Dear Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh,
I have always had a longing to travel to India. As long as I can remember there has been something calling to me from far across the seas. Perhaps it is the mysteriousness of a land so different from that which surrounds me. Maybe it is the camera images of colorful sari’s and beautiful black eyed children, ancient temples, black fertile soil and lush green vegetation that seems to have a will stronger than any other force of life. Perhaps it is the stories of Rudyard Kipling that have lingered on the edges of my consciousness since childhood. Or maybe it is the human legacy of those like Gandhi or Mother Therese, the great poets like Tagore or the music of Ravi Shankar that have colored my ideas. It could be the beautiful and complex religions that are almost impossible for me to fathom and yet speak to me in a way that western religions never have. It is also possible that as an American born person of both eastern and western ethnicity I have never quite known where I belong and something about India suggests to me that it might feel like home.
My husband has had the good fortune to travel to India for work and my heart often sinks each time he announces that he will go again. Not only because he will leave but because he will see the sights I have longed to see, he will smell the scents, experience the color, feel the culture and I will only hear of them upon his return. Yesterday my husband told me again that he would go to India in mid- January but this time the envy was dulled. I could only think of the women in India who have been subjected to the culture of rape for endless centuries. My mind immediately traveled to the stories of the innocence of young girls robbed from them when they are barely more than infants. I couldn’t help but think of women treated more like criminals than like victims by the police. My longing for India has been overcast by the image of that young 23 year old woman brutally gang raped and killed. I have always known that my ideas of India were rather idealistic. I have known that dark is the other side of light and that a gritty, undesirable element of India exists and yet it continued to call to me. That calling has turned to a chilling fear.
Mr. Prime Minister, the death of that 23 year old woman who had so much potential is clearly a terrible tragedy but it is also an opportunity for a new beginning. You and other leaders in your country have the authority to make her death a springboard for change. The simple acknowledgement that these crimes against women will not be tolerated would speak multitudes of your courage and of the immense potential for India. Your words could create a tsunami of change in the region. I do not want to impose western ideas on the culture of India. I want very much for India to remain “India” but I implore of you to take the role of a leader who educates himself on the culture of rape and the changes which must take place in order to implement true change. Please make India a place which is safe for women so that I and so many others can dream our dreams of that marvelous land of yours again.
Ingrid Keizer Wilson