Rage-filled protests continue in India after a rape victim dies. But rage alone won't stop violence against women
Four days after the 23-year-old woman, who died early this morning, was gang-raped in a Delhi bus, the headlines of the Deccan Herald read, “Minor Raped in City Shop.” A 15-year-old girl in Bangalore (where I live) went to the corner shop (we all have one) and didn’t come home. Her family discovered her there, nearly naked, hands and legs bound with her own dupatta. She reported that the shopkeeper and his two friends had teased her, pushed her inside, closed the shutters and raped her. The Delhi rape also received front-page coverage. The remaining pages of the same issue contained the news of a young boy’s murder, two suicides, a kidnapping hostage found dead in a canal, a five-year-old sexually abused in Bidar, two separate road accidents in which a total of seven people perished, the death of a militant in Kashmir and that of a civilian in Manipur, both during military encounters.
All of this in a single day. And it is only what the Deccan Herald had room to print.
What happened in Delhi has provoked, and continues to provoke, an outcry across India, as it rightly should. There have been protests and slogans. There have been vigils and calls for revenge. There has been, above all, rage. But rage is a peculiar emotion. It is incandescent and gratifying, but it is temporary. It cannot sustain itself, or us. It burns out and leaves us cold and empty. Still, day after day after day, the news continues to pour in, demanding attention, demanding further rage. And, gradually, something terrible starts to happen. Rage is replaced by resignation. We read, but we do not feel. We know, but we cannot bring ourselves to act.
We have developed, in this country, a capacity for living alongside tragedy and neglect and suffering, a way of moving through our cities with a firm clamp on our senses and our hearts and our minds. It is a deadness that creeps into all aspects of our lives. Garbage piles up on our streets, but we have learned not to smell it. The din of traffic is deafening, but we have discovered the trick of blocking it out. We step over feces on the pavement — dog, human, cow — without pausing in our conversations. We avert our eyes from the man urinating against the wall. From the child with the rheumy eyes and bloated belly. From the woman curled up in the corner. From the collapsing buildings and factory fires and army encounters in remote forests, from the murders and suicides and rapes. From all that is too much. We draw back into ourselves, into our homes, shrinking and shoring up our lives until they end at our doorsteps. What lies beyond is, to us, a broken world, impossible to comprehend or control, and so each time we step into it we are half-asleep, fully armored, already prepared to ignore what we know we will find.
But now and then, something happens that is so precise and so awful, it cracks the armor wide open. A young woman gets into a bus and is beaten and raped by six men. An iron rod is shoved into her. Her intestines are crushed. She is flung onto the road like a piece of trash. In a Singapore hospital, she dies.
Even the most deadened of us are stirred. Rage begins to quicken and flow in our veins. We cry for the castration of the rapists. We call for their deaths. We spend ourselves in rage. And, spent, I fear we will sink back into the habit of resignation, into our private worlds, waiting for the next thing to come along that is awful enough to crack us open again.
Rage is vital. We cannot do without it. Rage is what makes us spill into the streets, screaming for justice. It is what makes us pressure policymakers and law enforcers to do their jobs better. It is what makes us challenge the vile and damaging remarks we have been hearing from our politicians. But rage will not suffice. We also need compassion. Compassion, from com – “together” and pati – “to suffer.” To suffer together, in other words. In a way that will remain with us long after the headlines move on — and they will — to something else. To suffer, and keep suffering, in a way that envelops and yet extends beyond the young woman whose death we are now mourning, beyond the boundaries of our own lives, to cover the sum of everything we know. In a way that recognizes and participates in the suffering of the people we will never meet, as well as the suffering of people we see each day.
Compassion, unlike rage, is a daily emotion, requiring effort, requiring imagination. It is exhausting in its own way, but it will not crack us open the way rage does. It will peel us away instead, layer by layer, until we have nothing to hide behind, and no need to hide behind anything, and we can leave our houses and see, maybe for the first time, what kind of country we live in.
Madhuri Vijay is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She lives in Bangalore. More Madhuri Vijay.
More Related Stories
- Is the Environmental Defense Fund ruining environmentalism?
- Top 5 investigative videos of the week: "Winning" Afghanistan
- Jester clowns Westboro Baptist Church
- GOP: Party of crybabies
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Guantánamo prisoner on hunger strike cries for help on Twitter
- 3 possible solutions to international tax avoidance
- “I just want the U.S. to send my father home”
- Army weapons engineer tied to white nationalist organizations
- Ted Cruz against the world
- David Vitter's hypocritical, punitive, horrible new amendment
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- Could hackers destroy the U.S. power grid?
- Democrats may be even worse than Republicans at regulating Wall Street
- Eric Holder versus journalism
- A progressive defense of drones
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11