Rapes and political slugfest

A sudden spurt in rape cases across the country has once again brought the issue to the debating table in the public domain over failing laws as well as the slow judicial process to ensure justice for the victims. The last political storm that rocked the nation was when a Delhi girl, Nirbhaya, was gang raped in a late-night moving city transport bus. And, all the accused – Akshay Thakur, 31, Pawan Gupta, 25, Vinay Sharma, 26 and Mukesh Singh, 32 – were hanged at Delhi’s Tihar jail, though after seven long years. The 23-year-old Nirbhaya, a paramedic student, was gang raped and brutally assaulted on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 inside a moving bus in south Delhi by six persons before being thrown out on the road. She died on December 29, 2012, at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore. Even before that gory incident got erased from the people’s memories, the alleged act of a government employee that too serving as the deputy director of the Women and Child Welfare Department, Pramoday Khakha, has once again kicked up an interesting political storm.

As usual political parties, instead of addressing the rising incidents of atrocities on women and children, are into nitpicking. The horrible gang rapes incidents in the rife-torn Manipur, where ethnic violence broke out and continued unabated for the last three months, are still afresh in people’s minds. The Manipur gang rape incidents too are as gory as the Nirbhaya, as the assailants allegedly dragged the women out of their houses, gang raped, paraded naked and later killed them too. That video went viral on social media platforms leading to a political slugfest, as elections to the Lok Sabha are due next year, besides few politically important assembly polls by this year end. A blame game ensued between major political players governing respective state governments,  accusing each other for the increasing atrocities against women. This bizarre whataboutery between the major political parties, especially the newly- formed Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance, consisting of 26 Opposition parties and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) controlled states. The states where crimes against women are on the rise include: West Bengal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Manipur. The situation in these states indeed becoming more alarming and the reasons are loud and clear – complacency of the parties in power.  If it is due to ethnic clashes that broke out in Manipur, then the rise of such crimes against women are political in West Bengal, where the migrant Rohingya settlers in the border areas carry out such atrocities only to create fear psychosis among the Hindus, who are a minority in these places. And the BJP, Congress and Communists accuse the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) party government of looking the other way as the Rohingyas are a potential vote bank.

Contrary to this, the recent incidents in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, ruled by the Congress and BJP respectively, are alleged to be due to lax policing by the governments against erring communities. As a result, the discourse over the alarming rise in crimes against women had been reduced to ‘your rapes are crueller than ours’, instead of finding more strong measures to prevent recurrence or speed up the action to render justice to the victims and their families. And, the blame game among the political parties is quite common as they have their scores to settle against each other or score some brownie points. But, what is more shocking is that the judiciary too opts to be choosy only to embarrass the party which also heading the Centre. And, the Supreme Court’s recent decision to take the Manipur incident as suo moto and not only pull up the state and Central governments but also appoint a Committee to probe into it, has kicked up an interesting row, and some videos in social media going viral over the unprecedented decision by the apex court. Arming themselves with the ‘freedom of expression’ tag, some independent YouTubers have started questioning the apex court, which is not only disturbing but exposes its partisan stand like the Opposition political parties, which are bent upon stalling the overall growth of the country. The promoters of these videos also cast aspersions on the apex court, a first in independent India, which looks more dangerous and poses a serious threat to national security matters. In their videos, they also question the Chief Justice of India’s decision to entertain a petition moved to challenge the NDA government’s decision to abrogate the Article 370 and 35 A to declare Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India.

Thus far, the Manipur and the abrogation of Article 370, indeed concern national security matters as they happen to be the country’s borders – one with China on the East and the other with Pakistan on the West. Whether the judiciary is trying to exceed its brief appears to have become more debatable than the ever-increasing crimes against women and children. Hence, it is time for the judiciary too to introspect and take corrective measures, which shall not hamper the nation’s overall growth as well as pose a threat to its security and integrity. And, as far as the Delhi rape incident is concerned, responsible political parties should restrain themselves from politicizing such heinous crime on an unsuspecting teenager. Instead, these parties must pursue ways to punish the man who committed a crime which is shameful to any civilized society. The very nature of his job as the deputy director of Women and Child Welfare department makes the offence all the more grave. Mere suspension of the guilty official is not sufficient. He should be dismissed from service forthwith to ensure no government official hereafter dare indulge in such crimes against the minor girls.