(Article changed on April 29, 2013 at 22:03)
(Article changed on April 29, 2013 at 21:56)
(Article changed on April 29, 2013 at 21:28)
"How can they just do it?" a friend asked me. I could see the disgust crystallized on her face, piercing through her sharpening eyes. She was referring to the recent incident in Delhi in which a five-year-old-girl was raped following brutal torture. After being abducted, the victim was kept in captivity for over 40 hours, where candles and a bottle were inserted into her genitals. The ghastly assault led to a resurgence of the outrage against rape that shook the national capital following the December, 2012 gang-rape of a physiotherapy student. The uproar over these events, along with the renewed discussions about sexual assault on women, should have raised some fundamental questions about the barbaric face of the modern city-scape: a very refined sophistication that is narcissistic of its civility on the exterior while being pervert to the core.
Regrettably, however, the public protests against rape viewed the crime as basically a
problem of law and order, thereby reducing what should have been a searching inquiry into the causes of an essentially inhuman act to a mere demand for more stringent laws.
As they were, the discussions focused entirely on the inadequacy of
current laws regarding violence toward women and the inefficiency of police intervention. In effect, the protesters' demands amounted to nothing more than capital punishment for rapists, the installation of cameras for increased surveillance of street activities, and the creation of biometric databases.
In my own view, the very inclination to view rape as essentially a law-
and-order problem is symptomatic of the society we live in. It is becoming a "control
society" organized along the lines of biometrics. For the mainly middle-class protesters who take to the streets
today, it seems that every
social problem can be diagnosed as the result of loopholes, lapses, or shortcomings in surveillance. Moreover, the solutions sought, or accepted, by the protesters call simply for more and better control of misbehavior. This mindset reflects both the nature of the anxiety felt by today's Indian middle-class, and the trajectory
of the promise it seeks for the future.
A Controlled Society Kills All Critique and True Dissent
I myself am very wary of this mindset, as the sense that "surveillance is the solution for everything' seems to be gripping the masses like hysteria. As Giorgio Agamben warns, "[When the day comes that] biometric supervision has become generalised and surveillance by camera is established along all the streets, all critique and all dissent will have become impossible."
Indian society is evolving from its earlier form
of violent colonial society to a society of control and the assault on a woman protester by a senior police officer
in Delhi is symptomatic of this metamorphosis. She was protesting against the inefficiency of police system when
she was slapped in public. In fact, she was only expressing the popular demand
for stringent laws. Like others, she viewed rape as a law and order problem and
saw the state as a rescuer, a source of solution. But the colonial society
never trusted the state and had always lived with a sense of betrayal. This
split, the scar is deep rooted, and it is regulating the oscillation between
trust and mistrust. Further, as Deleuze observes in Desert Islands , "A society indeed reflects itself to itself in its
police and its criminals, even while it protects itself from them by means of a
fundamental deep complicity between them."
Still more, rape is hardly a crime here: it is getting habituated and becoming immanent within the new social fabric. Here legal discourses are barely integral. A glimpse at the statistics from the National Crimes Record Bureau shows a radical increase in child rape after the Government of India passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act in 2000. A total of 48,338 child rape cases were recorded from 2001 to 2011. Of these, 2,113 were recorded during 2001, 5,484 in 2010, and 7,112 in 2011. The increase from 2001 to 2011 was 336%. In certain states like Punjab, the rate was higher than the national average, showing a rate of increase of 437%. In Delhi 113 cases were recorded in 2001, and 339 in 2011. The increase, perhaps significantly, seems to parallel the economic growth rate. "We know that a capitalist society more willingly pardons rape, murder, or kidnapping than a bounced check, which is its only theological crime, the crime against spirit," declares Desert Islands author Deleuze. He then asks: "Have we really made any progress in understanding this hybrid of the grotesque and terrifying which, under the right circumstances, could determine the fate of us all?"
Today, it has trickled down to the sphere of the everyday. Yet, we continue to talk only about more stringent control systems.
Life As a Function of Continual Surveillance
As Deleuze reminds us in his postscripts on the
societies of control: "'Control' is the name Burroughs proposes as a term for
the new monster, one that Foucault recognizes as our immediate future."
In a society governed by "control,"
one thinks of spaces always as enclosures-of the juridical, of
law and order. Nothing exists outside such enclosures, and nothing but the juridical can have meaning.