Parliament was rightly exercised over the gruesome crime against Hyderabadi vet “Disha” (police officially adopted this pseudonym long after millions had already chanted her real name in street protests, social media posts and newspaper debates). She was the victim of a spontaneous crime by four men who then, perhaps fearing the consequences of their actions given the existing stringent punishment enacted by Parliament with the Nirbhaya law of 2013, burned her with diesel purchased “loose” at a nearby petrol pump. The nation is shocked, and that was reflected as members across parties rose to speak their anguish of a young and promising life snuffed out.
However, Parliament expressed its impotence by wrongly resorting to bloodlust. “Lynch them,” said Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan — in English. Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu spoke of showing no mercy to the rapist-murderers, just in case anyone was contemplating being merciful. Both he and Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad spoke of bringing in stringent laws and nipping these crimes in the bud. Others used the occasion to settle political scores. A bunch of homilies which generated a lot of heat but shed no light.
The laws are stringent enough. Indeed, the law includes capital punishment which is of dubious value when it comes to deterrence of crime — nowhere in the world has capital punishment led to a downward trend in heinous crimes. Certainly none of the four accused would have thought that they might end up on the gallows when they suddenly hatched their plot, reportedly in a haze of alcohol. But as is increasingly the case, once they embarked on the crime and realised it could turn out badly for them, they burned Disha’s body. It was not enough for them to get away with it, but it highlighted the trend of rapists killing their victims so as to wipe out any evidence of their crime.
And still, in Parliament, they talked not just about capital punishment as a panacea for rape, but also of lynching. As it is, state-sanctioned murder is something civilised societies ought to steer clear of, and here some parliamentarians were talking of society-sanctioned mob violence. The test of our civility is our adherence to law in the face of the most heinous and ghastly crimes that occur.
As for nipping it in the bud: the only way to do so is for our glorious civilisation to overhaul itself. It is not just the patriarchy, or the objectification of women, or the putting on a pedestal the son by Mommy dearest, or our political leaders telling women what clothes to wear; it is a fundamental change we have to bring to our collective thinking, the pathology of which was manifest in Hyderabad lately by people searching porn sites for videos of Disha’s rape, or by the sight of families stopping at the site where she was raped and killed — for a selfie. Truly, we are a sick society, and no amount of breast-beating and lynching is going to change that.