CONNECTED BY AKSHAY: WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA

 

I had absolutely no intention of writing on my blog this month. In trying to make conscious efforts to live life more like how it was, before Akshay had to leave, our social calendar has been made a lot busier. I also felt I should reach out to all of you only over issues that touch a chord. Not to repeat what has already been shared, but to connect us for something more purposeful.

That decision to not write changed suddenly last night when Kiran, a young reader of my blog, suddenly reached out to say how upset she was over a whatsapp forward of a Map of India. Her anguish is over an image that was being rapidly spread among young impressionable youth. Horrified over the image set as the profile picture of a junior colleague, She sent a message saying ‘Maam, because of some filthy characters who rape, we cannot demean a country’s Map. The Map represents stories of unsung heroes who gave their lives to uphold its territorial integrity.’

We have all seen multiple maps of India- geographical, creative cultural depictions and some patriotic ones with the Tiranga. When she forwarded this particular picture to me, I was so shocked that for a while, I couldn’t even bring myself to look closely at it. When I did, I agreed with Kiran. While I cannot bring myself to share that picture with you all, let me try and describe it so you can imagine and visualize it on your own.

A tiny outline map of our beloved country is positioned between a pair of female legs. The background is blood red, the legs are white, long and shapely. Our motherland is positioned as the female vagina and is blood red. Its eastern and western regions are spread red on white thighs, while the southern region opens into the blood red background. At the bottom is the following text ‘This Country Bleeds in its Rape Culture’ with a tagline in capitals that states; AS IF ANYONE CARES. Above the image, the text says ’This graphic punched me in the chest. #Powerful. I’m told the creators don’t want their name publicized.

A mixture of emotions engulfed me. Don’t we all care about the rape of our children and women? Haven’t we all strongly condemned and protested these crimes and demanded justice for Nirbhaya and Asifa? Yes, we are shattered at the sexual violence perpetuated in our societies.  But is this how our country’s image should be defiled and all citizens be branded as participants in a ‘rape culture’?

Sadness and shock is not only at the insulting depiction of my motherland, but also anger at how anyone could stoop so low in the name of ‘creative/artistic freedom. It is these emotions that pushed me to write this post. To people like Kiran and countless others, this graphic only demeans our country which includes all of us as its citizens. More shockingly, it insults all our heroes, past and present, who fought for and died protecting us, while ensuring the borders of our unique and diverse democracy remained intact. Doesn’t the map of our country represent their stories of courage and patriotism when they gave their all for our flag to fly free? Do we, the overwhelming majority of decent law-abiding, respectful citizens represent our country’s culture, or should we accept that a small, despicable percentage of criminals who rape and murder represent us as a people and as a Nation?

Last night, as I went to bed, sleep again eluded me. A few days ago, we had watched the respectful, emotional Investiture Ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan when our martyred heroes Major Kunal Gosavi and Lance Naik Raghubeer Singh were posthumously honoured with gallantry awards. Did they fight for and sacrifice their lives for their country to be shamed in this way? When I finally fell asleep, a dream conversation with Akshay began. His usually bright, smiling face was sad and the luminous eyes had a strange expression. The lines around his mouth and the furrow on his brow told me of his anguish.  Write about this ma’ he seemed to be saying. ‘Don’t let our young people believe that our country is beyond hope. When a majority of Indians are caring, responsible, law abiding citizens, how can we let our youth be swayed by such treacherous stuff? Do whatever you can to have them focus on contributing to a better India. By taking responsibility in every situation. Just as we all did. Nothing is achieved by believing all is lost.

Sarit walked in this morning just as I began to look for information to try and present the truth about our country, rather than just an emotive argument. Not sure of what data I would find to share, I did not raise the issue that had left me disturbed and sad. After coffee and chit-chat, Sarit left. I got back to reading because I really needed to know. In recent years, where does India stand, in terms of rape and violence against women and children?

