The brutal gang rapes in Unnao and Kathua have outraged the nation. The shock has not just been on the sheer brutality of the crimes, but also on the complete brazenness of the perpetrators, who remain protected by those in power. One of the girls, a child of eight years, is dead and the other has lost her father to the brutality of rapists and administration.
In Unnao a young girl was raped by a sitting MLA – Kuldeep Singh Sengar and his men over the course of several days, sedated and tortured. However, the police did not name the MLA as accused and the girl’s family was thrown out of the station. Subsequently, the family was threatened with repercussions should they pursue the case. The girl’s father was assaulted in the daylight of which there is video evidence. Later, shockingly the girl’s father was arrested by the police and despite serious injuries was sent to jail where he later died due to ‘blood poisoning’. Foul play and torture are suspected especially when the police report listed multiple injuries that are consistent with torture. After outrage, the CBI has now detained Sengar. However, till then, he had continued to roam a free man, jeering at the reporters, walking into SSP’s house and insulting the girl’s family and her caste.
In Kathua, bone-chilling details have emerged of the rape of eight-year-old Asifa, a Muslim girl who belongs to the nomadic Bakarwal tribe. She was killed in a temple after being repeatedly sedated and raped with the temple’s custodian plotting it as a way to torment and drive away the community. A retired government official and four policemen have also been charged with aiding and abetting her rape and murder. One of the three suspected rapists is also a policeman. The police took bribes and even washed blood and semen from her clothes. To ensure she was dead they hit her head twice with a stone. A protest was organised by Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the rapists with tricolour. The event was attended and supported by two BJP MLA Chaudhary Lal Singh, minister for forest, and Chander Prakash Ganga, minister for commerce and industries. They abused and questioned the investigation and called the action against the accused an instance of ‘jungle raj’.
Police inaction, government’s silence and apathy, and horror of the crimes have led to protests breaking out all over the country. Last night, Congress President Rahul Gandhi led a peaceful candlelight march around India Gate demanding justice and safety for women all over the country. “We want the government to take action. Wherever we see, woman and children are getting raped and murdered. We want the government to resolve this matter. This is a national matter, not political. It concerns the women of this country. The government should act on the atrocities against the women in the country,” he told reporters.He was joined by hundreds of Congress workers as well as many people who had come to lend their support to the cause.
On Thursday, organisations like All India Progressive Women’s Association, National Federation of Indian Women, JNU Students’ Union and the Students’ Federation of India also held a protest at Parliament Street. Today, nearly 20 city-based organisations in Mumbai are going to hold protests in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan. Actors, sportsmen, writers and common men have all spoken out against the horror of rapes and justice delayed and denied. DCW Chief has written to the PM and plans to go on an indefinite hunger strike. The silence of the members of the ruling party has been noticed and condemned. PM’s scheme ‘BetiBachao, BetiPadhao’ has come under severe attack for failing to hold accountable rapists within his own party.
Rahul Gandhi’s unambiguous stand on justice and safety for women and attack on the government for failing to take action has finally galvanised the largely pro state main-stream media, albeit in hesitant ways. It must be noted that both the rapes are months old, however, they had not seen sustained coverage on news channels till yesterday. While BJP and channels like Zee News called his march a ‘political stunt’, the crimes were too heinous for most channels to deflect or engage in whataboutery.
After Nirbhaya rape case in 2012, the laws were amended to protect women. Criminal Law Amendment Act (2013)recognised the broad range of sexual crimes against women. Most importantly it changed the earlier definition of rape to include acts in addition to vaginal penetration and also clarified that penetration means “penetration to any extent”, and lack of physical resistance as immaterial for constituting an offence. Besides this voyeurism, acid attacks or attempt to acid attack, acting with intent to disrobe woman, stalking, trafficking and sexual harassment were also defined and made punishable.
However, not much has changed on the ground. Crimes against women and children continue unabated. Moreover, as Unnao and Kathua demonstrate the crimes are not just against vulnerable communities and communal and political, but the perpetrators are politicians, officials, policemen and temple guardians. They enjoy the support and protection of the state and roam around with impunity, mocking the justice system and human rights. India again stands at a crossroad. How we ensure justice for women and girls and guarantee that the law is equal for all will determine if there is hope for the nation and its people or if we have completely failed the women of the country.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.