Little Red Riding Hood

Justice Katju responds to Noopur Tiwari's reply to his blog on the reaction of women protestors to the Delhi rape.

Justice Katju

Dear Alice,

I read the letter you wrote to me and wanted to respond.

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Little Red Riding Hood who was going through a forest carrying food for her sick grandmother when a big bad wolf tried to catch and rape her. Somehow, she escaped and ran away. However, this incident became so embedded in her memory that she got the idea that no other evil exists in this world except rape.

One cold winter night, a shivering small boy in tatters came to her house (which was a very comfortable place since Little Red Riding Hood’s father was well-off and her family was always well-fed and well-dressed). The child asked for some bread as he had not eaten for two days.

“Get lost”, she told the child. “The only evil in the world is rape. Hunger is Maya, an illusion, as Vedanta philosophy teaches”. And saying so, she threw the poor little boy out into the cold.

She then got into her car to drive down to Jantar Mantar with a candle, where she would meet other young like-minded people who would give fiery speeches denouncing the greatest crime on earth – which was rape. At a red light crossing when her car had stopped for a while, a poor, small girl appeared outside her car and begged for some money. “Get lost”, said Little Red Riding Hood, “I am concerned with a matter of life and death for the human race, and here you are concerned with such a paltry thing as money”. And saying so, she drove on.

Next day, Little Red Riding Hood went to her school, where the teacher was teaching about poverty in India. He said that according to a World Bank Report, the percentage of child malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa was 24% while in India it was twice that figure. That means, about one out of every two Indian children is malnourished. The latest UNICEF data shows 58% of Indian children are stunted, which is far worse than in sub-Saharan Africa. The NC Saxena Committee report states that from the point of view of calorific-intake and incomes, over 50% Indians live below the poverty line. The Arjun Sengupta report (from the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector) states on the basis of data collected between 1993 and 2004, that 77% Indians live on less than Rs 20 per day. A study by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative found that 650 million Indians (53.7% of total population) live in poverty. 421 million people in 8 North-Indian and Eastern states (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal) live in poverty. This number is higher than the 410 million poor living in the poorest African countries. A United Nations Report estimated that 2.1 million Indian children die before reaching the age of five, i.e. 4 every minute.

When the teacher was going on reeling out these facts and figures, Little Red Riding Hood got infuriated and burst out, “These are just diversionary tactics. The only evil in Indian society is rape. You are trying to divert attention from the one and only real issue, which is rape”, and saying so she walked out of the class in a huff.

On the way back home she met a young man and asked him, “Are you intending to rape me?”

“Young lady”, he replied, “I am an unemployed man though I have an MSc degree from a good university. I am only seeking a job, even a peon’s job, to keep my body and soul together. I only want to earn my bread”.

“Nonsense”, said Little Red Riding Hood. “You young men only want to rape little girls, like that big bad wolf who tried to rape me in the forest”.

Proceeding further she met a poor farmer who had come from a rural area to the city looking for a job, any job, which he could find. He asked Little Red Riding Hood for a job, even the job of a domestic servant.

“Unemployment is all nonsense”, said Little Red Riding Hood, “You farmers have not been raped. What then is your problem?”

“Young lady”, said the farmer, ”I have come from Vidarbha where farmers are committing suicide at the rate of 47 every day for the last 15 years. 250,000 farmers have committed society in the last 15 years. And you think it is no problem?”

“You are a cantankerous person”, said Little Red Riding Hood. “You have no idea about the real and only problem before the country, which is rape”, and having said so she brushed him aside and walked on.

She then saw a poor woman carrying a small child in her arms, who appealed to Little Red Riding Hood for help. “Have you been raped”, asked Little Red Riding Hood?

“No”, replied the poor woman, “but my child is sick and needs medical treatment”.

“Then why do you not take her to a doctor?” asked Little Red Riding Hood.

“Young lady”, replied the poor woman, “Have you any idea of the fees of a doctor? Have you any idea how expensive medicines have become? Like most other Indian people I cannot afford them”.

“Rubbish”, said Little Red Riding Hood. “Healthcare is nonsense. The only problem in the world is rape”.

