Dear Justice Katju,
This is Noopur here. Thank you for writing to me. Apologies for not writing this letter as Alice. I know you have a penchant for viewing women as fairy-tale characters. But maybe it’s time to start seeing women as real people with real problems.
The current conversation on India’s women is not a needless and dangerous obsession as your articles suggest. It’s an important dialogue for India’s women, something that your generation failed to initiate. I have noted and appreciated that you mention the need for “great social changes” to stop crimes against women. Great changes can start with small protests.
Please understand this is not just about one recent incident but also about our response to it, which is far from being flawless, yet raises important and complex questions. A confused first response is better than no response at all. There are so many sane voices in this clamour too. Turning a deaf ear to them or trying to silence them would be criminal.
As for the “Indian sisters and mothers” you speak of, they represent a model that glorifies women in sacrificial roles. I also have problems with your “teacher-student” allegory as it sounds excessively patronising. The vigilante action on women in the end is disturbing for me even as a metaphor.
Sometimes you speak in a detached tone like an erudite bystander making scientific observations about “rampant cruelty against women”. I would urge you to put down the 19th century French and Bengali authors you are quoting from, and read some of the hard-hitting stuff being written every single day after the Delhi rape.
Conspicuous by its absence from your examples, is the poisonous bias against women in the judiciary. Given that it’s an area of your expertise, we hope that you will blog about that soon in the context of violence against women (both rich and poor).
Here are 10 questions for you.
1. Are you a supporter of rape? Because if you are pro-poor, then by the logic you are applying to me, you must be?
2. When there are a multitude of problems, do you think we can afford to wait for one to get solved before starting to fix another?
3. What makes you think women who are against rape and sexual harassment are pro-poverty and pro-hunger?
4. The day I wrote to you, rape or women’s stories were not in the topmost headlines. Did you see hunger, farmer suicides and unemployment replace them?
5. Did you know gender discrimination plays a huge role in preventing women from access to health care?
6. Do you know that employment is not just about getting a pay but also about “higher security through an established legal position”? (UNICEF)
7. Why are you positing rape against poverty & hunger, if not to express your contempt for women who are “liberated” enough to challenge authority?
8. If this were to become the women’s movement India has never had, would you still reject it as something quite as ridiculous as a war against “all” men?
9. You are asking the media not to give too much space to women’s issues. You do know that this is the opposite of what activists desire in the rest of the world?
10. Do you think women will be gifted their rights on a platter or do you think educated, relatively well-off women who have the freedom and the time to protest can play a crucial role?
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