Public demonstration is woven into the fabric of Indian society. From the time of the British Raj and Gandhigiri, India has firmly believed in non-violent, public protest against the evils which afflict it. Perhaps it is a phenomena born out of necessity; a product of the continuous ineffectiveness of a series of governments which forces the private citizen into action.

Whether by a product of private or institutional action, India has indeed found great reform in many ways. Economic liberalization, now long enough ago that some don’t realize how significant it was, spurred the unstoppable growth of a new, metropolitan, clued-in India.

However, this nation of ours always seems to be in combat with the burden of its numbers. Even as hundreds of millions are educated, enlightened, and brought into twenty-first century society, a massive, dark cloud of poverty still hangs over the land. This poverty breeds a reactionary, under-educated, swathe of population who are bred into abnormality through their unfortunately narrow mentalities and the trappings of the modern world.

I can’t find an explanation for Asifa, the brutally raped and murdered child, to trend nationally on a large porn site. It is a symptom of a society which has something deeply wrong with it, a resident evil which cannot be addressed by candlelit marches and Twitter hashtags.

The fact is that the perpetrators or those at risk of these crimes are not, for the most part, reading your Twitter hashtags or personally register these public demonstrations. Their perversion comes from a vicious cycle that is unique to modern India, from their lack of interaction with women outside family from a young age, the image they have of female characters in films they grow up watching, and a steady diet of internet pornography with no real life experience to contextualize what they watch.

Girls get tutted at for going sleeveless on the street underneath enormous billboards of celebrities in their underwear. The daily newspaper has an Ask the Sexpert column, making it seem forward-thinking, and then has a huge article on an actresses’ public ‘cleavage show.’ There is an undeniable issue with the entire way that India approaches gender, sex, and public society.

Many in middle-class, urban India choose to dismiss much of this news as independent of their world. They see two India’s, and only theirs matters. Soft, comfortable activism is enough. The fact is that things won’t change unless there is a concerted cycle of education implemented in rural India, unless politicians stop catering to ‘traditional values’ to try and pull vote banks and focus on actual modernization, and unless the lucky educated few in this country do their part to help pull the rest toward improvement.

One is reminded of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Plato describes a group of people who have lived their entire lives chained to a wall in a cave. That wall is all they know of the world. They see shadows on the wall projected from objects passing in front of a fire behind them, and make observations about these shadows. Only when they are freed from the cave can they understand that the shadows are not reality at all, and they can now perceive the true form of things instead of the manufactured reality of the shadows. These prisoners, living their entire lives in the cave, know not of nor crave a better life. Only when they break through their bonds do they change their idea of the universe.

Indian society needs to be freed from the Cave. Every stupid justification of these crimes, from it being the woman’s fault to the work of Pakistani agents, drives us further into the darkness. There needs to be a mentality overhaul on a massive scale, beginning from childhood and manifesting through every segment of society. India can hit all the GDP numbers it wants, we can point to some bullet train project or Virat Kohli’s century count, but we will not truly be taken seriously on the world stage unless we can arrest this darkness that seems to consume so many of us.

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