The next day Little Red Riding Hood again went to school. This time the teacher said to the class, “Yesterday I told you about poverty in India. Today I will speak on the condition of women in India. The issue of rape, which Little Red Riding Hood mentioned yesterday, is no doubt a serious issue, and all right minded persons must condemn rape. But to my mind this issue cannot be properly understood in isolation, it has to be understood in the context, and part of, the general issue of the condition of women in our society. I am of the opinion that crimes against women, including rape, can only be eradicated if there is a great change in our social system.

No doubt Articles 14, 15, and 16 of our Constitution, and several laws in India e.g. section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (outraging the modesty of a woman), Section 376 (rape), Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2002, etc provide for equality to women and protect them from violence, harassment and oppression, but what do we see in practice? In practice there is often denial of equality, and oppression of women by men folk, which is due to the disgusting survival of remnants of feudalism and medievalism in Indian society.

In feudal societies, women were largely confined to household work e.g. washing, cooking, cleaning, giving birth to children and looking after them, etc. Household work is a work of drudgery, giving little scope for the development of the mind. Women in feudal societies were regarded as inferiors, and often beaten by their husbands. They were deprived of education and cultural development. Petty household work crushed, strangled, stultified, and degraded her, chained her to the kitchen and nursery, and she wasted her labour and talents on petty, intellectually unproductive, nerve racking and stultifying work of crushing drudgery. The oppression of women in a feudal society is depicted in the stories of the great Bengali writer Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya e.g. Shrikant, Brahman ki Beti, Shesh Prashna, Charitraheen, etc.

Intelligence Quotient (I.Q.) tests in modern psychology have shown that the intelligence of an average woman is the same as that of an average man. In fact whenever women got opportunities, they proved they could do as well as men, e.g. Madam Curie, who was the first person in the world to win two Nobel Prizes, the first in Physics, and the second in Chemistry (even winning one Nobel Prize is regarded as a great achievement). Elizabeth I of England and Catherine the Great of Russia were regarded as great rulers. The Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Margaret Mitchell, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sappho, etc were great writers. Hence it was not because they are intellectually inferior that women could not do as well as men, but because they were not given education and opportunities.

While in law women have been given equality to men, in many countries, including India, in practice this equality is often on paper alone. Equality in law does not necessarily mean equality in fact. Thus in Tolstoy’s famous novel Anna Karenina and in Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madam Bovary, we see how women were driven to suicide because they did not accept an unhappy marriage.

In India, we still have a largely male-dominated society, and women are often looked down upon. The birth of a female child is often regarded as a disaster, and the faces of the relatives are glum at such an event (see Sharat Chandra’s novel Parineeta), whereas on birth of a male child everyone is happy and sweets are distributed. Female feticide is a widespread practice in some parts of India (despite the Pre-Natal and Pre-Conception Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994).

The practice of dowry demand is widespread, even in our so called educated classes, which is a disgusting practice of treating our young women as sheep and cattle, and that too by paying money to the purchaser.

Today Indian law courts are flooded with cases of crimes against women, e.g. dowry death, often caused by pouring kerosene on a young wife and burning her, or by hanging her. Wife beating and cruelty to women is still rampant in our society.

We have no doubt made some progress since 1947, and now many women are educated and have entered many professions like medicine, law, teaching, journalism, etc but we still have a long way to go. Women are still often oppressed in our society, which is not only due to survival of remnants of feudal mentality in many of our men folk, but also due to the large scale commercialisation of our society in which everything has been reduced to exchange value.

In India, we are living in a transitional period of our history, between feudal agricultural society and modern industrial society. Hence remnants of feudalism and feudal mentality e.g. casteism, communalism, and superstitions, are still persisting in our midst. It is for this reason that we have “honour killings” of young persons who wish to get married, by their caste or community members or caste panchayats merely because the couple is of different castes or communities. This shows how backward we still are. Unless we get rid of this backwardness and develop a scientific outlook and temper among our masses, crimes against women will not stop. And this in turn requires great social changes.

I told you yesterday that 48% Indian children are malnourished. This would imply that about 70% of our women are malnourished, because a woman would rather remain hungry herself than see her child hungry. Our Indian sisters and mothers deserve our admiration since they are making tremendous sacrifices and bravely feeding their families on whatever little they and their husbands are earning.”

