Support for rapists in the name of Hindu politics is a new low in Modi's India

Sexual assault has become a tool of the majoritarian colonising project that subjugates the minorities and marginalised by instilling fear in them.

 |  7-minute read |   16-04-2018
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Coming late, after days of silence, and mounting public resentment, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement on Friday, April 13, evening at an event to mark the inauguration of Ambedkar Museum, had all the usual oratorical drama that mark all his election speeches. He said, in a voice throbbing with emotion, "Incidents being discussed since the past two days cannot be part of a civilised society. As a country, as a society we all are ashamed of it. I want to assure the country that no culprit will be spared, complete justice will be done. Our daughters will definitely get justice."

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How much this latest promise is fulfilled, only time will tell, but it is worth going over a few points when we talk about "civilised society" and "shame". First, the refusal to mention the specifics of the Kathua and Unnao cases and make it a generic condemnation is a sharp contrast to 2013 on the aftermath of the gruesome Nirbhaya rape case. Modi, on election mode at that time had said that the people of Delhi should remember "Nirbhaya" while going to vote for the Assembly polls on December 4. Addressing a rally at Ambedkar Nagar, Modi impassionedly exhorted people not to forget the "rape capital" tag associated with the national capital when they voted. "It (Delhi) has earned bad name as rape capital. When you vote, do not forget this. Remember Nirbhaya for a while."

Quite apart from the rank opportunism displayed in the difference between being in the Opposition and being in power at the Centre, this watered down generic statement adds further polish to the efforts of those who want to brush under the carpet the communal nature of these crimes simply because they are part of an interest group that is pro BJP. From the chargesheet in the Kathua case, it is quite clear that this was communal, with an intention to teach Bakarwals a lesson by the Hindu community. When is religion and communalism a major player in a crime? It is, when a victim is chosen according to his/her faith/community. It is, when, in the aftermath of the crime, there is an interest group based on community or religion that militantly supports the perpetrators, intimidates and coerces the family of the victim to drop the case, pulls strings with the local administration and the law to look the other way.

Extract from the chargesheet: "On the basis of the inputs provided by the juvenile and other accused who were arrested and questioned in custody and the evidence collected in the course of investigation it transpired that somewhere in the first week of January, accused Sanji Ram decided to put a plan to dislodge the Bakarwal community from Rasana area, which had been brewing in his mind for quite some time, into operation and in pursuance to that he made accused Deepak Khajuria, an SPO in police department and JCL as part of conspiracy and assigned them tasks separately and individually."

Considering how communalised the Bar Association has become there is a reason why the Jammu and Kashmir government has appointed two Sikh public prosecutors for the trial in the case to ensure "focused" attention. The most vociferous among all the supporters of the accused has been the voice of the Hindu Ekta Manch, whose members cut across party lines with BJP MLA Kuldeep Raj, vice-chairman of State Board for Development of Other Backward Classes Rashpaul Verma; former Congress MLA Girdhari Lal; and former Congress MLC Subash Chander sharing the same space and brazenly carrying the Tricolour.

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BJP's state general secretary Ashok Kaul admitted to Kashmir Reader that forest and environment minister Chaudhary Lal Singh and commerce and industries minister Chander Parkash Ganga went to Kathua to join the Hindu Ekta Manch's rally because the BJP's top brass sent them there to "understand the people".

Since then the two BJP ministers, who joined rallies supporting the accused, have submitted their resignations to the party president who will "present it to the high command", according to Ashok Kaul. The question is why were they not sacked immediately after participating in the rally? Why did the party wait for anger to boil?

As India descends further into the abyss of kakistocracy, rape has become a tool of the majoritarian colonising project that subjugates the minorities and populations on the margins by instilling fear in them.

In Unnao, after the killing of the father of a rape victim in police custody, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took over the case because it has become clear that the state administration and the police are clearly on the side of the accused.

BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who the teenage Unnao victim accused of rape, has finally been arrested. Sengar, a four time MLA, is a winning horse for the BJP and an asset. He has a powerful hold over the Unnao region, which is why six MLAs met BJP president Amit Shah at chief minister Yogi Adityanath's residence on April 11 arguing that the MLA was being framed.

Sengar, who played a crucial role in the victory of the BJP on a number of seats, including Bhagwant Nagar in the 2017 Assembly election, would be crucial for the party in the upcoming legislative council elections on April 26.

Who cares if such an influencer wants to slake his lust from time to time from someone from a "neech parivar" (in his own words to describe his victim's background)?

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A study released by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-government organisation working for electoral reforms, reveals that as many as 51 MPs and MLAs have declared cases of crime against women, including of alleged rape and abduction. Of the 51, 48 are members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) and three are members of Parliament (MPs). Giving party-wise details, the study stated that among various recognised parties, the BJP has the highest number of MPs and MLAs (14), followed by the Shiv Sena (7) and the Trinamool Congress (6) who have declared cases related to crimes against women.

"There are 51 MPs and MLAs who have declared cases of crime against women such as charges related to assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty, kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage, rape, husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty, buying minor for purposes of prostitution and word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman," the ADR study said.

Modi might talk about a "civilised society" but when the lawmakers are themselves law-breakers, and enjoy a groundswell of support, from not only their own brethren, but also an entire troll army on social media that the PM himself follows, the situation is grim.

It is not only the pattern of rapes taking place, but also the pattern of approval and support that should concern us. It is not only the whataboutery and irresponsible generalisation of rape as a crime by political leaders that has ensured this culture of backing rapists take deeper roots, but also millions of Twitter and Facebook supporters of BJP. This trend is unprecedented in the history of modern India.

The larger issue is that an ideology in power carries such deep hatred for sections of Indians because this hatred begets what is perceived as core constituency votes.

As a school teacher on Facebook remarked recently, "There was a time when rape was detested irrespective. There exists a time when it gets reasoned."

Those trying to paper over Kathua and Unnao by citing past instances like trump cards and clean chits for their beloved party, make rape much, much more horrible than it already is.

Also read: How to solve India's rape problem

Writer

Gautam Benegal Gautam Benegal @gautambenegal

Award winning animation filmmaker, artist, author, and social commentator.

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