On making India safer

We are hearing storied of police brutalities all the time. Human rights abuses by armed forces. Hideous crimes against women by their own families or random society. Abuses, murders and what nots. Journalists and activists being killed.

We analyze fault lines, debate solutions, apply some, and invariably all fails to create change.

One reason that comes to my mind is that we are always thinking in fragments. As though each problem area is an island independent of other factors. Then our action itself is polarized. Often along lines of politics, but it can be religion, location, class…. We have movements that surge, even win, but we are not able to “hold the terrain” that we win. They are sabotaged by those who wish, because like our thinking of the problem being an island, the solution is an island too – isolated, with few anchors to real life – easily toppled once the big noise dies. We remain futilely doing the one thing we know – making laws and becoming a police state in blind hope of a fix.

Today, an article in the Guardian calls India the fourth worst place to be a woman in. That is part of the picture. Another fragment. The full story includes that we are the largest democracy and second most populous country in the world. That isn’t just about worst place for women, but that’s a heck of a lot of women.

Our attitudes are primitive. While in theory we have accepted that women are “equals”, practically, that only means we have stopped opposing routine actions by women, “allowing them to enter the world of men, as long as they know their responsibilities“. Women on their part are becoming more like men to create minimal waves. Extraordinary achievement still meets prejudice. A woman in trouble still cannot hope for justice or support. And these primitive attitudes are everywhere. Its all linked. Might is right is so entrenched in our very lifeblood, that we cower in front of aggressive people, try not to make waves, exert our power to overrule others…. and see this as normal life.

So, the cops that are abusing people are born of us, they die within us. Also the Armed forces, corrupt politicians, vampire corporate monoliths, the woman burners, child molesters, murderers, and all kinds of abuse that “gets away” with what they do, because we “civilized people” are too civilized to get into a brawl over it. On the other hand, the Malad murders also show that it can be very dangerous for us to challenge wrongs without systematic support.

These things cannot be fixed by laws, or any other isolated action. They are already illegal. There are too many words spoken. Much clutter, no clarity. What we need is to find our own capacity to think, our pride in ethics, tolerance for diversity and unwavering insistence on the existing laws to be enforced uniformly.

I make an arguement in an earlier article, that we need to stop transferring problem officials. That article is about cops, but really anyone. Like anyone else in the country, a person unwittingly assisting murder should be prosecuted, not shuffled out of the limelight. Also corrupt officials and other troublemakers. Transferring is only a new blank slate to write garbage on and removal from any possibility to make amends. It lowers the risk of being caught with wrongdoing. It allows illegal actions to plague society.

Similarly, as society, we must examine happenings we come across and make conscious choices about our responses. For example, not interfering in a domestic conflict is also allowing abuse to continue – silence becoming support. We aren’t “doing nothing” we need to see we are “allowing” at best and “enabling” more likely. It goes for everything. Whether it is ignoring someone bribing a cop, or paying a bribe yourself. Whether it is driving on beside the malnutritioned child on the street begging for a living, or putting her there on the street. Or you may be the cool executive planning an office outing and selecting a vendor who will give you a cut on the bill. Every time we act like nothing’s wrong, we are reinforcing that “this is ok”.

Think about that.

We need more voices engaged in the country, leaderless voices whose knowledge of what they should do comes from within. Anchored strongly in a vision – not pseudo messages like that’s the truth, but speaking up that that is not the truth, and that is what we want. Changing everything we touch in the direction of what we’d like to see.

The reality is that we are nothing like how we advertise. The sooner we own that without shame, the sooner we can begin changing it publicly. Each and everyone of us.

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