When the teacher stopped speaking Little Red Riding Hood again got up in anger and shouted “You have again resorted to diversionary tactics, and have mischievously diluted the issue of rape by mixing it up with all kind of nonsense”, and having said so she again walked out of the class to rush to Jantar Mantar.

On the way she saw a strange sight. A group of poor, lean and hungry-looking, shabbily-dressed women were marching in a procession shouting “Bread, bread, bread!” (Like the fisherwomen who marched from Paris to Versailles in 1789 during the French Revolution). Little Red Riding Hood accosted them and said, “You should be ashamed of yourselves. You should be shouting instead “Rape. rape, rape”.

This infuriated the processionists, who set upon Little Red Riding Hood with lathis and fisticuffs, and now poor Little Red Riding Hood is in bed at home recovering from her injuries.

Contact Katju



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  • Sachin Gupta

    rant, rant and more rant..OOps this must be good..I am out of those 90%.

  • Ashish Baidyanathan

    Yawn!!!! Oh i know so many laws & Data …u r Dented & Painted…U cant be as empathetic as i am towards the problem in this country…i and i alone have all the solution..i & i alone can feel everyone’s pain…i and i alone have all the cause in my head…I am JUSTICE KATJU…and I shall Bring Justice to the world..U are a the RED RIDING hood..I am SANKAT MOCHAN..I feel for the Country..U feel for the Rape stupidity…

  • Iftekhar

    i think the people who criticises your comment dont hv heart large enuf to praise sumones knowledge n understandings..
    Good work mr. katjoo,
    i m also waiting to see scientifically developmed mindset of indian masses.

    • Fakir

      Yes, now a days on television, you can not see anyone smarter than Priyanka Chopra(see barkha dutt’s discussion with her in a panel). No one has patience to do a little study on the subject. They make it look like there are different medicines in the market for different issues. and since women are shouting more, their medicine should be delivered immediately.

  • Soumitra Pandey

    frankly this article was a bit disappointing because after having read your first piece in this series(which was very promising) and then reading the mocking it received at the hands of the elite journalist from NDTV, one couldn’t help but feel a little expectant that you would counteract her arguments with some sound reasoning but that, unfortunately is not the case here…Instead of bogging the reader down with plethora of statistics, the argument could have been made that if we try to adopt a more holistic approach in improving the society i.e. not only focusing on rapes but also devoting an equal amount of attention to other maladies like poverty, inequality, illiteracy etc; then the heinous crimes like rape, molestation of women etc would inevitably come down. Reason being that a crime like rape is in most cases inflicted by the people from the lower most rungs of the society( eg. the bus drivers and auto drivers in metros) and if we alleviate the status of this deprived class( by most importantly- imparting modern education) then we would have caused a very welcome paradigm shift …

  • Nivedita

    Justice katju, can you be a little more specific and tell us who is saying that rape is the only problem in india? Just because other problems exist- are u saying that women should not protest against rape??? Every minute a woman gets raped in this country and here you are trying to establish a hierarchy and evaluating whether or not this issue deserves time and attention over other issues? If you feel so passionately about hunger- please get into your fancy car and go to jantar mantar and protest – trust me no one will discourage you the way you are discouraging this effort! It’s not a competition between hunger and rape!

    I’m hoping someone hacked into your account – because such apathy from a man of your stature is unbelievable. If not, and if these views are really yours, then let’s add “prejudiced jurists” to the long list of our issues.

  • Shikhar

    i am 19 year old and i am so sorry that people like you who don’t have this much of sensibility and social consciousnesses that Social probles are tough to put in hierarchy and are dynamic enough to never be subjected to grading, has been a judge. Really our new generation simply doesn’t need people like you to ever decide whats good for us and not for us. Just step aside, you and your views are not relevant for any of the modern reincarnation of some very traditional problems. I suggest you one thing- go and read some good text on sociology. It will help shaping your mind. You really need to educate yourself because TIME HAS CHANGED and NEW GENERATION OF OURS IS IN NO MOOD TO LISTEN AND TOLERATE SUCH CRAP AS YOU GENERALLY PRODUCE. We have these much of guts that we can stand in front of rashtrapati bhawan and ask the person inside to answer our question. Its because of “US” that he and other politicians are sitting there and looting the countyr in the name of running the country. Otherwise, what else give them right to be there where they are right now. We don’t worship our leaders blindly the way your generation people does. sorry fellow citizen, you need to get a life TIME HAS CHANGED and those who can’t change, better stay out of track.

