The body of an unidentified 23-year-old woman was cremated at a secret ceremony only hours after being repatriated from Singapore. It was said that her name was Amanat, which in Urdu means ‘treasure’. Other reports disputed it. Her real name was not published, yet many other details were. She was a medical student, a promising, bright person. She had a boyfriend – her fiancé, and in February, they were going to get married.
They went to see a film, together – as people often do, all over the world; people living normal lives in normal cities. They took a public bus, or so they thought.
And then, they were attacked. Six men attacked them; six beings with the compassion quotient of a piranha and the level of dignity, of a pit-latrine warm.
The woman was raped. She was gang-raped. She was repeatedly gang-raped for 40 minutes, and ravaged with a metal bar; that left her with what was described as ‘terrible intestinal injuries’. She also suffered from brain damage and lung infection. The attackers injured her fiancé, although not as severely as her. When all this horror was over, the couple were stripped and thrown out of the moving bus.
In the hospital, she had a heart attack.
Her city, her Country, and her culture all failed her. In that one dreadful evening, India lost a young and bright daughter, and it gained a martyr, a specter; yet another powerful symbol of its amazing failure.
* * *
Why was the bus with tinted windows that are illegal in India, allowed to pass through several police checkpoints without being stopped?
Why weren’t those security hordes stationed all over India, for once doing their job when they were needed?
And why, with all those Indian doctors trained abroad by foreign money and aid, and with thousands of them receiving huge salaries for operating in private clinics, the girl had to be finally flown abroad, all the way to Singapore?
* * *
On 28 December 2012, the girl’s heart stopped beating. The following day, Dr Kevin Loh, Chief Executive of the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, spoke to the press: “She was courageous in fighting for her life for so long, against the odds, but the trauma to her body was too severe for her to overcome.”
As the last breath left her body, those who sadistically tortured and raped her, became murderers.
* * *
My latest visit to India shook me profoundly.
I spent exactly one week there, filming for my documentary with Noam Chomsky; the film with the working title “On Western Genocides”. I arrived on 9 December, and departed on 16 December.
I was probably in the car leaving hotel, or going through the Kafkaesque Indira Gandhi Airport security, or already boarding China Eastern’s flight to Shanghai, when the young lady felt the first blows of her tormentors.
For six full days I filmed and photographed the grotesque army and police security measures, designed to protect the elites in control of the brutal Indian regime. I also documented the remnants of British colonialism; its statues and monuments, so lovingly restored and preserved, by the present rulers in Mumbai, Kolkata and New Delhi. And I filmed destitute slums, and people left to rot alive in their multitude.
I worked in India before, on several occasions: in Gujarat during the violent days of 2002, in Tamil Nadu and its destitute Dalit villages; and in so many other places.
But this time I made sure to pay attention to the big picture.
It was obvious that ‘Project India’ had no heart, no compassion, and no moral aspirations.
And it has been fully supported and glorified by the US, marketed as an alternative to China’s and the Latin American development models. Naturally, there are no hundreds of millions of people in India who have been lifted from poverty. The nation has been abandoned to the most vulgar and primitive capitalist/market scheme, and then sprinkled with flowery ‘cultural’ slogans, in order to make the entire charade bulletproof and ‘politically correct’.
Not so long ago, one Indian expert working for the United Nations confessed her admiration for the American people: “They come to India, and unlike others, they are so kind and humble and they show such respect for our culture!”
No doubt they do, no doubt!
The US system and its emissaries always showed limitless admiration for any criminal regime or ‘culture’ that demonstrated a big appetite to deliver millions of its own people on the sacrificial altar, for consumption by the Empire. Serving local elites that in turn, serve the interests of the US (and its close allies) is considered the noblest form of servility.
Hundreds of millions of Indian people – ravaged and destitute – are the true heroes of the West, their ruined lives the best example that the Chinese and Latin Americans are encouraged to follow!
* * *
Vandana Shiva wrote on December 30, 2012:
Rape cases and cases of violence against women have increased over the years. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 10,068 rape cases in 1990, which increased to 16496 in 2000. With 24,206 cases in 2011, rape cases jumped to incredible increase of 873% from 1971 when NCRB started to record cases of rape. And Delhi has emerged as the rape capital of India, accounting for 25% of cases.
And then she summarized:
And Economic systems influence culture and social values. An economics of commodification creates a culture of commodification, where everything has a price, and nothing has value… The growing culture of rape is a social externality of economic reforms. We need to institutionalize social audits of the neo-liberal policies, which are a central instrument of patriarchy in our times.
There is also an archaic feudalist system; there is the disgraceful caste system, there is religious lunacy: all having a detrimental effect on shaping both social values, and culture.
There is also ignorance, the result of a chronic lack of learning and education, as India is home to the greatest number of illiterate people anywhere on earth.
And there is sexual oppression, associated elsewhere with the 19th century, or much earlier days; there are feudal sexual master-slave relations, extreme prohibitions on sexuality, medieval guilt that religions attach to sexuality, unnatural men to women ratios (result of aborting female fetuses and killing baby-girls); all that adding fuel to already unstable, explosive conditions in the society.
The primary victims of this state of affairs are, of course, Indian women.
In a survey conducted by Thomson Reuters’ Trust Law Women, a hub of information and support for women’s rights, India ranked with Afghanistan, Congo and Somalia, as one of the most dangerous places on Earth for women.
All 3 countries in the ‘club’ to which India belongs, are torn by brutal wars and have some of the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) in the world, DR Congo having the lowest (2011).
* * *
The death of the medical student triggered protests all over New Delhi, and rightly so.
But on 28 December The Guardian reported:
The brutality of the assault provoked widespread anger and demonstrations across India, focused largely on the police, politicians and senior officials, by protesters demanding better policing and harsher punishment for rapists.
