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Blame The Racists, Not The Victims

In a pathological society where gender prejudices dictate the society’s moral assumptions and perceptions, girl-victims of crimes are often stereotyped and denounced by the society as “cheap” and “loose”. The morbid reaction of male hypocrisy towards the recent racist-murder of late Juliet Zonunmawi in New Delhi was utterly pathological and dehumanizing. Morality seems to be irrelevant so long as racist hate crime relates to a son in this gendered world, but the moment it strikes a daughter, something must be wrong with her morality and lifestyle.

When the all-male-victims Michael Haokip, Ngamkholen Haokip, Rocky Kipgen, Aloto Sumi and Awang Newmai were brutally attacked in Bangalore-Gurgaon, the collective conscience of the society was unanimously directed against the racists as such without any preconceived notion of contributory moral fault on the part of the male victims. However, this impersonal social indignation immediately got transformed into a pattern deeply bias, sexist and discriminatory when the sole-female-victim late Juliet Zonunmawi was reportedly found murdered inside her apartment in New Delhi.

Society began by questioning her morality as though “virtuous” women in the cities do not go to where racist hate crime happens and such hate crime happens only to immoral women. For reasons gender as stemming from the deeper asymmetric moral assumptions between men and women which permit men to do whatever while it is inappropriate for women, the male-dominant society is quick to relate her lifestyle with the happening of the hate crime. Some online bloggers went to the extent of savoring the idea of the incident as a lesson for all the assumed “loose” ladies out there in the cities. She was thus, for reasons of her own gender, morally tried, condemned and buried by the society with the same guilt of her own racist-murderer.

Such social stigmatization sadly discourages women from freely reporting incidences of racist hate or sexual crime, thereby more often leaving the criminals run scot-free. Nevertheless, the society is reluctant to concede that morality and lifestyle of the victim has no causal connectivity whatsoever with the offender’s criminality and more importantly in sexual jurisprudence for that matter, a woman’s moral history is irrelevant inasmuch as irrespective of how “cheap”, “loose” or “provocative” might her lifestyle be, one cannot in law be sexually provoked to violate a woman’s body and her modesty.

While the good intent of the moralist sermons are not disputed, what is utterly missed by them to differentiate is that it is one thing to assume certain lifestyle as likely to invite racist attack, but it is absolutely erroneous to juxtapose that lifestyle as the cause of racism or to blame the victim as morally responsible for what he or she does. It may be likewise not wholly inappropriate to caution the Northeast to avoid certain lifestyle habit as a measure of safety tips, but it is an absolute madness to relate such tips as substitute to legislative solution to the problem of racist violence.

Thus, what is absolutely misplaced is the false projection of racist violence as moral and personal rather than structural, social and political. Emboldened by such distorted moral arguments, some sophists conveniently attempt to dismiss the issue as lifestyle problem of the Northeast, thereby pushing the issue to its absolute absurdity that Northeast has to renunciate all her ways of living, lifestyle, habit and culture such as Northeast has to live within the moral expectations of the “mainland Indians” in order to be morally acceptable as equal Indians.

However, the moot question is who are these “mainland Indians” to judge and censure the Northeast way of living, lifestyle, habit and culture within the Hindu-conceived notion of Aryan morality and whose cultural monopoly is it that determines what notion of morality is “Indian” and “unindian” in India. The point is moral and lifestyle sermons should never be mixed with the debates of racism, they are necessarily separate and distinct and the one should not be confused with the other, and more so because even assuming arguendo that Northeast lifestyle is problematic, lifestyle or moral problem howsoever “delinquent” or “deviant” for that matter does not confer on the racists the right to lynch, pick and beat anyone.

Nevertheless, dispensing with the mandate of going to the police, the “mainland Indians” assume that it is permissible for them to lynch, pick and beat any native Northeast for any perceived lifestyle “nuisance” by taking the law into their own hands. Be that as it may. Racism has always been out there lurking to strike at its prey irrespective of whether its victim is “cheap” or “chaste”. Thus, the problem of racist violence cannot in any sense be the Northeast way of living, lifestyle, habit and culture, but the perception that “Northeast way of living, lifestyle, habit or culture is the problem” itself is the problem and that very perception itself is what racism is all about in India.

*The opinion is written by Sira Kharay.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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