Hot News

Republic Of Rape

Republic Of Rape

I wanted the drought of daughters to end in the family when my daughter-in-law was in the family way. Now I feel that the divine choice was better after learning about what happened to “YOUNG NIRBHAYA, the eight-year-old girl of Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir. Her actual name meant “God’s own gift” but a group of rascals not only ravished her for three days in a temple but also throttled her to death but not before one of them satisfied himself one more time.

The parents of the innocent girl had lodged a complaint with the police little knowing that one of the policemen who should have been protecting her was himself down on his knees doing the unthinkable to a girl who could have been his granddaughter.

What had the young girl done to warrant the kind of treatment meted out to her? She was born in a nomadic family and lived in an area where the majority community professed a faith different from hers. What they did was not very different from what gated communities in Mumbai, Delhi etc do by sophisticatedly not letting Muslims buy property and live among themselves.

At Kathua, they used a cruder method by kidnapping an innocent girl, sedating her in a temple and satisfying their lust for three days before she was killed and thrown in the wild. The gruesome condition in which her body was found would haunt her parents and siblings throughout their life. In the hullabaloo of protest, what is forgotten is that the gang-rapists were able to achieve their aim.

The members of the nomadic tribe, to which community YOUNG NIRBHAYA belonged, are so scared that they left the area for fear that more innocent girls could be finished in this manner. In short, they succeeded in their attempt to keep the area free from such “polluting” people. Where they failed was in assuming that the J&K police would not rise above their caste feeling and take action against them under the law of the land.

The culture of rape is as old as the so-called human civilisation. Greek history is replete with incidents of rape reported from as far back as 900 BC. At college, I had to study about the rape of Lucretia. She was sleeping in her own bedroom when a beast in the shape of man sneaked into the room and forced himself upon her.

She was innocent but she was found guilty as adultery — no matter how it happened — was a punishable offence. She preferred to end her life than face the trauma of being an adulteress. There is also the story of Medusa, who was raped by Poseidon, God of the sea, in Athena’s temple. Again, the goddess punishes not the man but the woman for polluting her temple.

What distinguishes the Kathua rape case is that it was committed by a group of people of different ages with the single motive of terrorising a community and enjoying some carnal pleasure in the process. Many have likened the case to the Nirbhaya episode. In that case that rocked the nation, the adult girl was gang-raped, killed and her body thrown out from a moving bus.

The BJP was in the forefront protesting against the rape and murder of Nirbhaya. People in thousands protested against the incident from Chennai to Chandigarh and Patiala to Patna. They were one in demanding punishment to the rapists. As a result, the rape law was strengthened and the guilty were brought to book.

Except the spouses of the guilty and their immediate family members nobody spoke against the trial and punishment. But that is not what happened in the Kathua case. Every attempt was made to subvert the due process of law. The police team investigating the case was reshuffled as often as possible to discourage it from going ahead with its investigation.

It must be said to the eternal credit of the J&K police that it was able to withstand pressures and go ahead with the investigation. What’s more, a lady lawyer came forward to take up the case of the young girl despite the threats of death and rape she faced. The nation witnessed the farcical sight of some people waving the national flag to protest against the arrest of the accused persons. Two BJP ministers in the state descended on Kathua to lead the protest rallies.

It was the first time in the history of India that ministers were seen defending murderers and gang-rapists and that, too, openly and in defiance of the rule of law . The police team, including a lady police officer, stood firm, carried out the investigation and arrested every one of them. 

All this remained hidden from the public at large, till the lawyers of Jammu, affiliated to the saffron party, rose up in defence of the rapists. There is also the charge that the editors in Delhi, who are more loyal than the king, did not give much importance to the story when it was reported initially. The government’s image mattered more to them.

The Jammu lawyers’ conduct was not any different from what their brethren did to Kanhaiya Kumar and others of Jawaharlal Nehru University when they were brought to the Patiala Delhi court for trial in February 2016. The behaviour reminded the nation of what the lawyers of Lahore did when they showered rose petals on the Muslim fanatic who assassinated the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, in 2011 because he made the mistake of saying that the Blasphemy Law needed a revisit.

It was strange that the BJP wanted the case to be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation when it was part of the government in J&K. Of course, they had a strong case for transfer as the CBI has, of late, been proving no better than a handmaiden of the Modi government.

What is significant in all this is that Narendra Modi, who is the most loquacious Prime Minister India has seen, preferred to remain silent like a “Mauni Baba”. But when he realised that things were going out of control and the BJP was becoming, in public perception, a party of rapists, he came out with a statement that the guilty would not be spared.

Modi’s statement had no meaning as the police had already completed their investigation and arrested everyone involved in the crime. The matter was before the court and it did not matter what Modi said. In short, he failed to stem the tide of public opinion against him and the party.

He missed a golden opportunity. He could have intervened in January when the young girl was kidnapped and killed. He could have tweeted against the effort to save the rapists. He could have come down against the culture of rape that the BJP was willy-nilly promoting by supporting the guilty. Finally, he could have sacked the ministers who led the public protest against the police.

