Next time, donít walk away

The best police force cannot be a substitute for a caring and vigilant neighbourhood

The testimony of the friend of the Delhi gangrape victim on Zee News held up a disturbing mirror to our society. The gross callousness, cowardice and voyeurism displayed by the bystanders, as well as the cars and autos that passed by the badly injured gangrape victim and her friend, proves the truth of the popular saying: "yatha raja, tatha praja (the quality of the rulers determines the quality of the subjects)".

However, in a democracy ó even a flawed one like ours ó citizens cannot disown their responsibility and wait for rulers to set things right. A democracy gives you some scope to turn this saying on its head: "yatha praja, tatha raja (the quality of the subjects determines the quality of the rulers)".

A common reason given by people coming to the rescue of victims of violence or road accidents is that the police not only harasses such do-gooders, but also tries to implicate them in the accident. As perverse as the police is in India, my experience tells me that the police know the difference between honest and crooked citizens. The real problem arises when the police are already on the scene but neither doing the needful nor letting citizens help the victim.

My first encounter with the voyeuristic tamashbeen mentality of citizens was when I was eight or nine. I had gone to Connaught Place in Delhi with an aunt who was just past her teens at the time. We were walking in the inner circle of CP when we saw a car moving at high speed hit a young man with such force that he was sent flying in the air before he crashed to the ground. People picked him up from the street to prevent him getting run over by other cars, but did not go beyond dumping the profusely bleeding and badly injured man in the verandah of CP's inner circle. They just stood and watched as though it was a scene out of a movie. I suggested to my aunt that take him to a hospital in a taxi but she pulled me away, saying it was not good to get involved in such situations. I was too young to have my say on that day.

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