As reported by Russian TV (RT), “a young Indian woman was hospitalised in critical condition after throwing herself off a moving train in an attempt to escape molestation. It’s the latest in a number of incidents that have exposed the vulnerability of women in India. The 25-year-old woman jumped from the carriage of a moving train after allegedly being molested by a soldier. The attack occurred in January, while the train was en route from Darjeeling to Delhi. The man groped her after she had visited the lavatory. After pushing him back, the woman jumped from the Brahmaputra Mail line train. The mother of two is being treated in hospital in the city of Patna.”

The data provided by official sources in India indicates that on the average a women is raped every 10 minutes across ‘Incredible India’ (this does not include the three out of four cases that are not reported, making it one rape in every two minutes).

One of the most gruesome incident happened on March 15, 2013, when a Swiss women was brutally ganged raped right in the presence of her husband. As reported by the journal, “a Swiss female tourist was gang-raped in central India in front of her husband, police said today, renewing the focus on the issue of sexual violence against women in the South Asian nation. The woman was on a cycling trip with her husband in impoverished Madhya Pradesh state, when seven to eight men attacked the couple on Friday night while they were camping, sexually assaulting the woman and robbing the pair, the police said. The attackers ‘tied up the man and raped the woman in his presence,’ local police official S. M. Afzal told AFP, adding that they stole Rs 10,000 ($185) and a mobile phone from the woman. The attack comes just months after thousands took to the streets to protest against India’s treatment of women following the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus in New Delhi in December.”

In our opinion, there is nothing surprising; we have, probably, not realised that the Indian culture has undergone transformation over the last two decades or so. The Eastern culture was abandoned and lead to westernised culture copied without much thinking and soul-searching. Half of Bollywood films and TV soaps have been cultivating the culture of hooliganism and rape mentality, where the villain or Khalnaik was eulogised as something big and symbol of muscularity. For the immature youth searching for jobs and identity in the poor neighbourhoods of Indian cities and villages, rape has become an expression of anger and frustration. As the yawning class gap between haves and have-nots is reaching a breaking point, the bewildered youth is becoming disillusioned and frustrated. On one side, we have some cultural warriors disguised as Hinduvta moral flag bearers, beating innocent young girls for not following norms of prescribed morality; whereas on the other side, are gangs of youth committing heinous crimes like the few described in this article.

New Delhi is unofficially known as the rape capital of the world and India is becoming notorious for being the rape haven of the globe. One of the commentators on the news of this rape, in The Hindu, had the following to say: “Disgusting beasts are roaming everywhere. We are getting the reputation of a filthy society where women are raped, tortured and killed. Gone are the days when we were boasting ourselves as a very old civilisation. If the things will continue like this, nobody will venture in our country. When will there be tough law to protect girl child and stop infanticide of girl child?”

Although India champions the women rights and democracy, the tradition of Sati has lived till not very distant past. As reported by RT, “India’s most infamous Sati case took place in the village of Devrala exactly 22 years ago. Eighteen-year-old Roop Kanwar committed Sati on the funeral pyre of her husband right in the centre of the village in 1987. It shocked the entire nation, and it strengthened the laws against Sati. Yet, the villagers of Devrala have erected a makeshift shrine to Roop Kanwar. So even though the practice itself is banned, the glorification of Sati lives on.”

The question of women rights and women equality in India appears to be an eyewash when cases of rape are combined with infanticide of the girl child. The Atlantic in its article published on May 25, 2012, described the female infanticide as, “thousands of baby girls are abandoned each year, an extension of sex selection practices that, according to a 2011 study in The Lancet, include half a million abortions in India every year. Most abandoned babies die, but a few are rescued. While the statistics on the number of babies killed or abandoned at birth are murky, the vast majority go unreported - the radically skewed sex ratio of children under six years of age is an inescapable indication. One study concluded that Indian households actually killed three million girl children through systematic infanticide from 2001 to 2011.”

The question of women rights and her ability to breathe freely in ‘Incredible India’ is deep rooted in Hindu culture and history. From Rajput women burning at the pyre of their dead husbands in the inglorious tradition of Sati to onslaught of a naked culture prescribed and promulgated by Bollywood to mass scale infanticide of girl children, India has to not only clean up its past, but also find a way out into the future, as the present is laced with the minefield of suffocating space for Indian women.

The writer are freelance columnists based in Zimbabwe

Email: vall_umar@yahoo.com