At 7 am on 22nd January 2020, the convicted rapists of Nirbhaya are supposed to be hanged. The time now is 6.21 am, January 22nd. I have not slept a wink the entire night. And this is what is on my mind-
Long before people had even begun to articulate feminism in India, when the nation's only focus was independence, my great-grandfather Embar Srinivasachar did something in his actions that words can still not explain.
He died a hero's death on 16th December 1946.
Unlike most social justice warriors, he was not the type to rebel. He was not a soldier. He was only the headmaster of a small village high school near Mysore.
That was a time when girls did get an education but had to drop out the minute they hit puberty. You know, so they can sign their names and read bus boards but also become child brides? So it was hardly a surprise when people raised eyebrows because adolescent girls went to his high school.
Then came some communal riots. You might wonder what a communal riot has got to do with girls' education. But no riot was ever logical. On December 16th 1946, a group of rowdy men charged towards this unremarkable high school. They were sure that a woman's place was not outside the kitchen. How dare these women be allowed to parade their blossoming bodies in broad daylight? There was only one use for such females.
So they gathered in front of the school and roared, "GIVE THEM TO US! GIVE US THESE GIRLS!"
Embar Srinivasachar, in his duty as headmaster, did not allow the bias to corrupt the purity of knowledge. He sent all the boys home, locked up all the girls in a single classroom and proclaimed, "Over my dead body."
That moment changed everything for everyone. The rage of the riot cost this poor headmaster his own head. I mean that literally. Before anyone could react, he was beheaded. His head was carried away and dumped in a place far away. His headless, lifeless body lay in the school courtyard. The girls were unharmed.
Fast forward 66 years, on the dreadful night of December 16th 2012.
9 pm is no time for a girl to be out of the house, they said. No respectful girl would be out at that hour with a male companion, they said. It's entirely her responsibility, they said.
Ek haath se taali nahi bajti.
They raped her and left her to die.
And after all these years, on the 22nd of January 2020, the criminals who did not kill themselves will be hanged. Or so I thought.
Now they're saying "February 1st". Some news outlets think it might take longer. They're still using every cheap tactic to defer and delay the execution of their sentence.
It doesn't matter how many years pass or how modern we become. In the eyes of the man, the woman is always lesser. There's always a time and a place and an activity that is not suited for us girls.
I can't wait for the long drop to happen. "Long drop" is the method of hanging, apparently the most humane, to execute a convict. It'll snap the neck and sever the brain from the spinal cord. And after their brain stops firing, they'll be pronounced dead.
It's given me a new way of "putting my neck on the line". And I'm willing to put my neck on the line for what is right, for what is fair. I'm willing to risk it all for a little more peace and sense on this planet. I'm willing to trust men and partner with them to build a safe society, rather than treat everyone with suspicion. I'll do it.
But I know that you might still be scared or sceptical, and that's okay too. And I'm sorry, truly, that you didn't inherit the earth where human beings can be human beings to each other. I'm sorry that all you got was this garbage dog-eat-dog world. However, the good news is, we can still do something about it.
If Embar Srinivasachar can, if Nirbhaya can, you and I can also stand for what is rightfully ours. And to all those who say that there is something a woman cannot do or be in this world, I just want to say to you- "Over my dead body."