their rounds in the hospitals or even from the pubs unchaperoned. We never gave it a second thought. We had the faith that they were safe. Alas, that faith has been badly crushed. Will Manipal ever be the same?
Till now we only read such news in the paper. We felt sad. But the horror is magnified when it happens in our own courtyard. It feels surreal. Students come from different parts of the world and make it their home. But when their own homes feel no longer safe what do they do? Where do they look for comfort?
But all is not lost. From the deepest recess of pain, rises hope. What is lost cannot be brought back. What we can try to do is that this remains an isolated incident.
The students are naturally angry. They seek justice. Manipal has seen crises before. Each time the students have responded in a very positive way. This time is no different. After the initial outpouring of anger, a lot of sensible and constructive suggestions are being offered. Now it is up to the management to respond. There is no doubt that something positive will emerge. After all the reputation of Manipal is at stake.
Why do men rape? I have no answer because I am no expert. But I am sure that a rape is never sexual. It is that pathological desire to subjugate. Rapes are not restricted to the women alone. Anyone who is weaker is vulnerable.
We live in a patriarchal society where it is common for the son to think that he is superior to his sister. This malaise runs deeper in the smaller towns and villages.
I was once in a small town in a Principal’s cabin of an Engineering college. They were discussing a serious issue.
The lady professor was livid. Her girl student was being harassed by this boy who was now standing in the chamber of the Principal with his parents. He sent lewd messages to her on Facebook.
The father immediately assured the teacher that he would have his son’s account de-activated. I was aghast. What kind of father would offer such a knee jerk reaction. His son was harassing a girl. Fine, de-activate his account. He would then start sending lewd sms. Take away his mobile. He teased her when she came to the college. Take away his bike. Where was this going to end?
I failed to understand why the father couldn’t think of a simple solution. Teach his son to respect women.
There cannot be a reason to rape. The offenders have to be punished severely so that no one dares to do it again. But it would be unfair to vent our anger on all the Auto rickshaw drivers. Agree that many of them are rude. I had some starkly bad experiences. But I must accept that the number of good drivers definitely exceed the bad ones. Another point is that boycotting Autos is neither practical nor reasonable.
In my opinion, a tempered approach is required. The police has to do it’s job of nabbing the culprits and giving them an exemplary punishment. We, however, must concentrate on making Manipal a safer place. Any act of aggression will not solve the problem. We still don’t know if the drivers were from Manipal.
There are no words for the hapless girl. Any thing that we say is going to sound hollow. We can instead pray and hope that her wounds heal fast and she comes out of the trauma as soon as possible.
Manipal, it may be hard. But find a salve that heals the wound.