It was apparent that Modi’s was a face-saving attempt. One of the two ministers openly admitted that they visited Kathua and protested against the police action, only on the orders of the party bosses. Does Modi have the guts to take action against the party bosses without whose support and prompting the ministers would not have behaved in the manner they did?

Again, to save face, all the BJP ministers are being changed to let it appear as a Cabinet reshuffle aimed at giving the Cabinet a new look. Modi should know that "all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten” the party’s hand for its sordid involvement in the rape and murder of the young girl.

What happened at Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, ruled by Yogi Adityanath, was equally horrible. A woman had been approaching the police with the complaint that she was raped by a BJP legislator. When the police refused to register a complaint, she and her father protested outside the official residence of the Chief Minister.

Instead of ordering the prompt arrest and prosecution of the legislator, the police picked up the father, tortured him in their custody till life ebbed out of his body. I have seen the video of the police officers making fun of the man who had bruises all over his body. Did Modi move even his little finger against the MLA and do justice to the woman in question? Why did he not do a  Mann ki Baath bhashan against the perpetrators of Unnao and Kathua?

No, he knew that he would be speaking against the holy grail. Why should Modi and Co. bother when their strategy seems to be working. The BJP is planning to field Swami Aseemanand as the star campaigner in West Bengal. He is the same man who confessed before a magistrate that the bomb blast at Mecca Masjid was the handiwork some of his comrades in arms.

Thanks to the poor presentation of the case by the National Investigating Agency, headed by a Gujarat cadre officer, all the accused in the blast case have been released. Again, the lady minister in Modi’s cabinet whom the trial court had found guilty of instigating the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat has been let off because the witnesses were found to be unreliable.

And the apex court has found that the plea for a fresh look at the CBI judge Loya’s unnatural death was without substance. In doing so, the Bench headed by the Chief Justice relied too much on a “discreet inquiry” made by a police officer to come to the conclusion that Justice Loya died of heart attack. The verdict gave the impression that asking for a probe into a murder case was as heinous as waging a war against the state.

And in distant Kerala, Gopinatha Pillai, one of the star witnesses in the “encounter killing” of his son and three others, including Ishrat Jahan, died in an accident in which the car in which he was travelling was hit from behind by a speeding truck. The revolt by four senior judges of the apex court against the Chief Justice for his wanton disregard for probity and transparency has ended up as just a storm in a teacup. The impeachment proceedings against the CJI are unlikely to yield any result as the BJP is firmly behind him.

Even those who are expected to uphold the Constitution at all times like the Governor of Tamil Nadu, Banwarilal Purohit, prefers to tap the face of a lady journalist, instead of answering her question related to the charge that a college professor was supplying girls to the powers that be. Even when the Governor apologizes to the journalist in question, a leader of the party in the state, SV Shekhar, shares a Facebook post that says that women are appointed and promoted in journalism only if they are ready to sleep with their bosses. 

Earlier, another BJP leader in the state tried to kick up a shindy by referring to a dialogue uttered by an actor by pointing out that he was a Christian. Alas, nobody supported the fellow so much so that the party had to make a hasty retreat. Everything is done with a purpose.

The Kathua rape incident would have gone unnoticed by the media, national and international, if the BJP had succeeded in keeping it under wraps. Who knows, there might be several others which have been hidden from the public. It was only recently that the UP government withdrew cases against party members, who were involved in the riots that led to the spectacular victory of the party in the 2014 elections. And the beneficiary includes the chief minister himself.

Rape as a weapon against the minorities was advocated by no less a person than “Veer Savarkar” whose portrait today hangs in the Parliament building. He is the one who coined the term “Hindutva" which helped Modi to come to power. He has in his writing exhorted his people to use rape as a weapon to keep the outsiders (read Muslims and Christians) under control. 

It is a different matter that this man betrayed the nation, gave in writing an apology to the British while thousands of genuine freedom fighters suffered in the cellular jails in the Andamans island. Yet, “Veer” is added to his name in the Sangh Parivar’s lexicon. An effort is on to make the punishment for rape severer. The Nirbhaya law did not prevent Kathua and Unnao. Will making capital punishment mandatory in rape cases prevent rape?

No, it won’t. This is because severity of punishment is not what deters crime. Look at the Kathua case and how those in power did everything possible to save the rapists. The rate of conviction in rape cases is indeed very low. What is required is certainty of punishment. Alas with those who believe in the culture of rape holding the reins of power, it is tantamount to asking for the moon.

In retrospect, I am happy that the drought in the family continues, though the fact is that boys are equally targeted by the sex predators though such cases are seldom reported. 

I remember attending the national-level launch of the Beti Bechavo, Beti Padavo, programme from Haryana a few years ago. I had no clue at that time that a day would come when ministers would come out in the open to defend those who raped and killed a girl, knocking on the doors of teenage. Where else in the world would this happen, except in our own Republic of Rape?

( ajphilip@gmail.com)

(Published on 23th April 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 17)