Whosoever christened Kerala ‘God’s own country’ would have done so in drunken reverie or in a fit of extreme utopinaism! We, the very people inhabiting this southern state of our nation often are surprised at the tag and its appropriateness.

The other day, a noted South Indian actress was harassed for over two hours allegedly by a gang of five men (read animals), who forced their way into her car before fleeing. The men forcefully entered her car which took her from the Kochi International Airport, where she arrived after shooting for a film. She needed to go home like any other woman would want to. The actress’ driver, is suspected to have tipped off the gang, which followed her car to dramatize a fake accident. In the melee that followed, the gang entered the actors’ car, harassed her, violating her modesty, simultaneously taking pictures and video of the ‘deed’. Blackmailing is supposed to have been the motive behind the dark deed.

This is not some scene out from a ‘thriller movie’, or a mega soap on TV, (two of the most prominent factors that beget crimes of this nature in the state), but an audacious incident which happened on National Highway 47, one of the major highways in South India, not very far from a wannabe megapolis that Kochi is. The victim is a prominent movie star who have been acting in almost all South Indian films, ever since she was 16, and was therefore, almost like a member in every household especially in Kerala because she’s a Malayalee, and an integral person in Mollywood. Whatever be the mechanics and ‘meticulous planning’ that was involved in this gory and audacious crime, that defied law enforcing agencies of the city, if there are something like that, worth mentioning, a dear daughter, sister and a wife-to-be of Kerala was harassed, assaulted and her modesty violated that day.

This is not the first time something like this happened in Kerala, once called ‘God’s own country’, clearly a misnomer! Kochi city alone had witnessed 62 rapes, 162 cases of molestation, 80 kidnappings, 23 cases of eve teasing, 1 dowry death, and 111 cases of cruelty by husbands in 2016. The state as a whole in 2015 shamelessly witnessed 1263 cases of rape, 3991 cases of molestation, 177 cases of kidnapping and 265 cases of eve-teasing, according to police records.

What exactly is wrong with this state, once thought to be the safest for women in India? Is there dearth of law and rule of law? That is unlikely.  The problem seems to be that existing laws are too ‘soft’ on crimes that merit more severe punishment. As things exist, goons indulging in such daring crimes are only too aware that they can get away lightly, just as the ones who have been arrested for the above crime. Even if they are imprisoned, they are assured of choicest chapathis and chicken curry, and in some prisons, biriyani, financed by taxes payed by the very victims and their families they chose to harass. Add to that, comforts like A/C and a mobile phone if the criminal is well-connected with a politician (a local satrap would perfectly fit the bill here) or a political party. Being in prison for many, these days is much more luxurious, than living in their own homes. They are also assured of an early release or bail, if they are ‘well-connected’. They are also sure of judicial procedures, often drawn-out, that runs into years that fizzle out with time for ‘want of evidence’. The infamous Sr. Abhaya case is an example. Even those beasts who murdered Soumya and Jisha most heinously, and in cold blood in Kerala had lawyers representing them in court. What do they have to tell the court of law? They want to prove their innocence in the crime they so ruthlessly committed, and they want to ask the courts to set them free for ‘crimes they did not commit’. They wanted somebody to beg for mercy, they surely don’t deserve, on their behalf.  The law of this land and it’s custodians need to stop beating around the bush!

Irrespective of statistics, and bad reputation Kerala as a state has earned through its misdeeds, what is glaring is the need for more stringent punitive methods that serve as strong deterrent that will have these goons think twice before committing the crime, fearing a reprisal that will break their very spirit.

The other peculiar aspect about these attacks is the hibernation the so-called ‘moral policemen’, who are ‘incensed’ over trivial incidents where ‘Indian morality and culture are challenged’ through youngsters having ice-cream together in parlors and colleagues travelling together on two wheelers from their place of work back home at wee hours, go into. Surprisingly to them, misdeeds like the one committed on the actress do not, for some strange reason threaten or sully Indian culture and morality!

The torture and violation of humanity that the actor went through verily merits emasculation of the criminals on the spot. Don’t we get the bad tooth pulled out. But, who will mete out this punishment? – The police? Certainly not, as quite a number of them are on the payroll of these goons and their masters. The courts of law? Certainly not, as they do not have a law to fall back on. If such a law is to be framed, it has to be done in parliament- that hallowed building where ‘peoples’ representatives’ congregate to govern the nation and do all that it takes to do just that. But unfortunately, parliament, these days meet only to be adjourned almost simultaneous with its commencement. Business is hardly transacted there, and the people who voted those netas to parliament continue to sand by the wayside like the proverbial donkey, whose wellbeing is a matter of concern to these netas only at election times. Then who will punish them? The very victim herself. She ought to be armed with unquestioned and unchallenged right, and the necessary instruments to emasculate those who violate her womanhood, on the spot! The law must be amended accordingly to arm her, and she ought to be imparted adequate training to perform the ‘surgical strike’     I might sound crude, but crude deeds deserve crude action. Don’t they? Jungle milieu within society demands jungle methods to checkmate them! Simply because I am concerned that my two daughters, wife, mother, sister, friends and relatives travelling from the Kochi International airport might not reach home in one piece, with their modesty untarnished. Enough is enough; and we surely have had enough as a supposedly civil society!