Lethal combination


In the din of the seemingly “more important issues”, the very lives and limbs of women and children are often relegated to the background in Nagaland ~ and often pushed down the precipice of societal peripheries into a bottomless ravine. And the silence that follows this relegation and hush-up of women and gender issues, in fact the devaluation of the threats to women’s lives and limbs doesn’t even reverberate in our collective and personal psyches. After publication of news of rapes, murders and abductions of women and children in our newspapers you could almost miss any “condemnations” of the same. Once again, this not only validates the patriarchal attitudes and mindset against women and children in Naga society but seeing as even women organizations fail to take notice of such aberrations, as they used to about a couple of years ago, this indifference indicates how deeper our women have submerged in the patriarchal value-system. And equally frightening, the impression is also created that some political forces are trying to downplay crimes against women and children in Nagaland. Local media reports that a 5-year-old was murdered this month in Dimapur district; a family of four, consisting of the mother and two minor children besides the father were found dead in Dimapur ~ while the cause of death is yet to be ascertained, even if it is suicide, it could possibly be poverty-related, indicating violation of the Right to Food. Moreover, the death of a woman and her minor children must attract attention and deprecation but we aren’t bothered ~ probably because they aren’t Nagas, which actually underscores the racism in us; then there are a good number of “missing” children and for most of us it is just another piece of news; the decomposed body of a murdered woman is found near a well at Medziphema after she was missing for eleven days; a 51-year-old woman was reportedly raped and murdered in Khonoma on March 26. Early this month, a 12-year-old girl was found with her throat slit at Dimapur, and before that a minor was raped at Mokokchung. These are reported cases and made public but we don’t know how many crimes particularly rapes have been committed and have remained unreported. No, by no standards is Nagaland the safest state for women in India because even one rape is one too many. In the past few years, when such cases occurred women organizations would condemn them and take to the streets in protest, speaking out without mincing our words. Today, say in the past year or so, our women have gone into a silent mode vis-à-vis crimes against women and children. This is quite strange seeing that women and even men have started being very vocal against such crimes, especially after the horrific rape and murder of a young medical student at Delhi in 2012 and thereafter the increasing number of rapes and murders of children and women across the country. It is bad enough that our tribal, church and sundry women’s organizations have reacted with silence against the above cited crimes but even the Nagaland State Women Commission (NSWC) appears to have taken a holiday from addressing and redressing crimes against women and children, noticeable particularly since this year. Till the time of writing this Editorial, we haven’t heard a word from the NSWC about the aforesaid cases. We don’t expect our male-centric tribal organizations or the Church to condemn these crimes ~ or even to focus on women and gender issues ~ but surely the NSWC has been constituted and mandated to focus on these issues? Yes, as compared to other states, Nagaland doesn’t have a very high rate of crimes against women and children but then we also don’t have the same population as other states. Besides, nobody can jump to any conclusion in the absence of any data on unreported cases of such crimes. So, to say that rate of such crimes is minimal in Nagaland as compared to other states is an insult to injury for women of Nagaland. And, why should there be any comparisons in the first place? True, rapes and murders occur everywhere across the globe but that is no consolation to victims and survivors. In fact, the lethal combination of societal and institutional silence is an encouragement to rapes, murders and other crimes against women and children. The greatest encouragement to all aberrations and abominations in society and state is silence ~ and its other avatar is enslavement.a