In August 2017, in her article on women safety ( https://breathedreamgo.com/is-travel-in-india-safe/), Mariellen Ward talks about the much publicized rapes in India. She says ‘India is not, in fact, the “rape capital” of the world. There are many countries with worse rape statistics. In fact, the USA, New Zealand, Sweden are all in the top 10; and South Africa seems to be almost in a class by itself. You are welcome to Google “worldwide rape statistics” to see for yourself’.

The map below is one among those I could download and share.

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To the anonymous ‘creators’ whodon’t want their name publicized’, I would like to ask a question. Have they designed and released such images of all the other countries that are worse than India in their ‘rape culture’? And what about all those countries where lack of democracy and freedom of speech and expression make it impossible to even collect and compile data on violence against women and girls? Will they for instance try doing this with the map of Pakistan? Have they selectively painted this picture of India because they know they will not be identified and hunted down, as they probably would in many other countries? Is this what their ‘creativity’ is all about?

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To be sure I am not selectively taking from an individual’s opinion, I look up statistics from more ‘widely accepted’ sources. India is not among the ‘Failed States’, nor among the ‘Fragile States’, nor where Human Rights Violations are high. It is in fact designated as ‘Stable’ in 2018(Fund for Peace). Which means we live in a comparatively peaceful society, Law Enforcement exists and our Justice System is fairly robust.  Why then is our only our country being shamed?

I want to say this loud and clear- to myself and to each of you who may be feeling sad and upset. Rape is not our culture. It is an abhorrent crime that exists across continents, regions, countries, religions, and communities around the world. Yes, we need to fight for a better country and better world. Not by shaming our motherland but by doing all we can to confront perpetrators and demand justice.

I seek your opinion on how you feel about ‘artistic freedom’ Vs ‘love for motherland’. The Map represents India. Just as our Flag does. Does this chilling depiction guarantee justice for Asifa or the many other children and women who have been brutalized? My stand is clear. No. So what has it achieved in reality? It has demeaned my motherland and all of us as its citizens. It has insulted all crusaders and officials who fight for justice and the majority of our citizens who stand up for what is right. Above all, it has insulted every soldier who has protected my country at the cost of his life. To me this is unforgivable.

What led to Nirbhaya’s rapists and killers being punished had nothing to do with shaming our nation. Her killers were sentenced to death based on the clear testimony of her friend, who first tried to save her, and then stood by his statements throughout the trial. It was Sabrina’s fight, supported by others, that led to Manu Sharma being convicted, thereby ensuring justice for her sister Jessica Lal. More recently, it was a 16-year-old girl’s unwavering testimony and strong witness statements that helped the prosecution ensure Asaram goes to jail for rape. Yes, the united protests by a shocked nation acted as the pressure group for the government and judiciary to do the needful. Let us also open our eyes to the fact that a trial is on to ensure Asifa gets justice and let us be united in seeking the same for every victim and survivor.

We have many heroes among common citizens, who youth can look upto. A Railway Protection Force constable K Shivaji on Monday night overpowered a man who was trying to sexually assault a 25-year-old woman on an MRTS train and rescued the victim. Spare a thought to reflect on what your own contribution has been towards making our land safer and fairer. Have you always taken a stand to respect gender equality and tried to stop loose talk among friends? Have you done your bit to protect the kids in your family and community from sexual predators- known and unknown? If you have ever witnessed a crime, small or big, have you taken responsibility to assist the victim/s and co-operate with investigations, whatever effort it takes? I am sure some of you have done these and more, and I look forward to hearing about, learning from and sharing your experiences. It is these actions that will usher in a climate of justice for all.

Akshay also lived everyday of his life believing in goodness, taking responsibility for his actions and being as helpful as possibly could. The day he fought and sacrificed his life, he ensured the protection of 2 little children and their mothers, along with the lives of others. We pray they all stay blessed. He, like all our soldiers, did his best. Together, day after day and year after year,  they have all succeeded in making sure the map of our country stays intact.