And what is alarming, in several photos depicting protests, there have been visible slogans like “Hang Rapists”.
The state and protesters are now suddenly engaging in muscular talk about ‘better security’, about the death penalty and chemical sterilization for rapists, trying to outdo each other.
All this is nothing more than a ‘feel good’ approach, combined with dangerous and medieval revenge philosophy that has already taken millions of lives, in the modern history of the Sub-continent.
India does not need more machine gunners to protect commuters. They are already everywhere; on the streets, in the New Delhi metro and at all the train stations. They do absolutely nothing for the security of ordinary citizens. I observed them; I filmed them. They are there for intimidation and self-serving purposes, only.
And in luxury establishments and government offices they are deployed to protect the Indian elites and status quo.
What about the death penalty? It clearly does not deter crime; it only hardens criminals further. The US happens to be the only country in the West, which uses the death penalty, and it has the highest crime rate.
As a rule, killing people as punishment is nothing more than an echo from the brutal religious days, an idiocy that has nothing to do with protecting people or trying to make country safer.
And what message would it send to the society anyway, if only some poor and deranged rapists are executed, while professional mass murderers, many of whom happen to be glorified as ‘business mavericks’ or ‘V-VIP’s’ – those who are stealing billions from the poor and keeping India in the middle ages – would continue enjoying all that servile respect, proudly driving their Bentleys through the slums?
In India, elites can easily purchase both justice and silence. Would the rich, the religious leaders, the landowners, be facing death penalty for what they do to women, or would that hanging be reserved only for the poor criminals, as some ancient spectacle?
And here is one more angle of how to look at what happened on that public bus, in New Delhi: there would have been no carnage, no gang rape, had those six men been trained as doctors or medics in Cuba, or enrolled in Youth Orchestras in Venezuela, or in some theatre club in Buenos Aires.
World-famous Youth Orchestras projects have for years attracted kids from the toughest slums of Venezuela, to keep them away from violent crime, to make them appreciate hard work and beauty. And there are hundreds of great initiatives like that, all over the socialist countries of Latin America.
But it does not appear that the Indian rulers have any intentions in adopting successful schemes from the countries where the governments serve the people; dedicated to improving the lives of their citizens. Instead, they are continuing what they did for long centuries – serving their colonial masters.
It also seems that the Indian Government cares nothing about softening and making its male population, gentler. It either does nothing, or it threatens to cut off their testicles!
* * *
What India needs is social justice, education and optimism. It needs media people and great artists to join the fight for a better country, instead of producing depressing, intellectually insulting and often quite vulgar ‘entertainment’ fairytales and nightmares.
It needs to step out of its isolation and learn what is being done in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and elsewhere.
It needs its intellectuals to identify all that went wrong in their culture and religions; firstly in plain language, one that would be understood by everyone.
It needs a completely new, fresh generation of dedicated and enthusiastic people, who would be willing to live and to work for their country, instead of amassing wealth for their families, clans, and religious sects.
It needs doctors, willing to live by the Hippocratic Oath, doctors who would put healing above chasing titles and status. It needs dedicated teachers, obsessed with knowledge. It needs honest storytellers. It needs revolutionaries, ready to smash the oppressive shackles that are binding people to archaic, bizarre and illogical values.
India does not need to have ‘its culture respected’ – it needs to rethink itself, and a total overhaul!
Those who raped the young medical student should be tried, sentenced and locked up in prison. But above all, it is the entire system and its set of values that should be tried, sentenced, and put away!
Those thousands now fighting under India Gate in New Delhi obviously feel the same way.
They are fighting, and they should fight, in the name of the girl, in the name of millions of women like her, in the name of more than half of the country that is living through much softer but still terrible and continuous violence.
* * *
As I was thinking about her, I kept mumbling apologies.
So many of us, internationalist progressive writers, journalists, filmmakers, had failed her; we failed Amanat, flatly and patently. I knew it was probably not her name, but I had to address her somehow.
We did not come to India often enough, we let ourselves be intimidated by the self-glorifying and loud choir of Indian elites, coming from the right and left; by the slogans about ‘the largest democracy in the world’, by all that rhetoric about the ‘uniqueness of Indian culture’.
We refused to believe our own eyes; we failed to describe the obvious, to tell the truth about India.
* * *
I was thinking:
“Amanat, forgive me for calling you by a name that is not even yours, but the Indian regime kept your identity concealed, presumably for ‘security reasons’. What was done to you, made you somehow dangerous to the system… ”.
I addressed her in my mind, staring out of the window of Shinkansen, a bullet train, which was taking me from Hiroshima back to Nagoya. I paid no attention to the scenery. I was imagining New Delhi; my thoughts were with the people there, who were doing the only right thing one could think about doing under the circumstances –‘encountering’ police.
Before I read the news about the death of the girl whose life ended so abruptly, so unnecessarily, so brutally; I was fully submerged in thoughts related to the post-production of my film on Rwanda, and the ongoing genocide in DR Congo, “Rwandan Gambit”. The film is almost ready to be released.
“What they did to you is what they do to many women in East Kivu; in DR Congo. There, the war is raging, and almost 10 million people have already died. But they ravaged you; they murdered you, in the country that is called by the rulers of the world, ‘the largest democracy’.”
“It is said that to be a woman in your country, is as terrible as being a woman in DR Congo. It is said that for many, for millions, it is sheer horror to be a woman in India.”
Then I realized that just talking will not do; that I have to take action.
I then made a pledge – I promised to make a film on the topic, and to dedicate it to the memory of the brutally interrupted life of a young medical student whose name I did not know yet, and who was only being identified by a fictional name, which in the Urdu language, means ‘Treasure.’
Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific – Oceania – is published by Lulu. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear” (Pluto). After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website.All photos by Andre Vltchek.