In Response to Flavia Agnes and Natasha Badhwar:
Shyamolie Singh

Dear Shyamolie,

I am extremely disappointed in this article, especially when it comes from “enlightened” feminists like you. I am a lay person, from a small town, victim of a heinous sexual assault and very far from the glitzy media world that you clearly belong to. Like many women in this country, I know, very viscerally, the shame, the silence, and the trauma of being a rape victim. But even to me, your article, like many others of your ilk, seem to be deliberately mixing issues. While on one hand, you have correctly pointed out the egregious blunders of the unfortunate Agnes interview (I agree, it seems too staged), you blindside the most important issue raised by this case on the other hand. The contradiction in your statements, as in many others that I have followed since, is this: Justice is not always congruent with law. Law functions on certain conceptual paradigms, including, yes, “grading”. Measurement (of trauma/crime) is the horrifying “nuance” that shapes all jurisprudence. You talk about justice in one breath and ignore the most vital and fundamental core of justice: fairness. Fairness, and I am, like you, not a legal expert, is the principle of judiciary because it is the most basic of human principles. But what is fairness? Fairness, again my humble lay person mindset tells me, is a principle of equivalence. Unfortunately, we cannot fine tune fairness any further without falling into some form of public rubric, a measurement again.

This is exactly the point at which your noisy, badly edited piece starts to disappoint me. You talk about justice and yet, it escapes you that justice is a two-sided sword. It cuts both the victim and the “convict” (following your advice!) to size (keeping up with the metaphor of measurement). Justice is justice, and it should not be confused with retribution. I think it is grossly lazy on your part to talk about trauma and not recognize that laws and legal mechanisms are only one, albeit important, part of healing. I think your stance is disappointing because this case presents to us, feminists and non-feminists alike, a wonderful opportunity to open up a conversation on the nature of laws in this country. Are laws, and more dacronian laws, enough to cure this ancient evil? Why do you think the law needs to evoke “age and ability” (whatever that means) when these paradigms do not play any role in cases of homicide?

Because feminism — in this country and elsewhere — has often clarified ethical and moral directions of a society, I am disappointed that all your article stinks of is retribution and vindictiveness. If Agnes’s interveiw was a set-up, yours is worse — it has nothing positive to add to this vicious cycle of comments and counter-comments. I am disappointed that not once you mention the other woman in your commentary: Anusha Rizvi, another “victim” of this offense. Or was the whole point of your article retribution against the interviewer and the interviewee?

I am surprised that you blame Farooqui defenders of one-of-us symptom when it is pretty obvious that you yourself suffer from this symptom. This call for blood strikes you right when the convict is reachable and one-of-us. I do not know Farooqui and have no personal opinion on the man. I think arguments on one’s character are redundant anyway. But it strikes me that while rapes, and yes more heinous rapes are order of the day in this country, there is no such flurry of media on such rapes. Why was there very little of such flashy commentary on Bulandshahar? Because, like me 
(and I admit I am not a social media person at all), you also measure what sells socially. Because, like me, you think some crimes to be so routinized (a form of grading) that it is the very fabric of our existence and therefore, does not deserve commentary.

And yet, I am disappointed in your call to address rape, and indeed gender, through more and more punitive measures. You talk about Angela Davis and yet make lazy arguments against Agnes and Badhwar, as if you are unfamiliar that they are as much a part of propoganda as you are. Cannot feminists, like you, also call for more radical initiatives, ethical and moral, that the legislators in this country have wantonly abandoned? This is the case where lines are blurred, and like you correctly say, that is the whole point of the exercise. This is why it is important to step away from vindictive notions of law. This is why it is important to not confuse law with justice. Law will always rely on measurement, we like it or not.

Healing cannot and must not rely on law. Healing, it must be stressed, is also no ones monopoly. If our liberal state depends on punishment as a yardstick of its success, it is our duty, as conscientious citizens of this country, to open up new, more radical, ways of thinkings about redressal, healing, and justice. That is, to my mind, the only way a society can continue to be humane. I believe, feminism, after all, is part of bettering the society as a whole, and not women alone (read Angela Davis). And this is the hope I have for you as well as others.

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