Sunday, January 06, 2013

Delhi Rape Aftermath: Massive Law and Order Breakdown Likely

The public exposure of the name of the victim and the testimony given by the crime witness to Zee News bode ill for public order in India.

As one of the assailants is allegedly a Muslim minor and the late victim is Hindu, the entire issue will take on a communal colour. Ethnic hatred laden remarks have already been made by people with a "bhoomiputra" ideology in certain parts of the country. This is another major fault line in the national social fabric and that could emerge as a separate driver of conflict.

A number of insensitive statements from the police authorities and several leading political figures have stoked public anger. The police and politicians of India do not seem to understand that there is no longer a "Lakshman Rekha" that women can be expected to seek safety behind. Very few leading figures in India have come forth and openly stated that this mythological notion is outdated and irrelevant in the modern Indian economy. Comments about "contractual basis of marriage" etc... and "western" versus "indic" traditions of women's rights are unhelpfully irrelevant.

As things stand, women comprise ~ 40% of the Indian workforce. Every Indian family has a working woman in it. Given the high cost of living in India, women have to work - there is simply no choice in the matter. The very notion core of the Ramayana - of a Lord Rama who goes out to work and come back with enough to sustain his wife Sita - is no longer valid.

Women in India are less attracted to the concept of the "Ram Rajya" because as many people have pointed out that Sita is treated very poorly in the Ramayana. One does not have to be a feminist to grasp this. The notion of the "Ideal India" for men and women in India is very different. The gender divide is prominent and women feel threatened.  Some men are aware of this and work hard to accommodate what is obviously the result of thousands of years of gender repression.

The most obvious consequence of this buried sentiment is a pervasive sense of fear among women - a fear that translates to their families.

Rape is the physical manifestation of this fear that all Indian families live with. It is this fear that has steadily found a voice in news coverage of the event.

As indicated by the testimony of Sudhir Chaudhary, Zee News Editor - media has collected enough first hand accounts of rape in India that it possesses very clear evidence of police ineptitude in these matters. If released such account could cause public confidence in police institutions to decline precipitously. It will be extremely unwise if the police attempt to challenge the media on this issue. The media has the upper hand right now and it is best if the mistake of the Delhi Police with Zee News is not repeated elsewhere.

If the public at large perceives the police cannot protect them, then vigilantes and lynch mobs will fill the vacuum left by the police.

India's national security agencies are unprepared to face such a threat. The intelligence branches do not have the human resources in place to secure against public anger or to restore public confidence in the government quickly.

At the present time, the dissemination of the victim's identity and incident details on the internet is very rapid. Blogs, internet fora and the public responses on newspaper websites are showing a large number of extremely negative statements about the Delhi Police and sex crimes detection in India.

During the Anna agitation - the internet presence of the protesters was significant - however the movement was focused on key public figures. Once the Government of India engaged those figures in constructive dialogue the possibility for a law and order breakdown was reduced dramatically.

The diffuse and pervasive nature of this anger presents a very significant threat to law and order. On the issue of sex crimes no such leadership is visible and no viable engagement point exists. The possibility of a massive breakdown of law and order looms in background.

I feel like I am watching a train wreck in progress.