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Brutality against Indian Women: Why Modi’s words have fallen on deaf ears

To the images of the charred remains of a young woman, raped and murdered, countless Indians woke up this morning with a sense of having failed their nation.

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To the images of the charred remains of a young woman, raped and murdered, countless Indians woke up this morning with a sense of having failed their nation.

Dr Priyanka Reddy was out and about her work as a vet in the outskirts of Hyderabad when her motorbike broke down and she fell prey to the evil eyes of men around her, with no route of escape left for her modesty or her life.

India could probably learn from China which, culturally, holds a similar preference for baby boys yet the other extreme is rare. Punishment is a suitable deterrent

All of India’s gains on women’s issues in recent years, personally for me, had been put to flames.

Four years ago, India’s premier Narendra Modi launched a scheme for girls, appropriately in the northern state of Haryana, which suffers from a skewed gender ratio and where women must largely look after home and hearth, and little else.

“The prime minister of this country has come to you like a beggar, begging for the lives of our daughters,” Modi had implored.

Flip through the news pages of the last six years and you would see countless tales of Indian women who are world champions, two of them – Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza– from the very city of Hyderabad which today hangs its head in shame.

You would find women who scaled Mount Everest on one leg; the youngest ever to swim her way to a record in icy Antarctic waters; grandmasters in chess; unbeatables in squash; an amateur world boxing champion’s reign of six years; authors who are internationally acclaimed; women scientists who are today the backbone of India’s space research programme, the envy of the world.

Read more: Indian women’s heads shaved for resisting rape

The same pages relate stories of horrendous rapes and of experts pontificating on smaller numbers, fewer jobs, lesser education, less convictions, open defecation, female feticide, etc., as reasons for such violations. You’ll have television debates, possibly a candlelight march with sombre faces on along the capital’s brightest thoroughfares, with the best expressions saved for news cameras which, with a little luck, could place you in the morning’s edition.

None of them seek out or reflect on a basic question which Modi asks his citizens. How could you possibly ask for an educated daughter-in-law when you snatch books from the hands of your own young daughters?

To the images of the charred remains of a young woman, raped and murdered, countless Indians woke up this morning with a sense of having failed their nation

The best examples of such a belief are apparently lost on a society where women are not only seen as an object of sex but also one over which to wield power and dominance.

The evidence is out there, every living minute of your daily existence. You ride a bus and see women being groped with abandon, wolf whistles accompanying your daughter long after they have turned the corner, lewd remarks in cafes, etc.

The sanctity of such obnoxious behaviour could come from men in the highest echelons of the society: Like a former Defence Minister who cautioned young girls against revealing dresses because “boys, after all, are boys.”

Today, there are two Indias living side by side. One has the horrid face of centuries where women are merely an extension of man’s needs, managing kids and kitchen only, and daring not think about themselves.

The other India has women reaching for the skies, as strong in mind and body as men, egged on by their progressive families and lauded in their communities. Then there are some, like me, who fall in between.

Read more: Ten women die in India mudslide

A father of two educated but unmarried daughters, I once damned my luck with the words: “Man, I feel raped.” My two lovelies gave me a look I would never forget. They felt belittled and humiliated – and made sure I did, too.

The average Indian family has always preferred baby boys to girls. For a long time, policymakers ignored this mindset. Such an India needs open debate, a sustained dialogue so that the two Indias can live in harmony and safely.

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A skewed gender ratio leaves society with more men and fewer women, a recipe for violence and domestic instability. India could probably learn from China which, culturally, holds a similar preference for baby boys yet the other extreme is rare. Punishment is a suitable deterrent.

India needs, perhaps, to look at its laws and the speed at which justice is arrived-at for the offenders. By Ashish Shukla, a senior journalist and geopolitical analyst based in India, author of ‘How United States Shot Humanity.’ He runs the website NewsBred.