Letter to the Hoot--more on first person reporting on rape

IN Opinion | 07/10/2002
Letter to the Hoot--more on first person reporting on rape

Letter to the Hoot--more on first person reporting on rape


I believe its the style in which Mishra wrote that made all the difference.


News story or short story?


When I first read Ambarish Mishra¿s article in your site, I was digusted. I felt numb and couldnt react for some time. But when I read it again and again, I felt anger surging inside me. I felt like going to Mumbai and meeting Mishra. Not to congratulate him for a sensational story, but to ask him why  as a human being, if not as a journalist, he didnt help the girl while she was being raped? He has said that "Burdened with our middle-class sensibilities" and thus had to be silent. What kind of excuse is that? How can one just stand there and watch a mentally challenged 12-year-old girl being raped? Would it have been the same if the girl being raped was related to one of the onlookers in the train? If it is so then what has our society come to? Anyone can feel free to rape anyone in public and get away with it. Now I feel insecure even in crowds because there is no hope left to even assume that the presence of a number of people around me can prevent a crazy, drunk rapist from attacking me. Soon we will see homicides happening in broad daylight in the full view of the public. The future holds a lot of scope for crime reporters!


There was just one rapist, a drunk man, not a huge gang of  armed rapists. There were five passengers in the train who were witnessing it and they all looked on as if watching a movie. Why didnt anyone help, if not Mishra? One may justify that Mishra and Vasant Kulai filed a FIR and handed the rapist to the police, but whats the use, the girl¿s life was already destroyed. A rape is not just violation of the body, its a mental and emotional trauma, which does not heal like the physical body. If one can understand the degree of insult and shame a rape victim will feel, only then can really empathise with the tragedy. The girl being mentally challenged might not understand that she has been sexually assaulted, but she would have felt all the shame that a ordinary person would feel.


Mishra has been accused of writing about it and Times of India also has been held responsible for publishing the story. I believe its the style in which Mishra wrote that made all the difference. He has made it sound like a short-story and that too a dramatic one, I must say. He has used casual and simple style of narrating a story, which makes it even more attactive and readable. I would have appreciated it if this was a ficticious story and not a real life incident. But when a girl is being raped by a guy and I see it happen right before me , ¿Sanskrit proverbs¿ dont come to mind. I can¿t say that I would have been able to stop the rape, had I been present there, but I assure you that I wouldnt have just looked on and waited for the whole thing to finish. I cant say that Mishra shouldnt have written, but he shouldnt have written it off as a story that happened to him. It has a deeper meaning, if not to him, to the girl who suffered.


I dont mean to say that only Mishra is to blame. The other passengers in the train who were merely looking at the ¿tamasha¿, should also be blamed. They should have made at least an effort to make a difference. But now its too late to even discuss it. Even if Shah, the rapist is convicted, it will not help in any way to change things for the girl. Her life has been shattered and all that we can strive to do is prevent similar incidents in the future.


Thanking you,
Yours faithfully,
Sreerekha Pillai.



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