  • Katju, exactly what is your argument? 1. That urban women were wrong in protesting against a menace they face everyday? 2. That it is wrong to protest against an atrocity when other atrocities exist in the world? 3. That Delhi youth is hypocritical in that it doesnt take out protests against hunger and poverty? DUDE – a regular human protests when he/she feels his/her fundamental rights are in danger. This is exactly what happened in this case. Urban youth, mostly women, jus got tired of being objects of male violence and lust, and spoke up against it. Your opinion that the youth should fight for all ailments is stupid. We pay taxes so judges and politicians take decisive action against all ailing policy issues. If you do your jobs right, maybe we wouldnt be out on streets protesting in the first place. So go back, and do something constructive instead of belittling the voice of the protestors.

  • S Kumar

    This is brilliant. I mostly agree with Justice Katju that the problem of rape cannot be solved in isolation, or for that matter most problems.

    • Fakir


  • Ankush

    Great Reply Sir!! Enjoy reading every word of this response. I support every word of this letter.
    Crimes against women will not be saved by shouting and lighting candles.
    As Justice Katju said its a patriarchy and the feudal mindset of the people which is responsible for this. We require great social changes. Making tougher laws will certainly not help else why despite having tougher laws in US, rapes are so high??

    I Support you Justice Katju. You are a liberal judge, a maverick man who speaks his heart and often take politically incorrect line.

  • Pingback: Justice Katju replies to my letter | Whirling()

  • rohit

    i believe the mindset of society has to be changed to stop this evil. Changing laws or hanging the rapists would not serve the purpose.
    i respect the protests and feel that people should express their grievances but at the same time what Justice Katju has put forward through stories is true.

  • vishwas patankar

    Justice Katju, why exactly are you so against women attempting to protest the evil of rape? And why do you get the impression that they are pushing back other social wrongs as if they are strategically attempting to bring only rape to the fore…do you really feel that the assemblies at Jantar Mantar were some sort of intentional “chess moves” to prioritise rape ahead of the other social problems that you write of? It stuns me that somebody so perspicacious and intelligent as you feels insecure about other issues being sacrificed at the alter of rape…

  • Prasun

    While Mark-Katju is right, what he didn’t say is:

    1.After the attempt, little Red Riding hood went to the dog, who is the
    local law-enforcement representative, for help. The dog didn’t heed to
    her complaint. When she insisted, the dog slapped her and threw her
    away. Some of them even tried to rape her as if to make her realize that
    this is no crime at all.
    2.She went to White elephant next. The
    white elephant is highly regarded for his wisdom, integrity and honesty.
    But the elephant is overloaded with many such complaints. He also takes
    time to to listen and understand things. He also has to spend months of
    vacation every year. He took the complaint, but last I heard that
    little Red Riding Hood has now become a grandmother and still the
    white-elephant is pondering over the complaint.
    3.On an unfortunate
    day, a very bad wolf not only raped another little-red-riding-hood but
    almost killed her with devil’s-brutality. Thousands of girls, many of
    whose complaint are still pending with
    the elephant, knocked the door of the lion-the King of the jungle, for
    justice. It struck an emotional chord with little red-hood-riding. So
    she decided to join them.
    4.The King had his own priority. He called
    an army of dogs and leashed them on unarmed, peaceful boys and girls.
    They were beaten mercilessly, as if they were the wolves.
    5.In the
    melee, one policeman encountered Cardiac arrest. His fellow policemen
    didn’t come for help. But two of the boys and girls, both might as well
    be the grandson and grand-daughter of our little-red-hood-riding, beaten
    badly by police, held their nerves and took him to hospital-although it
    was too late.
    6.Police got a chance and slapped murder charges on
    eight companions of little-red-riding-hood. At least two of them were
    not present at the scene of the incident, which was proven later through
    Delhi-Metro video footage.
    7.The white elephant is still sleeping
    though. He didn’t ask police on what basis a serious charge like murder
    was slapped on innocent citizens. It didn’t have the guts to ask police
    who actually slapped the charges and what action has been taken against
    him for violating fundamental-rights-of innocent citizens and lying to
    the court.
    8. However, the white elephant has an advice for little
    red riding hood though : You know, our society is full of wolves. Its no
    fault of the dogs and elephants if so many wolves are roaming around.
    The wolves are slowing turning into vegetarians. So wait till all the
    wolves turns vegetarian. Till then, rapes are inevitable.
    red riding hood is now pondering whether to tolerate the rape and stop
    resisting it till all other problems in the world are solved.

