‘No Nation for Women — Reportage on Rape from India, the World’s Largest Democracy’ review: Tracking violence

Journalist Priyanka Dubey says she wrote this anthology to address a gap in knowledge on rape in India.

She documents 13 stories of sexual violence against women, none more horrific than the other, from different parts of the country. By the time you are done reading, though, the events, people and places have melded into one another, rather reflective of how we react to incidents of rape.

Sexual abuse in the country is so rampant that it has been normalised. Only the worst of the cases provoke an outcry, and even these often become forgotten bookmarks.

A common thread that runs through the stories is the long, despairing fight for justice.

Dubey has covered revenge rape-and-murders in Bundelkhand; rape of rival politicians in Tripura; gang-rapes to show the tribal community in Madhya Pradesh their place; custody rape; child rape; caste-related rape cases; kidnapping and trafficking of young girls; and sexism within the Indian police force. She doesn’t travel too deep within the stories, mostly sticking to the narrative exposed to a reporter during a day-trip to meet the victim and her family.

These are travels Dubey undertook intermittently over six years from 2011 onwards, fresh out of journalism school, and she has a tendency to valorise the effort she made even though that is an essential part of her job. A stronger editor should have insisted on follow-up visits to make the stories seem less dated. For the real story here is as much what happened to the victims when they were assaulted (and sometimes killed), as what they undergo for years thereafter. Many of these crimes were covered extensively in newspapers, but the ensuing fight to ensure justice took place outside the media glare.

There is a certain strength in a Dalit community sitting in protest for years at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar to seek justice for a caste crime, the gang-rape of four girls in Bhagana, Haryana. As also the individual fight of a woman raped in 2010 by politician Purushottam Naresh Dwivedi in Uttar Pradesh, unwavering despite being deserted even by her family.

In 2011, Phoolbai, the wife of a farm labourer and mother of a teenage girl raped and burnt to death by a stalker in Bundelkhand, told the reporter she would fight the case to the end in court. Did she or did life and its daily harshness take over?

We don’t know this from Dubey’s account, but what we do see are people not defeated by their economic and social disadvantage, hopeful despite the odds against them.

No Nation for Women: Reportage on Rape from India, the World’s Largest Democracy; Priyanka Dubey, Simon & Schuster, ₹399.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2021 2:32:44 AM |

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