Seven Years After the Delhi Gang Rape — Introspection As Outsiders

Seven years have passed since the gang rape case happened in New Delhi, India, yet it still breaks people’s hearts. Through western productions like BBC’s India’s Daughter or this year’s new Netflix series Delhi Crime, we as outsiders came to understand, why something this evil and brutal would happen in a country of Hinduism and marigold. Or perhaps, the misunderstandings go deeper.

It was gut-wrenching to see the bleeding narration of the victim’s parents, who have yet to gather up all their energy in front of the camera to retrieve the memories of their baby girl’s last ailing days before she was tortured to death. “I know she would not recover, because the doctor had said that she will not be okay.” Her mom spoke in despair.

Life is precious, and the girl perished like a withering flower.

Every tragedy has its root causes, rather than a few bad rogues. The case, from the very beginning, escalated from gang rape to a state-level incident that would take years to digest. And furthermore, from an objective point of view, the introspection has gone far beyond the border.

Unlike the BBC documentary India’s Daughter, Netflix’ Delhi Crime focuses on the investigation process of this brutal crime. The series earned a top 9.0 rating on Douban, the popular movie review website in China (very few films can earn ratings above 9.0). Chinese audiences commented online, “What’s most cruel of all is that it is based on a real case. India will still be on my top 3 countries to go list, and I do hope the country is getting better.”

For passionate travelers, it seems the long-held prejudice of “dirty, chaotic and awful” is not totally groundless. According to the U.S. tourism administration, the security ratings for India is “Indian authorities report rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India. Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations.” The official U.S. government travel guide particularly says, “If you decide to travel to India: Do not travel alone, particularly if you are a woman.”

According to the report released by Delhi police earlier this year, the total amount of rape cases in 2018 in New Delhi amount to 2043, which means there were five women being raped each day in the Indian capital. Furthermore, loads of sexual assault cases went unreported due to cultural reasons, some of the victims would rather keep the miserable experiences to themselves because of feelings of shame.

There is a blurry definition of rape according to the Indian law. Rape inside a marriage is not rape. “Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) considers forced sex in marriage as a crime only when the wife is below the age of 15. Thus, marital rape is not a criminal offense under the IPC.”

Comparatively speaking, according to the Chinese Criminal law, “Rape means employing violence, coercion, or other means in violation of her will to force sexual relations with her.”

Legal loophole is one of the reasons that lead to the obstinance of the rapists. In the BBC documentary, the offender looked straight into the camera, without a single trace of guilt “You can’t clap with one hand. It takes two hands to clap.” A well-educated attorney of the sex offender then said “We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman.”

The words of the offender and his defender is appalling. The most twisted part is not the gang rape itself, but the fact that they don’t seem to feel a sliver of regret for what they did, even after receiving their death sentence.

“I can’t understand why those criminals choose to be arrested or even commit suicide because they are worried about their mothers knowing what they did, but there is absolutely no sign of remorse for the crime or apology to the victim. How twisted is that?” A Chinese viewer commented. It is pathetic that one of the rapists felt sad for his mom, and failed to realize that the one he raped was a woman, just like his mom and wife, whom ought to be treated with respect.

An Indian scholar who used to live in New Delhi told me “People were angry when it happened, people were protesting in the streets. It was one of the biggest protests and solidarity we ever saw in New Delhi. Civil society, social media, everywhere. The incident got a lot of attention and the police had to become mode vigilant. It was discussed in the parliament as well.”

protests in New Delhi (source: BBC documentary)

Land of candles and marigold

In the past few years, India has indeed been such a peculiar destination for passionate travelers in China, among whom some are driven by Hollywood movies like the life of Pi.

In the film, the protagonist talks about his early encounters of Hinduist god, Vishnu, the monkey god and Brahma, it’s all about a struggle between humanity and divinity. But then the story is actually rather brutal, with a fancy disguise.

Vishnu in Life of Pi (source:

For years, I’ve heard about the sacred tales of Varanasi, where every single Hinduist believer would dream of going some day in their lives. They would wish to begin their days by taking a bath in the Ganges River, and be buried there after they die. Western reporters would go there, film traveling vlogs while complaining about their unpleasant sensory experiences.

To me, witnessing the body-burning by a river in Nepal is one unforgettable experience. The body-burning temple was blurred in smoke, smelling like burning flesh, and my guide asked me not to get any nearer because of the pungent odor.

I don’t know if the sins of those rapists can be washed away and cleansed in the rivers. If so, will the girl’s soul ever forgive them?

One interesting detail of the case, according to the TV adaptation, is that there is a statuette of Shiva, god of destruction on the bus the girl was raped, which is quite an essential lead that contributes to solving the case in the end. Shiva is the god of destruction and reproduction, which is ironic here.

Also revealed in the series is that when it comes to marriage, the bride’s family ought to hand over a substantial dowry to the groom’s family. In order to afford the dowry, the mother of the young woman even had to sell their television.

“The mere bright side of the case would be that it has created opportunities for young women and single women to come and work, and it raised expectations across a range of classes for young single women, of how they should be allowed to live their lives.”

As a neighboring country, we ought to understand is that there are dark sides of the traditional culture that have been on earth for thousands of years. There is no doubt that the bad part, the ineradicable disrespect for women, needs to be eliminated, though it might take a long time before any substantial changes can take place.

At the end of the series, the few detectives held a small cheering party for having successfully caught all the six rapists, while the young female police officer couldn’t even bring herself to smile. She remained silent, staring at the tree with six fake bodies hanging from it.

praying for the victim (source: BBC documentary)

Featured photo credit to douban