  • Guest

    The issue of crime against women is a serious issue and should be addressed seriously by all concerned..but i agree with you Justice Katju that it is not a a standalone problem, the whole mindset of society needs to be changed, human and moral values need to be inculcated more during education..and as far as Red Rising Hood is concerned : have mercy on the sad girl sir, some serious trauma in the childhood can have lifelong effect on ones mental health and thinking…let her be mad like she is…

  • Anikethan

    The Justification letter from Justice Katju seems more immature,thoughtless and insensitive than his original post. Taken in the sense that he seems to mean, no protest is valid unless it is all encompassing to include all the social evils((that he thinks are worthwhile.) under the sun. To turn the argument on its head, the first criteria to judge whether a persons’s problem is worth protesting is by asking “Are you poor/unemployed and illiterate? If not, your problem is not worth fighting for. Go away.!!!” With all due respect to his good intentions (I agree with many issues in other articles that he has been consistently raising), age and experience, this response is simply disgusting.

  • Sri

    There were atleast two things were ignored in the story.
    1. In the story big bad wolf tried to catch and rape Alice only once and after that its only memory that Alice got carried away. For Alice its a single incident. But for Indian women its a daily routine. A day will not end without seeing to some kind of public sexual assualt aka Eve teasing. The Delhi incident only triggered that hidden anger.
    2. The changes in society on its own will be verrrrrrrrry slow without serious laws. Once people realize the consequences the actions will get corrected automatically. Example the effect of non-bailable SC/ ST atrocity case . Now no one is dared to insult anyone based on their caste. We should not expect this kind of change in the people voluntarily without the serious laws.

  • Anubhav Verma

    A lot of intellectually challenged people will miss the wood for the trees and start calling you anti-women or someone who justifies rape! You can’t help it much Sir… I agree 100% that 90% Indians are fools !

  • Ranjeet chauhan

    आप ऐसा लिख रहें हैं , क्योंकि मीडिया ने रेप को पिछले एक महीने से मुद्दा
    बनाया है | मीडिया लिख और दिखा रही है क्योंकि रेप हो रहें हैं |
    संचार दृश्य सिद्धांत के Gestalt आधार पर कार्य करता है |
    बिंदु : : एक वर्ग की आकृति को प्रदर्शित करते हैं, क्योंकि हमने पूर्व
    में पढ़ा है | चार बिन्दुओं को वर्ग कहने की राय पूर्वाग्रह से ग्रसित है |
    जबकि ये चार बिंदु एक क्रास की आकृति को भी प्रदर्शित करते हैं |
    संचार पर मनोविज्ञान का गहरा प्रभाव पड़ता है | हम अपनी राय अपनी पूर्वधारणा के आधार पर रखते हैं |
    जनता उन ख़बरों को देखना चाहती है जिस पर वो अपनी राय रख सके | मीडिया और
    नेतागण भी उसी मुद्दे को उठाते हैं जिन पर वो अपनी राय रख सकें और हम आप
    भी यही करते हैं |
    मुद्दों को थोपा नहीं जा सकता, कोई व्यक्ति किसी घटना
    पर राय दे इसके लिये विवश नहीं किया जा सकता , जैसे किसी पुस्तक को
    जबरदस्ती नहीं पढाया जा सकता है |
    जो संवाद हो रहा है, वह केवल इस बुराई
    को समाप्त करने के लिए हो रहा है | और जैसा की जग जाहिर है की लोकतंत्र
    में बहुमत का क़ानून अल्पमत पर लागु होता है |