A nation is made of people. Shaming your country is shaming yourself. Will that lead you to live a better life? As a mother to girls and grandmother to Naina, I have not lost hope for a better tomorrow. Not even after losing my beloved and most precious Akshay. That faith now rests in you- the youth of today, as our leaders of tomorrow. To all young people out there who may have seen and inadvertently forwarded that horrific, insulting image, I urge you not to blame and shame our motherland. I hope each one of you will use your voice, your pen, your brush, your hands or whatever else you possibly can, to take responsibility and fight for what is right.

As always, I look forward to your valuable comments, suggestions and actions. And I thank young Kiran for setting off this post.

God bless you all. God bless my country.

Jai Hind.

Meghna Girish.

P.S. Photo of Girish and me with Akshay is by ‘Being You’.

 

 

26 thoughts on “CONNECTED BY AKSHAY: WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA

  1. Aunty words fail me to describe my anger and the mix of emotions I go through with tears trickling down my cheeks as I read through your description of the map of my motherland you saw… I am shocked to say the least. This is no Artistic Freedom but BLASPHEMY… I don’t know how or what we citizens of India should do about this, but surely something needs to be done. These guys can’t be left Scott free in the name of freedom of expression.. Surely there should be strict law to punish anyone shaming our motherland… With your permission would sure want to share your right up on my FB wall and Whatsapp for my friends to be aware of what all is happening around us…

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    • Glad you feel so strongly too Malar. Hoping most of us will feel the same. Of course you are free to share it. Do take care and stay positive. Together we must. Love and God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you ma’am for your powerful words… I am feeling alot better after reading your blog and I am sure it will touch deeply to the youth. Our soldiers are sacrificing their lives everyday to give us peaceful life. Our freedom has not came for free this map and flag is symbol of bloodshed of our soldiers they sacrificed their head but dint let Tirana go down ( Kat gaye sar hamare to kuch ham nahi, sar Himalaya ka hamne na jhukne diya) we as a citizen should not let their sacrifice go down and atleast do our little part by speaking up for our motherland and giving right direction to our youth. Ma’am I am sure major Akshay will keep guiding us through your words. A big salute to you and Major Akshay. JAI HIND

    Liked by 1 person

    • I need to thank you for pushing me to write this post Kiran. Hope we will all do our best and take pride in contributing to our country rather than shaming ourselves by such depictions. Do accept a lot of terrible things are being done by evil and criminal people and that is not acceptable. I am sure Akshay and all our nations protectors will guide our youth to become tomorrows tall leaders. Jai Hind.

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  3. Ma’am you echoed my sentiments exactly..however, please be assured that there is a huge ,silent majority that is with you In these thoughts …a majority that is quiet as the loud voices of our Pseudo Modern intellectuals are so powerful in building narratives ..a majority that will always hold the sacrifice of our men in the highest esteem
    Best wishes and regards

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    • I am so glad to read this from you Ruchika. The majority of our young people will also take our nation on the right path. That will be the best tribute for the sacrifices people have made for the motherland. God bless you all.

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  4. “Shaming your country is shaming yourself”……so well said dear Meghna! People in the name of trying to be ‘expressive’ fail miserably and instead become anti nationals themselves…..and no wonder they would rather remain anonymous…These are people who don’t realise the gravity of the situation of our country…there are so many other issues we need to deal with!!! I feel we should stop all news channel….all they do is fill people with negativism…Those theatrical debates which lead to nothing are absolutely ridiculous….it’s like a screaming match!
    I once again salute your piece….written so beautifully i could feel the anger and the anguish you were going through while penning your thoughts! Love you…Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • True Ruma. If they really had courage, they wouldn’t be anonymous. It does hurt. Thank you for your love and support. Hugs right back!

