It was 4th Feb 2015, a Wednesday. I had just come back from work late in the evening when I got a frantic call from a young man whom I had met in one of my lecture sessions. His voice was troubled and he sounded in deep distress. He told me that he had gone to visit his cousin at his office on that day when his cousin told him about two videos he had received on ‘whatsapp’. When he saw the videos his blood curled. Not knowing what to do he had called me. I told him to send me the videos. I also cautioned him that many morphed videos are also on the rounds and with so much pornography all kinds of things are passed around.
Within half an hour both the videos reached me. I had a shock of my life when I viewed the videos. For a minutes I was nauseated. Two videos, one 8.5 mins long of a gang rape of a girl by five men and another 4.5 mins long of rape of a girl by a man. Both the videos were being recorded by somebody else whom the men were aware of but that person’s face is not captured. What was shocking was the look on the faces of all the six young men, whom now I would like to call as “rapist”, in any case they were flaunting their dastardly act. They were all smiling and making snide remarks. One guy was even masturbating while the other was raping the girl. The impunity of the act was mind boggling. Not only these lowly creatures had committed the worst form of violation but they also had the audacity to flaunt it and disseminate it in a public domain.
To me this was not only a slap on the criminal justice system but also on everyone who has even a small iota of humanity left in them. What gave these creatures the confidence to blow their trumpet about something which I would call the worst form of human rights violation.
And then I decided ENOUGH IS ENOUGH…this is a war and we need to fight it with the right strategy. For too many centuries the victim has been shamed, victimized, isolated, ostracized and stigmatized for a crime she has never committed. For too long the world at large chose to remain silent on the perpetrators and abusers. The result, we have created an enabling environment of impunity. This combined with our criminal justice system which has repeatedly failed in rising up to the occasion to create deterrence has completed the cycle of lawlessness.
Today men committing such heinous crimes, have no remorse or guilt, on the contrary they celebrate their brutality with sickening mentality. Equally shocking is the fact that many of us have such disgusting voyeuristic tastes that we have not only viewed such videos but also helped these rascals in spreading the message.
On Thursday 5th Feb 2015 at 2.30pm I started #ShameTheRapistCampaign, I edited these videos, made it to 1 minute and 30 secs, blurred the images of the victim completely, highlighted the faces of the rapist, ensuring that people who see the video may get an idea of the region/locality by the languages these guys were speaking. It was obvious to me that it was not in South India. I posted these videos on ‘youtube’ and launched my campaign to trace these rapist, shame them and hand over them to the authorities. In a couple of hours comments from all over the world started pouring in supporting the campaign. Most friends from media were silent, maybe they had not seen it, but NDTV spotted it and decided to support my campaign.
Next day ie 6th Feb 2015 at 9.30am I spoke about the campaign live on NDTV. Within minutes my car was vandalized. I do not know whether to connect these two or not. I have done enough in my life to antagonize hundreds of people. I have been battling against the organized crime of sex trafficking for the last two decades. I am not in dearth of enemies. But the campaign was already 12 hours old, so definitely there is a niggling feeling that somewhere it could be connected. Maybe not the men I am exposing, but others who have committed similar crimes and are presuming that I may have their videos too!
Thanks to the vandals, the campaign got a greater boost( every adversity has an opportunity). Media was all around me reporting the campaign. The campaign to me is going in the right direction as I received hundreds of mails and messages supporting it. I also started receiving some other videos from all over the country. Around 11 mails came identifying one of the rapist. Many mails and calls came informing me that they had already seen these videos many months back.
Ofcourse I also got a lot of offensive pornographic mails, which felt as if they were saying “catch me if you can”. I even filed a case in the cyber cell. In the meantime the local police came and took the two videos for further investigation.
My intention was not to just start a campaign on social media, but also to advocate for a mechanism to tackle this entire issue. So on my front I decided to take up the issue at the following levels:
1. Request for a CBI probe on all the videos I was handing over to the Ministry of Home Affairs.(Apart from the first two videos, I had also recieved many others)
2. Recommend to set up a task force in the Home Ministry to tackle sexual crimes.
3. To create public friendly anonymous system where citizens can report such crimes within the Home Ministry.
4. To set up a National Sex Offenders Directory of convicted sex offenders. This will not only name & shame convicted offenders, citizen will also get face to the offense. This is already in practice in many countries.
5. Ministry of Home Affairs to have an agreement with youtube and ‘whatsapp’ to pass on any such offensive videos and to take it up suo motto.
With great difficulty I managed to get an appointment with the Home Secretary,Govt Of India whom I appraised him of the situation and also give in writing all my recommendations. For whatever it is worth it, he did give me a fair hearing and said all the right things. But till I do not see any real action, I will take all this with a pinch of salt. In any case I have kept my backup plan ready.
In the meantime I also started hearing a lot of criticism about my campaign. In the beginning I was not able to fathom what was really hassling them. What could anyone have against ‘shaming a rapist’ who was already flaunting his crime?
But then slowly I realized many of the criticisms were about the video I had posted. It was pointed out that I had ignored the plight of the victims when they see such videos being played on ‘youtube’. It would amount to re-traumatization. Fair enough! But my question is when these videos were being passed around across the country with the faces of the victims for everybody to see, why did people not protest at that time. A good number of people who wrote to me told me they already seen these videos many months back. And these were people from various part of the country.
Was my blurring the faces of the victim a problem? Were people offended as they could see the act, but were able to see only the sinister laughs of these men.
Definitely I empathize with the pain of the victim. Having survived it myself and also after taking care of hundreds of such victims. But the fight for justice is not going to be a pleasant one. Especially in a context when the rapist/abuser does not even feel an iota of shame or remorse, but the victim is made to feel shame & guilt in abundance. Till date the civil society has not even articulated their stand against the rapists/sex offenders/abusers. In any case we have collectively failed in creating an environment of deterrence and shame for the abuser….and I feel such a campaign is the first step towards it.
I am also aware that this can be misused. Men & woman have the capacity to misuse. Just because a person is born a woman, it does not mean she might not have criminal tendencies or she is holier than thou. There is a small but significant number of fake rape cases also reported. I hope in the course of time as this campaign spreads we will have more and more people applying their mind to ensure how these kind of campaigns are not misused and innocent human beings are not harassed.
I request your suggestions to make this campaign stronger and powerful…lets together be part of a movement to make this world a safe place for all of us.