    आपकी और हमारी चर्चा
    का विषय यह होना चाहिए की रेप क्यों होता है ? एक पुरुष की मानसिक स्थिति
    को यहाँ तक लाने वाले कारक क्या हैं ? क्या इन्टरनेट के माध्यम से विदेशों
    से भारत में पहुँचने वाली पाशविक यौन फ़िल्में जिम्मेदार हैं ? क्या दिल्ली
    या भारत के हर कोने में ऐसी यौन फिल्मों की सीडी , डीवीडी , धडल्ले से नहीं
    बिक रहीं हैं (पोलिस की जानकारी में खुले बाजार में) ? क्या आज के समाज
    में IPC की भूमिका साइबर यौन उत्प्रेरक वेबसाईट जैसे ,, etc पर लागु नहीं होती ? क्या विज्ञापन में अश्लीता अपराध
    नहीं है, सौन्दर्य प्रसाधन के विज्ञापन आदि? क्या उपरोक्त चीजों पर
    नियंत्रण कर इन घटनाओं को रोका नहीं जा सकता |

  • arun

    Sir, i fully agree with you. The hue and cry over rape has reached the level where i have to hid morning newspaper from my kids as if this is the only reality of the world. Those who are demanding death penalty for it do not know about the normal investigation process in a rape case. I doubt whether the votaries of hanging for rape will be able to perceive the draconian effect on innocent and guillible man.

  • Justice Katju, you do not have to discount and disapprove rape crimes and anger against it. Agreed there are several other problems equally serious and threatning BUT that does not mean you criticise a movement against rape crimes and its follow up procedure. In short you could have answered that girl in a better way, this article could have been avoided.

  • Preeti

    Justice Katju, I agree with your comments completely. The readers here think that you are trying to dilute the seriousness of the ‘issue of rape’, which you are definitely not aiming to do. What you are doing here is an attempt to provide another real picture that has always been there, often sidelined by the media. All these issues are equally relevant.

    I have a suggestion – Instead of giving comments, perhaps you should have posed a question and left it for the readers to take a call. I think most of the readers (who are smart enough) would have got your point.

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  • Arka

    There is only one thing that i can understand from what Mr. Katju has written, that the urban class of people are hypocrites who as long as have their night life safe do not care about other issues. This only resounds my personal thoughts. Why wouldn’t they protest and raise a voice for other issues? Why wouldn’t they light candles for farmer suicides? Because a farmer’s untimely death in some Indian village hardly matters, not even when hundreds are killing themselves. While it is only right to raise a voice for such ghastly acts of rape, why is it the only protest driven by the common people? So members of the urban clan, protest and ask for justice for the unfortunate rape victim, but also try to be compassionate to all the other issues that are destroying this country. Justice must be served to all, and not just your glittering night life.

  • Kunthit

    Not that I intend to but if I read this article again, I’d be twice as amused and disappointed as I am now! Interestingly, it’s not the humor but rather lack of it that amuses me- more so, because this comes from no other but (always-) ‘just-is’ Katju himself whose “90% Indians..” remark remains my all time favorite when it comes to most (original and) hilarious quotes!

    You are a very learned man, Sir, and I don’t have an ounce of doubt about it- having said that, I would come to the second most beautiful quality of this letter- its banality. Yes, it’s this verbose, hackneyed, and banal writing that disappoints me.

    My favorite is the part that begins with ‘intelligence’ and ends with ‘opportunities’ 🙂

  • vivek singh

    oh boy! this man is such a monumental bore! he thinks he is the only person on earth so concerned about all the evils of the world including rapes and others who talk of rape for the time being are concerned about that n plain that! this has been a habit of self-proclaimed saviors to pit issues n ppl! he first writes a regressive blog n then defends it with an equally boring n cliched article! n mr katju stop feeding words in the mouth of either alice or hood or for that matter anyone else!

  • This man was a Supreme Court judge?