One can spell rape but not define the agony, horror and trauma associated with it. On April 26, 2016, Jisha, a law student from Kerala was brutally raped and murdered in her own home, her supposed safe space. The intensity of the crime has brought back the haunting memories of Jyoti Singh Pandey (Nirbhaya) back from the year 2012. The probe and investigations picked up pace a week after the incident, thanks to social media outrage by women activist groups in Kerala. Jisha’s life story has been a trying one since her father abandoned her and her family. The country once again finds itself in the middle of a shameful debate around delivering justice to victims like her, crimes against women and the rising levels of brutality of such crimes. Each of us would and should have an opinion on such an incident. We bring before you the opinions of Indian bloggers who raise their voice on different angles of Jisha’s case.
Can there be #JusticeForJisha? She suffered unspeakable horrors at the hands of the assaulters and lost her life to their brutality. The judiciary might give the death sentence to the culprits, but will she witness it? The answer is a heart wrenching NO. Yet her horror makes news with terms like ‘Dalit’, ‘Kerala Law Student’, ‘Another Nirbhaya’ and Kerala’s Nirbhaya’ making it into her life story. Rekha Dhyani, a blogger from Kerala brings out the shift in the purpose for protests, and how the original issue gets lost in the web of caste, religion, occupation and so on.
“I heard that many people (including women) had commented that ‘She was staying alone and must have provoked those men. She had to be punished.’ I am shocked. She was a woman. You are a woman. How can you not feel the pain she would have been through? How can you so easily ignore the cries of her mother? How can you forget that you are also a mother or a daughter?”
Hashtag #JusticeForJisha started trending on Twitter as soon as the news spread across social media. Happy Kitten, another blogger from Kerala talks about how this news missed its presence in the ‘Breaking News’ Section in spite of Kerala having 7 regional news based channels. Thees news channels did not feel it necessary to give any space to this gruesome crime until 6 days after the incident, that too only when social media raised their voice.
“Normally I scan for local news from newspapers, as well as from TV, yet I never caught this news. It never scrolled as breaking news when Kerala has 7 regional news channels. It happened 6 days ago and yesterday, the TV channel, Kairali commenced a hashtag #JusticeforJisha and only then did the rest catch up. Where were they until then is another mystery but let me give credit where it is due even when I try to forgive the political motivation. I scanned for an English version to post in twitter and realized that no other newspaper had given any importance to this news as yet. Maybe it is the election heat but it is extremely shameful and a very sad state of affairs too.”
A lot of people hitched their tweets to the #JusticeForJisha bandwagon, not even pausing to think of possible long term solutions to reduce, and dare we say, put an end to such incidents. Chilling as the crime may be, the more numbing fact is that this won’t be the last of such cases. Instances of assaults on women, especially those from the lower strata of the society is a crime with very few repercussions in Indian society. Reema Moudgil brings out dangerous realities of rape cases in India, the ideology of giving justice and the deplorable power games played through such atrocities.
“What happened to Jisha, the law student in Kerala, whether we believe it or not, is neither unique nor unprecedented in India. Brutal rapes of women in conflict hit regions like the North-East, in Kashmir, in the many remote Indias that seem to have fallen off the map of our collective consciousness are everyday occurrences. And we don’t hear of them because we are not supposed to. And no, the Nirbhaya case did not hit the headlines and capture our media spaces and our horrified imagination only because she was like us.”
The brutality of Jisha’s case is humanity at its worst. We shudder to even think what her mother must be going through after discovering her lifeless daughter. Issac Thomas, a blogger from Bhopal talks about how he was shaken during the Nirbhaya’s incident, how days became normal, how he gradually became insensitive to such stories and how again he is wondering who is responsible for Jisha and who should we blame for such repeated incidents.
“And now when I read about the rape and murder of this girl Jisha, somewhere the same feeling is evoked in my mind. A daughter whose father left her some years ago, a daughter brought up by her single mother. How much the poor lady must have suffered to bring up her two daughters, living in a one room house with hopes and aspirations for a better future, a better life ahead. But everything was shattered on 28th April when Jisha was raped and butchered mercilessly in broad daylight, with numerable cuts in her body and her private parts cut open. She screamed a lot for help, but her neighbours didn’t want to intervene. Respectful people of the society cannot intervene in such matters. Alas her screams fell on deaf ears. Her body immersed in a pool of blood was found by her mother, her daughter whom she fed with love and care for all this years lay dead in front of her own eyes. what to do , where to go she had no idea…her screams could be heard in the neighbourhood and in the hospital.”
