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What Is The Truth Of The Brutal Delhi Surajkund Murder? And Why Is Media Mostly Silent?

Delhi Surajkund case: We have no safe spaces for women in this country; all we do is selectively outrage till the next big 'incident', and till then ask our women and girls to 'take precautions' and 'stay safe!'

Delhi Surajkund case: We have no safe spaces for women in this country; all we do is selectively outrage till the next big ‘incident’, and till then ask our women and girls to ‘take precautions’ and ‘stay safe!’

Trigger Warning: This mentions sexual violence, rape, and murder, and may be triggering to survivors.

The recent Delhi-Surajkund alleged rape and murder of a 21 years old civil defence volunteer seems to be just another episode, of the gruesome continuation of extreme violence that India keeps perpetrating on its women. She was deployed in the office of district magistrate in the southeast district of Delhi.

The case was first reported on 27th August. Subsequently just like previous cases of Aarushi Talwar and the child victim in Kathua, it got mired into several twists and turns.

According to the Times of India account an autopsy report has claimed that there is no rape, and that a man claiming to be her secret husband has confessed to her murder owing to his suspicion about her alleged relationship with another man. He also said that her family didn’t approve of their relationship hence they had to keep the marriage secret.

However, her family alleges that she might have been aware of the corruption going on at her workplace and hence was murdered. They also insist that she was also raped before she was killed, and suspect that this wasn’t done by one person but a gang, and other people from her workplace might be involved.

A developing story yet

Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code clearly says rape victims or survivors of other sexual offences prescribed by law cannot be identified without explicit permission. A violation could carry a fine and imprisonment of up to two years. Our law maintains that the name and identity of any victim in sexual offences shall not be mentioned in any proceedings or press reports even after their death. It is then up to the family to disclose identifying details in the public domain.

However, in this case like many others since the sexual offence hasn’t been established or ruled out as yet, and while a CBI enquiry is being demanded, her identity was made public immediately by media. Since then, the hashtag asking for justice for the victim has been trending on Twitter, and the case was being discussed at various social media platforms. Though the case is still under investigation, concrete details are yet to emerge.

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The conspiracy of silence from all directions

Other than the mere factual brief crime reports on this case, all major media houses have shied away from talking about this issue, despite social media outrage and protests by activists on ground. Most leading news channels were at the same time busy in cooking conspiracy theories about the tragic demise of a popular TV actor instead.

There is a famous adage in media studies- “dog bites man” isn’t news while “man bites dog” is. According to 2019 data by the NCRB (National Crime records Bureau) one woman is raped every 18 minutes in India. Are the sheer numbers making this seem like ‘just one of those things’? Yet we all also know that this number is definitely an understatement based on just ‘reported’ cases.

Rapes have become so common and ‘normalized’ in our society brimming with rape culture that if it is not related to a celebrity or event it is pushed in some corner and side column of page 12 of a newspaper and forgotten. In the same mindset we as a society also find reasons and conspiracy theories to blame the victim/survivor and her family.

Honour is more important; after all, who cares about the trauma of actual violation, right?

Sometimes families also hush up the matter due to the stigma, shame and taboo with it, especially if the girl/woman is not killed. Here, sexual violence is still sadly more about ‘family honor’ and less about the physical, emotional and sexual violation of a person. Our law enforcement system largely still gender-insensitive is further deterrent to reporting and filing of cases.

What are the common images used in reporting such cases? Either the actual images of the victim/survivor without their or their family’s consent, or a standard graphic of a woman looking down or hiding her face in shame. Is the shame hers?

When will this society hold the perpetrators accountable and stop giving these subtle messages of ‘victim blaming’ via popular media and reporting? The bad woman/ buri ladki’ trope is used again and again in overt and covert ways to let men get away with violence in the name of sexual chastity, family honour, and all excuses are acceptable.

The myth of empowerment

It is not only the media which is selective in reporting acts of extreme violence against women; the collective outrage from the society is also selective. For women who have other intersecting identities like queer women, Dalit women, women from minority religions, tribal and rural women, this access to cry for justice is also far removed, and often completely denied.

The assumption that only ‘bad women’ get raped and killed is also equally oppressive, if not more than the lens of ‘our women versus their women’ that patriarchy thrives on. Also, people often maintain that if more and more women get educated and financially independent sexual violence would decrease, and hence advocate all women must learn self-defense and use pepper sprays. However innumerable studies, books and films have depicted via research that this is not about women empowerment but social conditioning.

The same system not even once thinks about ‘correctional’ behavior for their boys and men. There is so much emphasis on “Girls must not get raped” instead of on “Men must not rape.”

Let’s ask the right questions

We are not asking the right questions. Instead of accepting that we have no safe spaces for women in this country all we do is selectively outrage till the next big ‘incident’, and till then ask our women and girls to take precautions and ‘stay safe!’

Let’s hope the victim in this case and all other women survivors and victims don’t become mere statistics or headlines that are forgotten in old folders.

We must never forget that violence against women is a conscious process of intimidation by which patriarchy keeps all marginalized especially women in a constant state of fear and hence compliance.

Image source: a still from the web series Delhi Crime

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About the Author

Pooja Priyamvada

Pooja Priyamvada is an author, columnist, translator, online content & Social Media consultant, and poet. An awarded bi-lingual blogger she is a trained psychological/mental read more...

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