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  5. No doubts here aunty
    Anger is justified
    We as a nation are unique to our very existence, rather there is no other country which is blessed with such a rich cultural and historical Heritage as ours .
    Your post leaves me to introspect and read more , research more ,and I will positively share once I am thorough myself…This small section of society which is hiding behind the garb of freedom of expression to implore blatant disregard towards our great nation are equally guilty as the dubious cowards who rally their war covering their sheer existence in cloth and religion as cowards to shoot innocent victims inorder to justify their purpose less cause and I believe we have been liberal enough…tolerant enough and now is the time to hunt and catch hold of such miscreants and interrogate their creativity..let’s find reason and once accused they should be penalized..
    Why should a section of society be allowed to play with the feelings of the masses…
    I will atleast in every form possible complete condemn this false image..I believe we are unique as a nation and will continue to strive to raise our ‘Tiranga ‘ when ever I can.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Love always.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear aunty,
    As always your post amazes me. This time it is your ability to put things in perspective and very clearly drawing the lines where they should be. Kudos to you for that.
    I am in complete agreement with your sentiments and that is why I feel military service should be made compulsory for all citizens for a some time. There is no better way than this to innstil gratitude amongst civilians.
    I am also completely amazed as to how Maj Akshay is still serving the nation..much beyond his call of duty.
    Truly hope I get to meet you soon.
    Lots of love
    Ruchi

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    • You are right Ruchi. Compulsory military service, particularly for government jobs and political leadership will do tremendous good as they way they deal with civilians will change. Gratitude first should be taught in homes too. Akshay was one in a million and I dont say this because he was our son. He truly was.

      Look forward to meeting you beta. Love and God bless.

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  7. Every word you have penned down is true aunty. A nation is made by its people. Sadly a fraction fails to voice out whats needed. With freedom and technology also comes responsibilty. In my opinion thats where we lack. We always debate on freedom of speech and expression but we fail to bring in the most important part, where and how to use it.

    We need to voice out strongly and collectively against these heinous acts. When each one of us treats it as our own responsibility the change will reflect.

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    • Very true Shrishti. Rights without responsibility cannot take our country and our people far. Responsibility must start from home and extend all the way up to the top of leadership in all fields. Hope is what we must hold onto while we try and do our best.

      Love and God bless.

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  8. Greetings Meghna ma’am. This is our voice coming through your words. I feel extreme anger and disappointment when I see such people maligning the name of our beloved country. And sad to see that some of them even go to such an extent of supporting these thoughts. They forget that this country is being flourished by each and every drop of blood that our soldiers and freedon fighters shed as they loved Bharat Mata more than anything else. We still call it Bharat Mata, for us women hold such high regards that we call our country our mother. Its true that in recent times due to various factors, lack of education and moral values, people have become selfish and the demon inside is coming out frequently. But its absolutely wrong to paint the whole country with the same colour. Women are still respected more than anything …i realise this during day to day life. Here in Amritsar if i have to take a shared auto rickshaw and there are two males sitting inside, one of them would go to the front seat near the driver on his own to make sure that I sit comfortably. Once there was a girl who missed her late night bus and did not have a place to go. She took shelter inside a mandir, when people found her they brought her to our home and we took care of her as our own family member…in the morning went to drop her off and didn’t leave until she got on bus safely. There are countless other such incidents but the media and people choose to focus upon the negative ones as people love sensationalising every small thing. Every word written out there is true to the core and I thank you for voicing our sentiments. I have been a silent reader for quite some time now but whenever I read your posts about Major Akshay it fills my heart with unspeakable emotions, I have never met Major Akshay or any one of you but it seems like I have known you forever. Forever indebted to your son and family and other countless brave families of soldiers who give their today for our tomorrow. God bless you all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so glad to hear your thoughts Unnati. And I hope and pray that majority of young Indians think the same way. Then our future is in good hands. Looks like Akshay’s passion to continue his commitment to contribute to Nation building has connected all of us. Sending you love. God bless our protectors.

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  9. Mam, we should focus more on the fact that how as a country we have come together protesting against rape and ensuring punishment of the culprits. That is the most important thing that as a nation we are not going to stand back and watch in silence the dishonour of our womenfolk. Even though our neighbours are burning in their internal feuds and their women disappear into oblivion in the darkness of the medieval era in 2018 , we are forever indebted to soldiers like Maj Akshay for our safety and security and it must pain you to see some people malign the country for which you lost so much. But whatever people may say we Indians should feel proud that we have been able to shun the sense of guilt and dishonour that a rape victim is associated with and have started social , cultural blacklisting of the rapist.

