Safety: A Birthright of All

Our constitution grants us the Right to Life under the many civil rights that it has provided for its citizens. This privilege promises that the state has to make provisions for the well-being and the safety of its citizens, something that it has failed to do in recent times. An individual’s safety includes protection from abuse, harassment, and predators.

How is it that no number of rules or laws can stop these sexual carnivores from inflicting a lifetime of pain and trauma on unsuspecting individuals? Cases of such hideous crimes are often brought up by the media and left to become breaking news. However, what surprises me the most is how gender-specific safety has become. There are laws and laws that are being passed to ensure that every Cinderella reaches home unscathed, without having to call upon a Fairy Godmother. Women now are in possession of a prerogative which exempts them from any legal action, if found guilty of the murder of their assailant while defending themselves. But in this “We-stand-for-equality” era, aren’t the males of the society equally prone to being targets for these demons in human forms?

Last week, the news highlighted the story of a 36-year-old woman who sexually attacked a nine-year-old boy several times for more than a year, all over a family dispute. The devil dwells in a female figurine as well and is capable of causing the same amount of anguish. There is a greater need to focus on the safety of the males in this country and not leave them to defend themselves with the weapon of masculinity. The perils of avoiding sex education and making it a taboo are faced equally by both the genders. When the judiciary decided to support the rights of the LGBT community, it was unaware of the dangers that could follow. Last month, the nation heard of a case in which a woman was guilty of abusing another woman. It is not just a man with cheap sexual fantasies that a woman needs to be aware of. Her own kind is capable of wounding her in a way she never thought possible. Well, for the feminists with the singular motto of “What men can do, women can do better”, this point is definitely in your bag.

A 14-year-old boy in Mumbai reported sexual assault by a man, soon after which he died of rat poison consumption. In India, the minimum punishment for raping a boy is 10 years in jail, compared with 20 years for assaults on girls under 16. Why this discrimination? While there still is limited awareness, focus and advocacy on women’s rights in sexually violent circumstances, it is even less so when men are the victims of these crimes. A man’s culprit deserves a severe punishment like a lady’s. Every person, be it a male, a female or a transgender, has the right to feel safe and secure walking down a deserted street at any time of the day. It is the need of the hour that we start addressing the issue of male security in the country and around the globe. After all, feminism is not about one gender being better than the other; it is about all of them being equal.

While the Nirbhaya rape case of 2012 succeeded in raising awareness regarding the safety of women in the country, male victims failed to gain much attention. The masculine gender happens to be the most neglected sufferer of sexual assault. A victim cannot get over the psychological trauma easily. It is essential that we try to understand their perspective and ensure that their voices are heard. One can spend a lifetime trying to forget a few moments that lie in the past. Martin Luther King Jr. aptly said our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. From infancy, males are told that they should strive to be masculine, i.e. resilient, self-sufficient, dominant in sexual interactions and able to defend both themselves and those relying on them for protection. This has to change. We, as a society, need to understand that these assumptions, very often, become barriers for them to open up and share their experiences. They believe that encounters of such abuse may contravene with these expectations. The right to equal safety provisions has to change
as an under-discussed phenomenon. It’s work that we all have to start right now.

The Game of Life

“Was the moon landing fake?”, “Was Avril Lavigne replaced by a clone?” , “Was time travel possible?” These were the questions that consumed me once I introduced myself to conspiracy theories. They overtook the mundane thoughts I generally had: food, the unpredictability of the future and several replays of witty conversations. Even though some of them sounded far-fetched, like the flat Earth theory, there was something fascinating about them. I couldn’t help myself from sleuthing around; I needed answers. The ones with substantial proof made me question everything; Nothing seemed real anymore. Among the several evidence bearing theories, one particular theory intrigued me the most, the theory that stated the possibility of the earth being a simulation. Every other theory had enough shortcomings for me to accept that it might be a coincidence, but this one had more “What ifs” than “That’s absurd”. Of course, saying “We are a bunch of characters in a computer game” sounded insane, but something within me couldn’t discredit all the coincidences that had happened in the past and how they seemed connected to a computer game.

I used to watch Sims playthroughs for fun, but after hearing about this theory, every second of every video became an opportunity for comparison. In the game, the player was allowed to control several people at once. Their likes, dislikes, actions and lifestyle, everything was in the player’s hands but in the latest versions, the people were allowed to have a say of their own. For example, in the earlier versions if the person wasn’t given an action, they’d stay idle till an order was given, however now it was possible that the person would begin to do whatever they pleased if no orders were given and they also had the ability to deny the order and do something else. This got me thinking, what if the orders were analogous to our inner voices. Sometimes we pay heed to them, sometimes we don’t, just like the Sims characters. There were so many tiny factors like this that boggled my mind. In the game, the player had an option to cancel the character’s actions from a lineup. This seemed very similar to something that kept happening to me- I’d go into a room for some reason, then I’d forget why I was there. Another thing about the lineup was that the order of the actions could be changed, just like our order of priority. This was relevant to the fact that sometimes procrastinate homework to do something less important. We could blame that on poor willpower, but what about the times I decided to put nature on hold just to continue scrolling aimlessly on my phone. The game also allowed time to pass by faster at the click of a button. Nothing of that sort ever happened in our world, right? What about the times when time would drag on till the point where we thought our watches were broken? The times when every minute was definitely lesser than 60 seconds? It made sense.

