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Writing Section

February 3, 2014 in Uncategorized


The gang-rape of a young woman in the national capital shook urban India. In the surcharged atmosphere there was more anger and less reason. Impatient young people demanded not only instant justice but also the death penalty and chemical castration, which were clearly out of sync with the spirit of modern times and democratic and human rights traditions. Forced to act to quell popular discontent, the government set up a three-member committee to look into possible changes in criminal law to ensure quicker trials and severer punishment for sexual assault of women. The committee comprising Justice (Retd) J S Verma, former chief justice of India, Justice (Retd) Leila Seth, former chief justice of Himachal Pradesh, and Gopal Subramanian, former solicitor general of India, submitted its report within 30 days. Also Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised that his government “will be prompt in pursuing“the committee’s recommendations. But I strongly feel – No matter how good laws are on paper, they mean little if it takes years to punish a person accused of rape. The committee has rightly pointed out that existing laws are enough; they just need to be implemented properly and quickly. We need to understand that it was not just the failure of the government and its police and legal system. It was a collective failure of the Indian people. Those who commit offences are from this society. They are growing up in a system which has been unjust to women. Everyone wants someone else to fix the problem. No citizen wants to take the responsibility for doing his bit. The committee was pained to note that no one came forward to help the injured victim as she lay bleeding on the road. I feel that there is a great dependence on government and laws to solve social problems. At best the laws can enable change. Laws are tools for change but they cannot on their own bring about change. The need of the hour is to take steps to change the mindset of the people of our country. The committee’s recommendations include drastic changes in what is being taught to children in schools. There is a need to catch them young. Give the right inputs and gender sensitive values to children so that they grow up to be good citizens who respect women and do not indulge in sexual violence of any sort. In the short term there is an urgent need to fix the legal and judicial problem. Change the laws where necessary to make them effective and change the judicial system and courts so that there is no delay in punishing the guilty. In the long term there is a strong need to change the mindset of the people. That has to start from schools. Citizens cannot leave everything to the government and the laws. It is the people who run the government, its police departments and its courts. It boils down to people – citizens like you and me, our parents, relatives, friends and acquaintances around us, political leaders, police officers, judges and, of course, teachers.