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India: Ugliness in a Place Of Beauty


We were in Goa last December when news of Delhi’s infamous gang-rape hit the papers. We read reports of the repugnant details, horrified, praying for both the victim and for India’s societal and legal evolution. The victim was not to recover from her unfathomably savage injuries — but what about India’s societal adjustment at-large? Protests on the streets of Delhi indicated such change was in the wind.

There was a sliver of muted optimism when we returned home to Canada to discover the news had made worldwide headlines. Every society has its breaking point. Perhaps this was to be India’s?

In the face of the most recent high-profile gang-rape, this time of a Swiss tourist, it seems not much has changed since the protests in Delhi. Yes, the latest rapists (“alleged,” I’m supposed to say) have been arrested, but clearly they, and too many others, thought little of the crime to begin with.

Uma Shankar Gupta, Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh, summed up his thoughts on this attack with this pedestrian statement:

“What happened is unfortunate for our nation,” Gupta said to media.

Following the assault in Delhi last December, a law was passed that made voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women punishable under criminal law.

Consider: a law passed only in December of 2012 made the above crimes actually punishable.

In fact, from December of 2012 until today, there have been cases of rape in India ranging from that of a two-year-old child in the nursery ward of a hospital (while her mother was giving birth to a baby in a nearby room), to a copycat gang-rape on a bus in Indore. It is estimated that a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India.

Here is another pearl of wisdom from India’s higher-ups, this time from Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament, Ramesh Bais:

“The rape of grown-up girls and women might be understandable, but if someone does this to an infant, it is a heinous crime…”

Note the first 11 words of that quote. It is not surprising that little has changed when elected officials hold such views.

My reason for posting this article was to address not only these crimes, but the underlining issues within Indian society that facilitate them, some of which we saw first-hand during our time there — albeit to an infinitely lesser extent. I simply could not post another article promoting the beauty of India before I addressed this ugliness.

Of course, we’ve now seen similar sentiments expressed in the USA recently too, following the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Ohio — the convicted attackers have been lavished with sympathy by news agencies such as CNN. CLICK HERE to see the clip; these problems are not India’s alone.

After a month travelling around India, we returned awestruck. It is the first place I have ever visited where I was planning my return before I had even left. I reminisce on the trip daily. I loved every moment I spent there.

India, goddamn it, you are breaking my heart.


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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

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