Silence not a virtue but a shame – Dr G John

It seems India has too many such good people! We have grown in our tolerance towards evils and evil doers. While on the one hand intolerance towards pluralism, varied culture, different religions and expression of freedom and speech is growing, tolerance towards evils and corrupt practices also seem to grow simultaneously in India. Both are not good and in fact it should be the other way.  This is a dangerous attitude we are witnessing across the length and breadth of this nation.

The whole system is skewed against women. With patriarchal mind-set, with male chauvinistic attitude and with ‘silence’ as a virtue, India is not a safe place for women to live in. Nirbhaya pleaded for help on the fateful night of December 16, 2012 after being raped and thrown out of a moving bus in New Delhi, but no one came forward to lend a helping hand. Many events such as these are happening day in and day out. Most of them go unreported. Of the few reported, only a miniscule few get the attention of the media that we are aware of. One such case is that of theRohtak sisters Arti Kuhar and Pooja standing up to the three men, who tried to molest them while travelling in a Haryana Roadways bus. The case is taking new turns each day.

Thanks to Whatsapp and FB for making it viral. But for this, the incident would not have come to the light, media would not have taken up the issue, and police and government would not have acted. ‘Silence’ became a luxury which the government and police could not afford to in this case. Thanks to the media.  

What is appalling is the attitude of the people in general: 1) The co-passengers just chose to remain silent spectators. No one came forward to help those girls who were trying to protect their modesty and right. 2) The driver and the conductor, in a way, were complicit with the perpetrators of the crime against the duo. They too did nothing. 3) The girls repeatedly tried calling women’s help line number 1091 but ‘no reply’ was the answer.

All these were happening in full public view. Women have become so vulnerable in a society that venerates women as goddesses. When the modesty of women is trespassed, her rights are violated, and abused in full public view, how can you remain silent? It is difficult to understand and digest the mind-set of the people. But that is the reality today and was yesterday. Probably, we have enjoyed several such scenes on the silver screen; as a consequence we have become more tolerant in real life! Is that so?

The whole of India watched a video clip showing an accident victim, lying in the middle of the road in a pool of blood, waving hands to stop the ongoing traffic to help him and his child, but no one had the heart to stop by to help the bleeding, pleading victim of road accident. This was going on for a full half an hour. Finally, he died bleeding in the middle of the road. He could have been saved very easily had someone stopped and taken him to hospital. It shook the consciousness of the entire nation, only on that day.

It is ‘silence’ that is killing the nation today. This is the biggest enemy India needs to overcome and conquer. It is a silent killer with larger impacts affecting all facets of life. It is worse than a crime. By being silent, and by choosing to remain silent to what is happening we become complicit to the acts crimes. In a subtle and obvious way we give a green signal to the perpetrators of crimes to go ahead with what they are doing and what they want to do. It is an indirect way of encouraging the furtherance of crime and evil.

Those who are silent are as guilty as those who commit the sin. The sins of the criminals may be forgiven but not the sin of remaining silent to the acts of crimes. For this amounts to subtle abetment of crime which is also a punishable offence under various sections of Indian constitution!

When our fellow human beings are in distress and in dire need of help, if we are not coming forward to lend a helping hand, we declare ourselves to be inferior to animals. When an animal is in danger, another animal of its clan comes to the rescue, come what may. Having proclaimed ourselves as superior beings, we often exhibit a behavioural pattern that is far inferior to that of animals.

When we fail to stand up against something we consider evil, we tend to mess up our future. The politicians are able to cash in on this attitude of people and that is why many MLAs and MPs get elected year after year in spite of proven track record of criminal activities. There is no way these politicians would shun evil and criminal activities because these are ‘non issues’ for the voters. If voters are ready to shun and boycott these petty politicians, definitely our political system would be clean. Alas, voters would not do that!

It is easier said than done. Sometimes we may have to pay a price for speaking up against injustice. It requires guts and application of intelligence. One needs to be prudent too. Otherwise, one may end up paying a heavy price. That is what happened to a college student Tugce Albayrak, aged 23 in Germany last week. She was taken off life support machine last week and died on her 23rd birthday. On November 15, Albayrak was hit on the head by a man in the car park of a McDonald’s in Offenbach in an apparent revenge attack after she went to the aid of two girls who were being harassed in the restaurant toilets. She sustained grievous injury and never regained her consciousness.

Her courage is worth emulating and worth remembering. This is what the President of Germany said: “Where other people looked the other way, Tugce showed exemplary bravery and civil courage and came to the aid of victim of violence.” Though it seems dangerous sometimes to voice against evil, we need to take a calculated risk. This possibility of danger shall not deter us from helping someone who is in dire need of help. Extreme danger is a remote possibility. If we are prudent, we can at least minimize the risk.

Helping someone and registering a protest, in our own little way, will go a long way in mitigating the sufferings of the victims. More than that, this will act as a deterrent. We need to send a strong signal that these kinds of things will not be tolerated. The whole system of education needs an overhaul. Gender sensitivity and forming a right perspective of sexes should become part of everyday education, ably supported by law enforcing agency and political clan. Eve teasers and people who make lewd comments should be dealt with iron hand, people who make sexiest comments should be ostracized, and perpetrators of sexual crimes should be brought to books without delay. We need to create a culture of ‘zero tolerance’ of crime against women and children which is a collective responsibility of all the stakeholders of the society.

Being good is a virtue which implies, among others, that you stand up against vices. Not subscribing to vices is another form of being good. By choosing to be silent we allow bad things to happen. By doing so we become complicit to happening of bad things, thereby we cease to be good. When we ‘good people’ fail to stand up against crimes, it makes us no better than perpetrators of crimes.

Let the society know that silence is not a virtue but a shame. It is apt to remember the words ofMartin Niemoller who said:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—   Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—   Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Let us not remain silent when rights of our fellow human beings are violated! Let us speak up. Let us protest.

 (The writer is an Associate Professor at St. Joseph’s College in Trichy)

Source: Indian Currents

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