And so the girl dies in a land far away. Perhaps that is what she would have wanted; to breathe her last in a land that is not polluted by a Billion Bigots.
Horror, shame and guilt overwhelm me; tears cloud my vision and emotion wrecks my heart. But I do not deserve these civilities. Emotion is for Human Beings not for beasts like me.
In a battle that lasted an agonizing thirteen days, the girl showed an exemplary courage, an iron-will to fight, to survive. But the crime was so heinous and the violence so brutal that she did not stand a chance. A billion prayers could not save her for there was neither conviction nor clarity in those prayers. Ours is a society that objectifies women, commodifies them and trades in them. It is we who killed her and our prayers carried no weight.
In her fight for life, the girl held up a mirror for all of us to see our reflection, to see what we have become. And what a ghastly sight it was; spittle ran down our faces, there was devil in our eyes and lust in our hearts. This is what we have become.
And so the clamour for death penalty grows louder and shriller. Do not fool yourselves. There will be no redemption in that. If the guilty are to be punished, a billion need to be hanged. All our hands are tainted with blood. Let us not douse the flames of our conscience with the death of four other human beings.
She was christened India's daughter and it is apt. For this is how we treat our daughters. We beat them, we molest them, we rape and we kill.
And do you know what the biggest tragedy is? She is not alone. Every 22 minutes, a girl is raped. A girl is killed before she is born, the fetus destroyed and a life extinguished. There is female infanticide, child marriage, witch hunting, dowry killing, domestic violence, prostitution, eve teasing, sexual harassment, molestation, rape . . . and the morbid list goes on.
What ails us? Why have we become such beasts devoid of love and compassion, filled with hate and violence? It is not just our attitude towards women, despicable as that is; it is the hate and violence that engulfs us. Few years ago, in a cricket ground, I saw a servant being beaten with stumps for stealing a charger. People flocked to watch the ‘Tamasha’, my friends among them; not one tried to stop; rather they were enjoying the scene. I stood there mutely, ashamed at my helplessness. It remains to date my saddest memory.
We as a nation have plunged to depths so low that no ray of light penetrates our hearts and minds. We have committed sins so ghastly and heinous that humanity has forsaken us and gods have abandoned us. A Billion prayers are not enough to wash away our sins, a Billion candles will not dispel the darkness that so engulfs this nation.
Is there no redemption? Are we doomed to eternity? Again the 23 year old girl holds the answer. Her courage is the talisman that can show us the path back to humanity. But be warned, we have slipped far; the path is long, the path is torturous. Candle light vigils and prayer services are not enough. Speeches and essays will only go so far.
The change has to come from within. Drive away hate and violence from your hearts. Respect the other person, male or female, young or old, rich or poor, Hindu or Muslim. Let us teach our children Love and compassion, empathy and humanity. Give love a chance. Remember that this is also the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teressa. Remember the lessons they have taught us through their deeds and actions. And most of all do not forget the 23 year old girl, who showed us the mirror; let her be the conscience of this nation. If we do all these, we may have just started on the path to redemption and repentance, on the path back to humanity.