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Monday, 21 December 2015

When the clock ticks

In prosecuting rape – like every other crime - the legal system requires that the criminal be proved beyond all reasonable doubt, and thereby be convicted with strong evidence. In an era where trial by media remains a horrible reality, there is already a sense of antagonism to those convicted. In some circles, there comes a sense of conviction of the survivor – for being characterless, or for asking for it, for dressing a certain way, for being out on the streets at a certain time. But none of these factors truly justify why rape occurs, to start with.

With her experience as a psychiatrist and passion as a writer, Kirtida Gautam takes a look at the offence of rape: but this time, from the perspective of the one committing the crime. Set in the backdrop of the life and times of Rudransh Kashyap, a self-made billionaire and man of high moral fiber, the story chronicles how his life is shattered when he returns home one day to find that his prodigious 16-year-old grandson, Aarush, has been arrested and accused of being an offender in a case of brutal gang rape. Kirtida throws the moral conundrum in your face with this powerful question: “It is easy to say, “Kill the Rapist” but what if the accused is your child?”

The issue then takes an unprecedented turn. Aarush’s identity is made public on social media. Rudransh finds himself living a nightmare as he fights against all kinds of odds to get justice for Aarush, to save him and to bring him back home… But what if the unthinkable is true? Whether Rudransh saves his grandson, or whether he ends up fighting a different battle altogether forms the rest of the story.

India’s recent history is peppered with narratives of sexual violence. From Aruna Shanbaug case and before, to the Delhi incident and after, sexual violence has taken on a doubly horrific shade with the backlash against women through misogynistic quarters. Against this backdrop, it is relevant now more than ever, that the right kind of conversations take place in drawing rooms, board rooms and classrooms alike. We don’t want automatons of patriarchy to continue to carry its antagonistic traditions forward. We don’t need to remain at the mercy of self-appointed vanguards of women-hating. We need solid action. Action that comes from education. In a world that concentrates on literacy in the name of education, the need is for qualitative education that makes well-rounded individuals out of today’s children.  

With a rather sound assessment of the goings-on in Juvenile Justice, Kirtida makes you think. Until the date of birth on which one turns eighteen, committing the offence of rape shall beget penalty and trial as a juvenile. But when the clock chimes midnight, the threshold is crossed and juvenile remains an epithet of the past. Is it the ticking of the second hand on a clock that should qualify as the appropriate basis to determine how one is tried – as a juvenile, or as an adult?