The young Indian woman gangraped on a public bus in New Delhi is not only fighting for her own life in a Singapore hospital. The doctors who have put her on life support are also fighting for the Manmohan Singh government by proxy.
The Indian authorities flew her from a Delhi hospital to Singapore for better treatment because the protests that rocked the Indian capital after the horrific gang rape reflected the same anger as the Arab Spring. The convulsions that shook the Arab world started with the death of one man.
Remember Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian hawker who set himself on fire in December 2010 after he was humiliated and had his wares confiscated by municipal officials? The demonstrations and riots that followed led to the Tunisian revolution and the wider Arab Spring, toppling leaders like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.
The protests in New Delhi and other Indian cities did not match the violence of the Arab Spring though at least one policemen was killed and several injured in the Indian capital. The protesters were mostly women and students.
But the massive police deployment and the sporadic clashes in which the police used water cannons to disperse the demonstrators in New Delhi showed how volatile the situation was. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to appeal for calm in a rare televised address to the nation.
Delhi is the rape capital of India, where women are raped every day. But this incident was particularly brutal, the young woman and her male companion thrown out of the bus after a metal rod was inserted into her, pulling out her intestines.
The horrific crime outraged people already angry because of widespread corruption. There had been protests in Delhi earlier against official corruption. Even the ruling Congress party’s leader Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi’s husband, Robert Vadra, is accused of profiteering on land deals using political connections. Such allegations of crony capitalism weaken the government’s moral authority. And the authority is further eroded by lawlessness.
Adding to the anger over corruption and lawlessness are unpopular economic measures. The government cut back fuel subsidies to reduce the fiscal deficit, raising the cost of living.
The gang rape in a Delhi public bus was like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. People already simmering with discontent took to the streets, outraged by the enormity of the crime.
In a country like India, where people die every day at the hands of terrorists, criminals and violent mobs, one may ask why this particular incident ignited so much anger.
One may as well ask why the Arab Spring began with the death of Mohammed Bouazizi.
Popular discontent simply explodes at some point. The flashpoint could be a national crisis or the death of an individual.
India, however, is not likely to see this winter followed by the Arab Spring. Indians use a different method for regime change – through the ballot box.
Voters, of course, blow hot and cold. So a government unpopular now may get back into favour.
But, as for the young woman gangraped on a bus, doctors at Mount Elizabeth Hospital are reporting organ failure. Some are claiming on Twitter she was flown from India to Singapore for political, not medical, reasons.