What is ethical?

by shalinijena

I wonder what is right when you see something obnoxious takes shape in front of your own eyes. To run and take shelter for safety. To step back and watch it with distaste. To record it to inform people. Or to be brave and protect the weak. What defines the right and the wrong? It is all perspective I guess.

I remember in my first year, during the epic Rituraj Sapkota‘s classes of photojournalism (Epic because of the best times we ever had). Our assignment was for each group of four people who had to take pictures of ‘real issues’ and write a summary about them. I was one of the few lucky ones to have a partner like Jerin (now a wildlife activist with a greater purpose). He took the pictures and I wrote the articles. I was just plain lucky I believe, but not everyone managed to shuffle into good groups like I did. One of the many unfortunates was my friend, Vidya.

She is a die-hard nerd and anything ‘sensible’ is like a mission for her. I guess it is the same with most passionate people. And this assignment was more than just fun. She was desperate to be good. We all were. But she was the only better part of her team and they all were depended on her. She didn’t have a personal camera back then and was waiting with her brother in an auto for a close acquaintance to come and borrow her one for a few days, until she gets one for herself. Right then, in the middle of the street that was jammed up with all the noise and traffic of the city, she couldn’t help noticing a woman wearing a sari and clumsily sitting on the back of a bike. Something about her posture was unusual which also made her a little apprehensive. And as she kept staring, suddenly out of nowhere a rowdy motorcyclist zooms past toppling this woman with such a force that she fell on her face. On her face, yes – in the middle of the road.

Instead of rushing towards the woman to help, Vidya got out of the auto and screamed in dismay at her uncle who was walking towards her with the camera in his hand, taking his own sweet time, smiling in recognition from the distance. Come here fast!! I need the camera!,  she yelled at him.

In a few minutes, after the heat of the moment and the futile attempts to manage a click because of the crowd and the immediate rescue, she looked at her brother, who was dead shocked of what had gotten into his all-altruist sister. Even I didn’t believe it when she told me, but that was only a matter of time, time that introduces us to inexplicable understanding.

What happened at the Guwahati incident is most horrendous for sure, but lets take a few more minutes to think why it has affected us so much. Everyone is talking about it, disturbed and worried. If this can happen in the middle of the streets, are we safe in our own homes? Molestation occurs everyday in almost every corner of the country. Yes, in this incredible India one is every 2 children goes through sexual harassment EVERY single day. Why has this case created the ruckus and such mass protest? You know it. Its because the incident went viral. Over 45 million people in the country are active on FB and the rest have their TV sets to gratify. Who made that awareness happen?

Amidst all this tension I don’t quite understand the blame that has been put on the media. Trust me, when I saw the video, the background music just infuriated me more than the incident. I detested myself for watching the horrendous video, couldn’t even continue after a few minutes. Yes, I got it, why are you repeating the scenes!? But then after I calmed down, I wondered if it was a big deal? People were watching it. And people were also doing their job. Yes, there can be a lot of debate on the ‘sensational news’, something which at many cases I too am against. But the man behind the camera was doing what he must do. How do we know he did not call the police for help? People would have smashed him along with the girl if he had stepped in. What good could that be?

The country is angry I know and they should be. But I just hope we concentrate on the real issue – by providing justice to the poor teenager who was bullied in the most obnoxious manner in front of so many onlookers. Each of the eleven men have to punished, taken behind the bars and convicted with relatively the strictest penalty possible. We have to go deeper into the issue and understand why such an ugly incident happened and what should we as humans and most importantly women do to avoid it in our own homes, in our own streets, among our own people…