What Kathua and Unnao rapes reveal about BJP’s India

Violence against women and the marginalised seems to have become condonable.

 |  4-minute read |   15-04-2018
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Violence creates its own miasma as it spreads across the country. Yet, the inadequate way in which violence is read geographically, politically and ethically adds to the dreariness of morality in India. It is not only a question of lynch mobs pretending they are the law or even the idea that riots are a natural prelude to electoral process. This also includes the way sexual abuse is constructed, especially in the political domain.


There is ritual of predictable indifference surrounding the event, as if minors, marginals and women are dispensable any way. Second, the administration seeks a quick erasure, feeling almost helpless before politicians and powerfully connected people who think of rape as a regular entitlement.


The dreariness accumulates as one realises that while there are local protests, there is no attempt to connect these events and even ask whether, under the BJP regime, which is pretentiously committed to moral policing whether through its cohorts in the Bajrang Dal or the VHP, there is a bid to seek a way where power and majoritarianism condones or wishes away rape and social abuse.

The power of scandal lies not just in the brutality of raping a minor, an equivalent scandal lies in the emptiness of the response, the hypocrisy of cover-ups, the terrorising immediacy of right-wing groups claiming that rape of marginals and minors is inevitable, even condonable.

The stories from Unnao and Kathua have been reported in the papers. Yet, they create little sense of moral horror. It is as if politics and power creates an immunity system from such crimes. It is not the absolute power of a dictatorship that is frightening in India. It is the terror and the disgust that minor politicians and MLAs strike, enabling a wave of sexual perversion as part of the privileges of politics.

Sometimes, I think, it is not absolute power that corrupts, it is the ordinariness of power that creates a moral universe which even a Kafka would tremble at. A society’s passivity in saying “let the law take its course” creates an erasure and a thickening coat of indifference that makes one ponder about the moral economy of a democracy.

Can India be a normative society, a moral entity with Kathua and Unnao becoming everyday events in a democracy where justice becomes a mockery?

Sick society

The facts are almost morbidly clear, displaying a sick society at its blatant worst. Kathua is a district in Jammu and Kashmir. According to the police, a minor girl was abducted, raped and murdered in Rassana Village in the Hiranagar tehsil. The details state that the girl, who belonged to a migrant nomadic community, was gang-raped in a prayer hall.

There is a dastardly occult or fetishistic element to the acts, as the perpetrators had carried out some unmentionable rituals on the girl. Not only was she detained in captivity, but one of the members of the group was summoned all the way from Meerut so that he could satisfy “his lust”.

The girl was forcibly kept on sedatives, brutally beaten and repeatedly raped by the group as if they were rotating a rare opportunity. The scandal does not stop here. The obscenity continues as a group of lawyers sought to thwart the charge sheet demanding a CBI probe to delay the process. The lawyers were almost guiltless, making one wonder about the state of law, not just law and order, in Jammu.

Worse, the Hindu Ekta Manch marched through Kathua, unfolding the Tricolour. Rightist and fundamentalist groups circling the BJP almost seem to believe that their righteous Hindutva gives them a coating of piety and their association with BJP, a charmed circle of immunity.

It is almost as if rape is no longer a moral issue but a political instrument to be used by the powerful for fostering their ends.

Brutal country

When one listens to the Unnao rape case, one senses again the variety and inventiveness of violence and brutality in India. A teenager was gang raped by the BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh and his brothers. Her father, who protested, was assaulted by Singh’s family and died in custody. The brutality of his death is captured in the post-mortem report, which highlights 14 different injuries apart from other bruises.


Pictures of Kuldeep Singh Sengar reveal a complacent man, almost proud of his act and power. In fact, the Uttar Pradesh DGP, in what could be an act of political correctness, or rampant sycophancy, addressed Sengar as the “honourable MLA”, making one wonder how far sycophancy will cater or fawn at power.

There is little sense of loss or disgust among the official functionaries about what is occurring. One needs an ethical act, which reviews the moral unconscious of this country. Majoritarian politics is India’s own way of ritualising what the political philosopher Hannah Arendt called banalisation of evil.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: The shocking silence of liberals on panchayat poll violence in Bengal



Shiv Visvanathan Shiv Visvanathan @shivvisvanathan

The writer is a social nomad

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