Millennium Post

Does Delhi have its heart in right place

Lazy journalists like me like our reporting subjects deliver messages that are clear and concise, which do not require much philosophical thought and attempts at parsing. So when Delhi Tourism Development Corporation (DTDC) divined the tag line for their advertisements, ‘Dilli Dilwalon Ki,’ I thought that the city-state that is our national capital is finally on its way to get a character of its own.

For a long time you would not find Delhi – especially the New part of it – showing a clearly defined character. It could be this or that – time-serving bureaucrats or self-serving politicians and power brokers – who ordained Delhi with their presence. They were not really Delhi-ites, only doing time till they hang up their boots and return to where they wanted to go after retirement.

In fact, Delhi had the abomination of having one of its Second citizen, who was actually on his way back to where he belonged, made the prime minister by fate’s intervention.

However, ever since the decade of the 1990s, once the economic liberalisation programme was launched the city found a certain sense of permanence. This is when the children of the bureaucrats chose no longer the paths of their parents and embraced the private sector. And newer migrants made a bee-line for the capital city to work at the various business outlets, and began buying apartments.

Even though that may have been in Gurgaon, there was a sign of commitment to the city. The shiny, glitzy shopping malls and the PVRs gave them a sense of belonging. So, there could be money that could be put on 
‘Dilli Dilwalon Ki’.

But then, one wintry night about three weeks ago shattered the myths about a city that remains the place of operation for invaders, looters, conmen and yes, rapists. The 23-year-old girl, who now hangs on the conscience of all those who are civilised and urbane, and is like a dark, brooding, eternally damaged and existentially challenged, horrific image of what this city could do to its citizens, was raped and impaled on an iron rod by six humans who can barely be called that and who were on the prowl on the streets of Delhi, at the elite southern suburbia.

The crime of rape the six committed could have been called routine, if one was so heartless to consider that the average staple of any newspaper of the city, who cover crime with the necessary diligence of a morgue attendant, and counted it in terms of number.

But the fact of just the rape was not what shook the roots of civilised values, nor the act of gross violence they inflicted, but their bestiality that caused them to firmly impose on her a material object that actually perforated the small intestine and caused a gangrenous wound.

The tale’s heroic side was the struggle of the young, flowering soul that the girl was and her fight till end to survive and live a life she had dreamt of, and possibly, build a nest. Actually, it is beyond this writer’s ability to put in words the immense possibilities that a fellow human could fulfill in a life.

The tale’s heroic side is also the collective outburst of anger that the flash mob, which gathered at the sanctum sanctorum of political power, Raj Path, marching up the Raisina Hill, vented at this grievous injury to their body, mind and soul. They had put the government on the dock. This is what they have been taught all the while – that the sarkar
‘mai, baap’
needs to be appealed to if such violence occurs where their collective conscience is bruised.

Of course, this post-liberalisation crowd was not just petitioning the sarkar ‘mai, baap,’ like their predecessor generations used to, but actually challenged the authority that could be seen and heard, but not felt.

Yet, there is a nether side to it that looms larger than the heroic tale of the girl’s own survival strength. This was brought out by the unique chivalry of the man, who the girl had chosen as his friend. She had clearly chosen well. There had been reports that the boy had grappled with her potential rapists; when they had passed their lewd comments laced with venom.

But this time, after the girl died but the memory lasted, the man – he can’t be called a boy – went public with his observations of the day of their reckoning. He told of a city that did not have either the ‘dil’ or the ‘deemag’ to confront its own ghastly reality.

He talked about cars stopping and gaping at their naked bodies on the sidewalk, and driving away without providing any help; the policemen who were in the so-called Police Control Room vans arriving on the scene late and providing them help – supposedly first-aid – until another hour after that, a PCR van had the sense of calling an ambulance to remove them to the hospital.

The rest is history. What the actions of both the people (however many candles they may burn in the aftermath) and police showed, was a certain thinking process that is inured towards any kind of human suffering happening in front of them; while reacting to them when they see it on television. Then they are of course ready with their candles, living the TV images. For how long?

Pinaki Bhattacharya is a senior journalist
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