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Op-Ed: The Indian protests an example of positive outrage

By Raluca Besliu     Dec 27, 2012 in Politics
The story of a 23-year-old woman gang-raped by six men on a moving bus, attacked with an iron rod, and thrown out of the bus in New Delhi, India (and the lack of proper official response to her case) has outraged the Indian society.
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to demand justice for the young woman, to condemn the growing incidence of rape throughout India and its acceptance by both the Indian population and the authorities.
In spite of the protests, officials have been slow in responding to the demonstrators' demands. Last week, not even one political leader engaged with the protesters. In fact, only after almost a week of ongoing rallying did Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appear on television promising to enhance protection measures for women and reform the country’s inefficient criminal justice system. India’s most powerful woman, Sonia Gandhi, the Congress party chief, only met with some of the protesters after their movement had been widely televised.
Moreover, in an interview, Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde associated the demonstrators with ultra-left rebels. Similarly, the son of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, who is also a member of the Indian parliament, insulted the female protesters in Delhi, by claiming they were middle-aged women caked up in make-up.
While he was criticizing them, these women were out on the streets voicing their protests on behalf of the young rape victim, who remains in an extremely critical condition in a Singapore hospital, to where she was flown for treatment. After his remarks were widely condemned, even by his sister, Sharmishtha, who described them as shocking and likely to provoke the disapproval of their father, Mukherjee publicly apologized for what he had said.
The Indian politicians' overall lack of engagement with the protestors coupled with casual insults have caused some of the demonstrators to chant that politicians "are our rulers, not representatives" and that India is currently a "feudal democracy.” The protests could mark the beginning of a growing popular disenchantment with and contestation of the political class that might have important repercussions in the future.
Apart from revealing politicians' aloofness, the current protests embody a powerful example of people standing in dignified solidarity with a victim of cruelty and protesting against injustice. If the rallies were initially centered around the young woman, they gradually took on more general objectives, such as ending mistreatment of women in Indian society and improving the criminal justice system.
The Indian protests are exactly the types of movement that former French diplomat, Stephane Hessel, advocated for his remarkable and widely-known booklet, Indignez-vous, in which he urged young Frenchmen to become outraged by the injustices surrounding them and to start peaceful and non-violent insurrection. Outrage implies a level of personal engagement with a cause, determining individuals to step out of their comfort zone, take action and fight for change.
Unfortunately, this type of positive outrage remains rare in contemporary society. There are currently many situations around the world, which deserve international outrage, such as the current crimes against humanity taking place in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, the Syrian refugee crisis, the mistreatment of minorities in European countries. Even though some of these cases force hundreds of thousands and even millions of people to undergo injustice and mistreatment that no one should be exposed to, the international public is not outraged. Of course, we can’t all be outraged for everything. But if all of us would be outraged for some things that we care about enough to actively protest on the streets about and not give up when the government does not respond or responds by sending armed forces, many current injustices might be solved or at least tempered. Apathy, self-sufficiency and lacking a sense of responsibility toward the well-being and dignity of other people seem to be the key obstacles that contemporary society must overcome.
The Indian protests should become a guiding example of how we should all react to injustice: with prompt outrage and a determination to bring about change.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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