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    • With you and our nation – we will not watch in silence and will insist on measures for safety and respect for our children and women. Shaming and punishing the rapists and criminals, ensuring justice for the victims and respect for the survivors is definitely needed and slowly happening through different ways and they need to be sustained. Our national character needs to be questioned and corrected and wish we knew exactly how and where to focus for this.

      At the same time, I am very clear this expression of outrage does not mean our country as a whole be depicted in a demeaning and degrading manner – like the anonymous ‘creative designers’ image did. Our country’s map, national flag etc are national symbols of loyalty and pride too. And coming to pain, is the loss of our brave and selfless only a family’s loss? Hasnt the nation, which is made of citizens, lost some of their best who would have worked for a better nation and served unselfishly for a long time?

      I know my son was among the most gender sensitive and respectful of women. When he lay down his life too, women and children were saved. My stand is clear. Do not shame our country. Shame, blame and protest against those who are at fault. And do not insult the sacrifices of people who gave their all to defend the nation and protect freedom of expression.

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  10. I just read this over and over again but preferred being a silent reader,kuch bolne ko nahi hai mere pas a cold sighs….tkcr aunty,god bless little nainu.

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  11. Dear Aunty,
    Thank you for writing this article. I 100% agree with you that our Motherland should not be shamed when trying to raise voice against any social crimes for it is definitely not a responsible and an effective action. I wish and pray that the responsible behind the creation of this meme gets the message right. Another thing that I’ve learned from my own experience in life is that when raising our voice against any injustice, communication is the key. I understand there are people/youth who raise their voice against injustice but it needs to be in the best possible way. People who fight for justice in the right and wise way have always been successful in achieving it. One great example is Mahatma Gandhiji known for Satyagraha, Lakshmi Agarwal from the recent times who being a victim to acid attack fought for the bill to be passed which regulates the selling of acid to the public. We as human and mainly the youth have a lot to learn and refine ourselves to stand up, raise our voice against any injustice and to put up a good fight. I am very glad that you wrote this article aunty. We along with Akshay support you in raising voice against social injustice and in guarding our Motherland.
    Love and prayers
    Amritha

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Amritha, your mature response with examples of how to raise our voice and fight against social wrongs is so nice to see. I have much to learn from you. Thank you for your support to Akshay and us. As always, sending you love. God bless.

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  12. Dear Meghna
    Your article echoes the feelings of a multitude of people who are enraged at the injustice meted out against our country. When the Asifa case happened ,I came across so many videos against Indians as if rape was ingrained in our culture. I felt angry too and searched the net for rape statistics across the world and the results were as you have mentioned. Why then was my country being maligned in this manner? Got me thinking. Seeing all the TV channels and the newspapers, I feel some people in our country do not respect their freedom of speech and take to irrational lengths. Media plays an important role in helping our youth form opinions.in this day of social and digital media, there is so much flak and so many untold truths. The youth just forms opinions based on what they see. Why are they not thinking in a bigger way? I am so proud of my country and our defence forces. Don’t the sacrifices of so many of our soldiers mean anything? The media should do their bit in showcasing the rich culture and heritage of this country. Such anti social elements who are rapists are NOT the whole country , only a small percentage. So when such a calamity is shown on TV ,at the same time the positive side of this country needs to be shown too

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  13. Completely agree with you ma’am. It’s very easy to defame the country, but how many of these “artists” will actually step forward and help a woman out if they see anyone being molested/raped? It’s very easy to write some rubbish on placards like “India is a rape-public not a republic” and burn candles. Insulting your country on a global under the garb of FoE is absolutely unacceptable!

    Wise words from you once again ma’am! Looking forward to the day I’ll get to meet you! Please let me know if you come to Mumbai anytime soon. Please don’t stay in some hotel, we would love to host you! Jai Hind!

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    • So glad you young people feel s strongly as I do Anuja. That gives me hope for our country too. Do expand FoE for me please. Im on a learning curve. Thank you for the invite to Mumbai. Sending you lots of love. Take care.

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