The next 2 epiphanies I had regarding this topic were not as concrete as the previous ones, they were sillier. First, a computer simulation would explain every paranormal experience anyone had ever had, especially strange occurrences involving movement of furniture and other objects, from their original positions. The game had a feature where we could change from “game mode” to “build mode”. Game mode was the mode in which the game was played and build mode was the mode in which we could rearrange furniture, buy and sell objects etc. Second, the character’s wants would show up at the bottom of the screen and you’d have the choice of whether or not to fulfil them. This was a lot like the law of attraction, which states that “if you believe you will obtain something, it will manifest into reality”. Obviously, an object dropping from the sky would be outrageous, but the coincidences involving people getting what they really wanted were too many to ignore.

But if the world was indeed a simulation, that would mean that there would be glitches in the system? It would mean resurrection and immortality weren’t impossible. I was left with so many questions, more than when I began sleuthing around. What if the simulation crashed? Would life continue from a checkpoint, like in the games? Was that why Mandela effects existed? What was the purpose of this simulation? Who created it? And why? Who controlled us? I couldn’t believe anything as it was, everything had something hidden behind it.


The Blemishes of Indian News Media

Media is regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy, and rightfully so. Job of the media is to hold the government accountable. It is to keep the people of the country knowledgeable. It is to report facts and truths. It is to uphold the values and integrity of our democracy. And in the last few years, our beloved media has spectacularly failed to do any of the jobs it should have done.

Gone are the days when the press defied oppression and took a stand against Indira Gandhi’s draconian Emergency. Gone are the days we actually saw a journalist asking important questions to people in power and following up on those questions. We all remember when Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, left an ongoing interview by Karan Thapar when asked about his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Now what we have is a PR agency, a PR agency which pulls out all stops to push government propaganda. An agency which has long left the job of reporting facts and truth, but rather promotes bigotry, Islamophobia and fascism in the guise of patriotism. Tune in to news channels during primetime and witness it for yourself. Anchors, instead of asking questions to spokesperson of the government, rise to clamour against guests who question them, and by doing so, they’re killing our democratic instinct. This happens due to the association of news channels with political parties. Republic TV is founded by Arnab Goswami in partnership with a BJP member of parliament. Its implications can be seen on his show as a place which is meant for debates and discussions gets drowned in Hindu-Muslim, National-Anti-national debates. Let the farmers commit suicide, let the mob lynchings be turned into another Hindu-Muslim debate, let the real issues take a backseat, all to soothe the egos of the officials in power.
There’s also been a rise of competition amongst news channels lately.

Competition is good, it helps organisations deliver their best, but that is not what’s happening in this case. In the bid to be the number one news network, quality content is lost. Republic TV and Times Now fit this description aptly. Both their ads try to degrade the other, both claim to be the number one English news channel, and both fail to get out of the boundaries of Hindu-Muslim, Ram-Mandir “issues” which has become the new normal.

Everyday, we see news channels stooping to new lows, and it doesn’t even surprise us any longer. From panellists getting into physical fights and anchors branding anyone who doesn’t agree with them as Anti-Nationals, to openly lying on national television in primetime shows. Sudhir Chaudhary claimed after demonetisation that the new 2000 Rs. Notes contain a nano-chip which will help the government track notes. This claim was found to be a lie circulated on the popular messaging application, WhatsApp. One of the most viewed journalists of the country lied in such a blatant way and didn’t even consider it important to retract his statement, shows his irresponsibility.

And it’s not just the T.V. media, but the print media as well, which has a fair share of blame to shoulder. The cobrapost sting on various newspapers showed the editors were ready to accept money in place of promoting right-wing Hinduism.
The loosening threads of trust need to be woven tightly again for an India which can fearlessly dissent from the norm. Any association between a political party and a news outlet should be banned as it becomes a source of propaganda. Any organisation flouting this rule shouldn’t be allowed to air on T.V. or be printed. An independent body, like the judiciary and election commission, should be setup which can check for hate speech and lies promoted by an organisation. Sweeping changes and reforms have to be made for the resurrection of Indian media so that it’s able to earn the trust it once had. It’s high time that necessary steps are taken to not let our fourth pillar completely collapse- endangering our great democracy.

by Akshat Kashyap