Strange are the ways in which news is brought out in the public domain. The priority, intensity and importance is nowhere related to the seriousness of an issue. Certain news that have no eligibility becomes ‘Breaking Story’ material while the ones that deserve to be covered extensively almost never make it on merit. Anna George takes a brief account of the reportage.
“After the posts of a lot of socially committed social media users across Kerala and students movements, gradually the society has finally gotten up from the election hangover. But again, what is news without some spice?
Every newspaper, blog and website made it a specific point that she was a Dalit. The headings ran ‘Dalit Woman Raped’. Some papers ‘assumed’ the murderers would be political party members (so far the police have not made such a statement).
There were other newspapers that blamed it all on the political party currently ruling and used this as a weapon for the election. But so far, none of these news reporters or political parties, who are making a meal of it, even visited the spot.”
When it comes to such incidents, caste can never be erased from the picture, be it of the victim or the perpetrators. While most people from the lower castes are busy making a good life for themselves, the word Dalit is looked down upon and makes news only as a backward class community. The influence of patriarchal ideologies also claim their own space in the news reporting. Tarishi Verma talks about how such issues take away from the fact that a young woman was raped and murdered brutally in her home, and this simple fact makes it necessary to give justice to her.
“Rape and molestation and subsequent murder are crimes that don’t just violate another person’s body but essentially represent the power that the aggressor has over the victim. In crimes against women that involve violating her body, it represents how the culprit is showing where he wants the victim to belong to – under his/her power. So when rapes happen outside the home, in public spaces which the women are now freely accessing, it is a message from the offender that they don’t belong in the space.”
Women in India have been long fighting the battle of identities or rather identity crisis. Caste, financial position, level of education and her relation to males around her continue to be the benchmarks of valuing a women and sadly, this valuation doesn’t extend to her being a human. Nomaan Khan talks about the safety of women and issues relating to it.
“The sad reality is that if this case had victimized someone of a “higher caste,” it would likely have evoked much more action and emotion. If society still suffers from caste bias and considers poor people’s problems irrelevant, how can we expect justice?
Why should caste, income or social status be a factor in any citizen’s safety — let alone the nation’s women?”
It’s the age of open letters, and opinion makers take a call to voice themselves out through blogs, letters and campaigns. Mira Swaminathan, writes an open letter as an appeal of justice for Jisha. She brings our bitter realities about our judicial system, law and our evolution as a society (mildly NSFW).
“While headlines of various online portals and newspapers have named this incident as ‘Dalit girl found murdered at her home’ I can’t help but ask you, is that the reason why this incident hasn’t received its fair amount of attention? Why isn’t there a proper and informed discourse on the same over social media? While Jisha’s sister claimed that their neighbors were trying to evict them from their place, her mother said that they did not even come to her rescue when she was being brutally assaulted.We do have a sense of selective outrage within us because while we protest on streets and change our Facebook profile pictures for one incident, we reserve to silence in other cases. Now, ask yourself this – Will justice ever be served even after the culprits are caught?”
Promises of a safer country for women proved futile when Jisha failed to be safe even in her own house. We are living in a society where a woman is blamed for anything and everything she does at her own will. Jyotishree Mohanty talks about her case that has shattered the promise made to the daughters of the nation to not let such instances occur again.
“If her own house is not safe for a woman then which place is?
How many more Nirbhayas will meet such a macabre fate?
Is it the failure of our society, the state or humanity?
What is the guarantee that similar incident wouldn’t repeat in another town?
How many more protests and candle marches do we need to change the scenario and make our cities, towns, villages safer for women?”
There is a crime against women happening every minute in some part of India or the other. For every rape that is reported, there are dozens more that go unreported and unsolved. Empty promises are made all the time while women continue to live under the constant threat of everything from cat calling to being groped to rape and murder. Nivedita Louis, talks about how numb we’ve gotten to crimes of increasing cruelty and brutality.
“Every time it happens
We keep moving, nevertheless,
Hanging our heads in shame.
She is someone
She was someone- a daughter
A sister, a friend may be.
As she walked alone,
Sat shut down,
Her heart must have bled.
What knives didn’t pierce
Was the heart that beat
Crying for help, that no one heard.”
We pray that Jisha’s soul finds the peace that she didn’t get in this world and gets the justice that she deserves, at least posthumously. Speaking out, demanding strict punishment for the accused and laws to prevent such crimes in the future is the need of the hour for us and we should not refrain from doing that. Please share your opinions in the comments below.