The deeper question is which part of India’s transition wins in the long run; is Mahipalpur a zone of chaos and lawlessness where the badly injured are dumped, or something better?
If there is hope it is because, beyond the scale of violence against women in India and a myriad of other social problems, something else has been revealed: a vast gulf between many in this huge country and the people who rule them, at least at a national level. And importantly, recent weeks have seen the mobilization of a new political force.
For decades, politics in India has involved deference, hierarchy and handouts, or archaic ideologies unchanged since the Cold War. It is likely that elderly men dependent on hundreds of thousands of carefully marshaled votes in conservative rural areas will hold on to power for some time to come. However, the largely unplanned, spontaneous protests, and the media attention they have commanded, have demonstrated something new: the existence of large numbers of young, educated, urban potential voters who will no longer tolerate a largely unaccountable, unresponsive political elite and bureaucracy incapable of performing the most fundamental tasks. As the cities grow, one can reasonably hope that such voices will grow more numerous.
Brinda Karat, a Communist member of parliament, said last month that “a turning point had been reached” now that young women had “sensed and seen” the power that they could have when united. This may be premature, but protesters on Wednesday last week at the dwindling demonstrations across Delhi were adamant that change would indeed come.
Ayesha Bhatt, a 22-year-old student who had traveled to Delhi from the city of Moradabad, five hours to the north, to light a candle at the site where the victims of the attack mounted the bus, said it was “impossible to imagine that the country will sit back and say chalta hai [all is going to be fine].”
“We are not a chalta hai generation,” she said.