Kavita Krishnan’s short speech outside CM’s residence.
Today we protested outside Sheila Dixit’s house… and demanded that she should resign [over the inability of the govt to provide safety for women in Delhi streets]. It is important to understand why we are asking for this in more depth, and also to explain to them [the administration]. Sheila Dixit has said that since the rape happened in a private bus, not on a DTC [public service/Delhi Transport Corporation] bus, how is she responsible? So we have come to educate her, that if there are buses in which iron rods just lie about, where monsters travel around the city in these buses, where there are no rules or regulations for the operation of these buses, where they can do anything, for this you alone are responsible, no one else. Today, if that girl is fighting for her life, you are responsible. Why was that iron rod lying in that bus, this answer only you can give us, no one else. You cannot blame anyone else for this.
But there is a further, more important issue here, that we came here to protest today but have also been doing [for the past few days]. When journalist Soumya [Viswanathan] was killed, Sheila Dixit had said that she was out and about at 3 in the morning, she was too ‘adventurous’. So we have come here to say that women have every right to be adventurous. We will be adventurous. We will be reckless. We will be rash. We will not do anything to secure our ‘safety.’ Don’t tell us what to wear. What time at night we should be out, how we should be out during the day, how many people we should have with us – don’t tell us any of that. When Neeraj Kumar had just become Police Commissioner, he held a press conference in which he said, what can the police do in cases of rape? First he said that most often it is people who are well known to the woman who rape her. He is right, this is a fact.
But then, shouldn’t this make it easier for them to be caught? After all, if she knows who has raped her, then it should make it all the easier to catch him. We are not asking the police, why didn’t you stop it. But we are asking them this: the conviction rate, which has gone from 46% in 1971 to 26% now, who is responsible for that? This tells us that there is a frightening gap, a lack in the police’s investigations…there is no procedure on how you must proceed in cases of rape. There is only one procedure that I think all women and girls standing here are familiar with. If you go to a police station and say that you have been the target of sexual violence, the first thing they will tell you is not to file an FIR [First Information Report]. People will come from all over, even from outside the police station to explain to you, “don’t file a complaint.” Until you go up the chain of command and say that you are from a students’ group, or a women’s group, nothing happens. This is so ordinary, there can hardly be a woman in all of Delhi who doesn’t know that this is the normal procedure that the police follow, not written in any rule book, it’s regular practice.There is yet another thing that Neeraj Kumar had said in that press conference – that women shouldn’t travel alone at night, they should have someone with them. If you are out at 2 in the morning, how can you expect that we [the police] will come to save you? Now in this rape that has occurred, it is clear – it was neither 2 at night, and there was someone with her. Now if a woman wants to be out and about at night, there should not be the need to justify that she has to be out because she is working, she is returning from work. If she wants to be out, if she wants to go get a cigarette, if she wants to take a stroll, this desire should not be made into her crime. We don’t want to hear this defensive argument – that women only leave their houses for jobs, poor things, what can they do, they are compelled to leave their homes. We believe that women’s freedom – whether it is within the home or outside it, at night or in the daytime, whatever she is wearing – is an important matter and this freedom to be, a freedom from fear, must be protected.
That is what we are asking for. I am saying this also because I feel that the word(s) security and protection in relation to women are thrown about a lot – because this word security, and all of us women have heard it from our families, our communities, from the principal, the warden, we all know what it means. Security means – you behave yourself. You get back into the house. You don’t dress in a particular way. Don’t live on your terms of independence, that is what they mean by being safe. All the patriarchal norms and rules of society are gathered up and given to women as ‘protection’ and we reject this entirely, we are saying this is not what we want.The Delhi Police has been running a campaign against violence against women. You might have seen the hoardings up near ITO…in an ad campaign regarding violence against women, there is not a single woman! There is a male film actor, Farhaan Akhtar, who is saying, Be a Man, join me in protecting women. So I want to ask, the brother who cuts his sister’s head off because she marries into another community, is he not fulfilling his duty of being a man, of being a brother? Is evoking masculinity part of the solution of violence against women, or is it the very root of it? It is very important to think about this. In the entire country, this is what we see outside the women’s movement, whether it is in government, police organisations, political parties, the judiciary…whenever they talk about the protection of women, they are talking specifically of a patriarchal protection of women. They are not talking about a freedom without fear, an unqualified freedom for women.
Our work is this – the work of these agitations on the street which have been going on and I hope they continue – that the answer to such events does not lie in CCTV cameras, in the death penalty, in chemical castration. Our anger is legitimate, but I am fearful of “solutions” like this. If the problem is the conviction rate, how will the death penalty help? The conviction rate is low because in your entire procedure relating to rape, you don’t take the complainant seriously. It is another matter that the rape legislation is bad, it’s weak – rape by objects used to penetrate the woman’s body does not even feature in the definition of rape. A significant part of what happened on that bus in Munirka, which was so deadly, so dangerous for the girl, does not even qualify as rape under the law.
Here there is one more thing I would like to stress – Sushma Swaraj gave a speech in parliament in which she said something that I found utterly disgusting. Highly condemnable. She said, even if this girl lives, she will be a living corpse. Why? If this girl lives, I believe she will live with her head held high. She has fought. She fought, and that’s why, to teach her a lesson, the rapists beat and raped her. There can hardly be a woman here who hasn’t fought in Delhi’s buses, who hasn’t stood alone in her fight against this violence. Who hasn’t felt utterly alone in these situations. I read in the papers, I don’t know if it’s true, but I read that when she gained consciousness, she asked whether the rapists had been caught. Her desire to fight is still strong, it is not over. We salute that desire to fight, those who survive rape are not living corpses. They are fully alive, fighting, striving women and we salute all such women.The last thing I would like to say is this: There are plenty of people who say in times like this – let’s not politicise the matter.
But there is a need to talk about it, and politics is not cheapened by it. The culture of rape, the justification by people from up high – like KPS Gill who said that rape occurs because women wear tight clothes – the vast number of people who say these kinds of things…if we want to change this then we must make rape a political issue. We have to talk more about what women are saying about the violence that is done to them. And the government will have to listen. Shedding some crocodile tears in parliament isn’t going to be enough. By shouting about the death penalty you won’t be able to solve this problem.
I find it ironic that the BJP is the loudest when it comes to asking for the death penalty, but states where they are in power, their own goons run about harassing girls wearing jeans, girls who have Muslim or Christian boyfriends, and warn them that girls have to be the carriers of Hindu culture and values, or else. We have to respond to these thugs with a counter-culture, a counter-politics of our own. One that demands women’s rights to full freedom, fearless living. We have been attacked by water cannons here by the police, and I have to say I have been really surprised by that. There are demonstrations all over the city, and surely the government should have some sense that this anger that people have is not going to be beaten back by water cannons and lathis. It is shameful that the government and police are ever-ready to attack those who fight for women’s rights, while presenting arguments oh behalf of the rapists.
To watch video of the same speech in Hindi, go for the below link-