By Sandeep Sahu*
Call it paranoia, if you like. But every time I see a girl child (I am consciously using the term ‘girl child’ rather than the more frequently used ‘minor’ because I am referring to the genuinely underage, pre-puberty girl innocent of the wicked ways of the world and not just any girl under the age of 18) out alone on the streets, I cannot help thinking; “Could she become the next victim of the carnal desires of a depraved man?”
A lone school girl walking to or from the school, a giggly little girl discovering the joys of riding godagala on a bicycle (in which the rider inserts his/her right leg beneath the rod to pedal away) or the unfortunate slum girl trying to balance a pitcher full of water on her tiny head – these are scenes that I have witnessed, as I am sure others have, on a daily basis on the streets of the city for as long as I have been in Bhubaneswar.
But of late, these everyday scenes conjure up in my mind scenes of unspeakable barbarity and depravity that appear to have become the fate of these little angels. Underage girls – let us say girls below the age of 10 – have never been more vulnerable to the predators prowling around all over the city – and indeed all over the state and the country at large – and looking for the next ‘catch’.
I have spent considerable time since the case of the eight-year girl raped and killed by a 19-year old youth in Salia Sahi trying to get inside the mind of the rapist.
What exactly was it that was going on inside his mind at the time? Did he plan the whole thing (asking for direction to somebody’s house) beforehand or did the idea of raping the girl occur to him at the spur of the moment? Did he also plan to murder her when he thought of raping her or was it an afterthought born out of fear? Did he think, even in passing, about the possible consequences of what he was going to do (especially since the girl’s mother sent her daughter with him) or was he too possessed by the demon in him to bother about such minor irritants? How did he feel when he was caught by the police? Was he fearful? Did he feel even a semblance of remorse for what he had done since being caught and thrown behind bars?
These and many more questions have occupied my mind for the last few days. But there are no definite answers forthcoming.
I do, however, know the answer to at least one question; why children are increasingly becoming the target of sexual attack? For one thing, they are easy to ‘lure’ and less likely to suspect the would be rapist’s motives. For another, they are less likely to put up any physical resistance – and more likely to succumb to the threat against disclosure – than a full grown woman.
It is the same ‘reasoning’ (if it can be called that at all) that persuades the perpetrators to target the differently abled – the blind, the deaf and dumb, the mentally retarded and so on. The vocational instructor, who raped a deaf and dumb girl – and someone suffering from fever at that – student of the government-run Vocational Rehabilitation Centre (VRC) at Pokahriput was apparently not trying it for the first time. His ‘success’ in his first attempt must have spurred him on to the next and further success in the next to the next and so on.
The man who raped and killed a blind girl in Beladala village on the Puri-Konark marine drive a few weeks ago was not only old enough to be his victim’s father, but was also well known to her family. He had a family of his own too. And yet, it did not deter him from trying what he did. Perhaps because he thought he would get away with it since she was a minor – and blind to boot.
The rate at which minors and differently abled girls are being targeted, there seems to be a definite pattern to it. The rapist fraternity appears to have decided – post the outrage over the Nirbhaya case in Delhi and the Bebina case in our very own Pipli – to shift their focus and target those who can offer the least resistance. If the victims still have the temerity to put up some resistance, no problem. Just silence them forever; strangle them, burn them or simply knife them to death. It is so easy, hassle-free and risk-free!!
It is important to make a distinction between sexual deprivation and depravity. If every sexually deprived person turned out to be a rapist, then there would be ten times the number of rape cases there are now. In any case, why would someone go looking, at great risk, for an unsuspecting eight-year old child in Salia Sahi when one can jolly well have hassle-free sexual gratification for a few bucks at Mali Sahi?
In the overwhelming majority of cases of sexual assault against girl children, the perpetrators are perfectly normal, happily married men. But deep inside the recesses of their minds, where neither society nor even their wives have any access, these are depraved people. Maybe the depravity is spawned by a feeling of sexual inadequacy, which they subconsciously try to overcome through a ‘conquest’. Maybe it is the irresistible desire to ‘deflower’ (a term that is perhaps used only in India) a virgin that overpowers them.
Whatever it is, there is little that the police and the courts can do about them since no punishment can ever deter them and nor can any justice system ever reform them. They are people who need the attention of psychiatrists. But the problem is: how does one identify them? They don’t carry a name tag around their necks and look and behave like perfectly normal people – just like you and me.
* Sandeep Sahu is the Executive Editor at odishasuntimes.com