We are a country of 1.2 billion people. Everywhere we go, sea of humanity greets us. Crowded roads, crowded buses, crowded theatres, crowded hospitals....there is no dearth of fellow Indians bumping into each other at every confluence of life. In spite of our strength in numbers, we are inherently weak. Otherwise, we won't have shared such disconnect and apathy towards our fellow countrymen.
Put us in a public platform, all of us end being a "stranger". A stranger, who is deaf, mute and immune to the happenings in his/her surrounding world. As if the deaf and mute spectator in all of us has taken a vow of some sort. "Don't act, keep your mouth shut and carry on with your own business."
We are so busy with our own business that even when we come across a dying man on the road, all we do is give a sympathetic look and move ahead. Yes, some of us are gentle enough to take care of not stepping over the listless and cold body which lies in front of us. Our duty ends. Let us not talk about our responsibility. It simply does not exist in our popular vocabulary. But when our personal rights are abused, we cry foul, complain that there is nobody to look after us in a country of billion people.
The tragedy lies within us. We are responsible for it. First, we need to look into our inner-self and introspect flaws. Otherwise, the six-decade-long Republic of India is in grave danger of falling apart. No matter how much we protests and raise our anger against our rulers (who are equally deaf and mute), nothing is going to change.
Our callousness or thick-skinned nature came shamelessly to the fore when the 28-year-old software engineer, the lone witness to the brutal Delhi gangrape episode narrated his plight in a TV interview. The male survivor aptly pointed out our "I don't care" attitude. After the victim and her male friend were thrown out of the moving bus on the streets by the rapists, not a single mortal came to their rescue.
Unfortunately, a large crowd gathered around the naked blood soaked bodies to witness the helplessness of the tortured souls.
"They were just watching us," said the male friend of victim, adding that after repeated requests, someone gave him a part of a bed sheet to cover his friend. Even the brother of the 23-year-old Delhi gangrape victim said the delay in providing medical assistance to his sister led to complications which perhaps led to her death.
"She told me that after the incident that she had asked passers-by for help but to no avail and it was only after the highway patrol alerted the police that she was rushed to hospital but it had taken almost two hours," her brother told PTI.
Wonder, why the witnesses were so stiff in their reaction? Reaction? Sorry, there was no reaction. It was only ossified and hard look on the eyes of the onlookers to a ghastly crime. It is the same petrified and numb look we see in the eyes of every Indian on a daily basis.
The friend lamented his failure to get help from hordes of passersby criss-crossing the road. "We tried to stop passersby. Several auto rickshaws, cars and bikes slowed down but none stopped for about 25 minutes. Then, someone on patrolling, stopped and called the police," he said.
Why there is so much of detachment and disinterest surrounding us? Are we afraid? Afraid of what? A flawed system which regularly victimise a do-gooder? Yes, there is no dearth of stories where witnesses are being harassed by law enforcing agencies. So, should we turn a blind eye towards all atrocities going around us? Perhaps, it is our silence which is killing us.
Our silence has become a deadly weapon unashamedly used by our detractors. It has given enough strength to the criminals to carry on with their nefarious activities with great impunity.
It is a regular sight in urban areas, where women are sexually abused and molested in public spaces, poor children are verbally and physically assaulted and old and infirm men beg on streets. The regularity of tragedies unfolding ruthlessly in front of us in a repeated manner has made all of us lifeless, bereft of any emotion. So, numb and cold we have become that we refuse to budge an inch also. Somewhere, as Indians, we are stagnant.
Now, we see protests and candle light marches across the country to demand safety for women and death penalty for rapists. A year back we witnessed similar protests demanding an end to the culture of corruption. Next year, we might find ourselves demanding an end to dowry related deaths. Our country has a dearth of issues. Every issue effects us directly or indirectly. Time to stand up and air our views.
Our never-ending silence is deafening. Time to change, time to speak and time to condemn the wrong.
Next time, when we see a fellow Indian begging for help, let us not ignore him. Because tomorrow it might be me, you and anyone of us in need of help.