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Millennium Post

Let India’s rage focus beyond the immediate

While police actions are being welcomed as a result of public anger generated by the recent brutal gang rape of a 23-year old, such anger must be channelised to find sustained solution. True, it took a crime as barbaric as this gang rape to awaken the citizen’s humane and positive spirit. But such anger and the subsequent movement, as prompted by Anna earlier, often fails to offer effective action or workable solution. In the absence of a pragmatic compass, the prompt defiance of law and social anarchy can cause active harm to the humanity. Along with technology, participation of community and the role of government, the answer lies in humanising the society with a multi-pronged approach and in having a deeper role of parents and teachers.

Bereft of human values, education today is shrinking into an act of preparing for jobs. If we do not find a way to have a visionary and value-based education system to oversee the government functioning and judicial system, we are hard-headed towards a cataclysmic police state. If we are to tackle this problem effectively, there is no getting away from having responsible parenting and ethical teaching committed to upholding the culture of integrity and values in the country. Public reaction and the subsequent movement have to translate into restoration of parent-teacher reciprocity, righteous parenting and quality education. The void, partly germinated by deterrents on teachers on disciplining students, is making parenting and teaching worthless. Just as a teacher’s role does not end with academics, a parent’s role does not end with the child’s admission to an educational institution. They should be the first respondents of sexual violence, and should form the back-bone of multi-pronged approach, including of intelligence and investigation.

Crimes against women have engaged national attention like never before. We need to use this opportunity to seek solutions that will actually work. No doubt, pressure of public opinion is the surest weapon to push forward the agenda of social reforms. But, for this we will have to be more participative in our community life. We, along with the media, are often more than ready to blame the government. We do not realise that creating a healthy environment for women is not only the responsibility of the police or government, but f or all of us. Erosion in the values content in teaching, proliferation of the Internet, breakdown of joint-families is resulting in a cultural breakdown. Women today are entering public spaces in large numbers. They today aspire to a better and higher education and indeed outnumber and outperform men. Marriage, children and kitchen aspirations have been taken over by dreams of a career and place in society outside the home. Unlike earlier generations, they are no longer cowed down by society, not shy of live-in-relationships, not hesitant to speak their minds, and not ready to accept that they are inferior to men and must tolerate whatever is imposed on them. Family responsibilities consisted of two prime areas, household management and field job. Earlier house jobs were the domain of the mother and outside work assigned to the father. A wife, as mother, was answerable to her husband. Now, working women are answerable to her superiors in office. She, unlike earlier times, can compare her husband with the men in her office in terms of competency and status. Peace at home is disturbed by lack of mutual respect and understanding between the two. And the immediate casualty is the grooming of the child, especially in a nuclear family.   

While demanding a solution from the government may lead to creating a legal infrastructure that is harsher, what is the role of the educated middle-class in all this? The protesters need to understand that unless the culture of parenting and quality of teaching is overhauled, the prevention, detection and investigation of crimes against women would continue to be poor. Seen from all angles – the security of the common man, safety of women, neglect of elderly parents, juvenile delinquency, survival of democracy, maintaining the trajectory of economic progress and dealing with corruption confronting the country – we have to reform the mind-set of parents, restructure the education system and revitalise the teaching community. The future of India is linked to the fates of parent-teacher activism in the country.

One practical way to humanising the society is to make education motivational and holistic. As a long-term solution, we need to teach value and peace education both at institutions and in the family. The emphasis should be on inculcating ethics to create a duty-conscious society. A rights-based society gives rise to a culture of social anarchy. A duty-based society leads to harmony, solidarity and compassion. A rights-based society is based on the ‘we-they’ concept, in which we look at other members of society as they, not part of us. A duty-conscious society, on the other hand, is based on the ‘we-we’ concept in which all members of the society are an extension of us. We have to build principles of reciprocity between teachers and parents in the society. If a particular section of society wants positive human behaviour from others, they too have to behave positively with them. This demands a far greater effort from us than passing a few new laws. Let us not construe the problem as narrowly, in terms of punishment. We need to keep in mind that preventing crimes is as crucial as punishing criminals.   

Tushar Kant Mishra is associate professor at Ramanujan College, University of Delhi
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