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Ignoring Murthal highway gang rapes is our national shame #Vaw

Women’s undergarments were found strewn across Murthal highway, according to The Tribune.

While Delhi media slept, politicians were busy debating ‘Durga versus Mahishasur’ in Parliament.



The gang rapes of 10 women at Murthal near Sonepat in Haryana are the nation’s shame. It’s a shame for the governments of Haryana as well as the Centre. It’s our collective shame. Sadly, it’s national media’s shame too. Why is it a shame for 24/7 media? Let’s consider the facts.

One, The Tribune, Chandigarh reported the news of the alleged rape of 10 women by 30-odd men on National Highway-1 near Murthal in Haryana on February 22 (Monday). Two, The Tribune ran a headline, “Women commuters ‘violated’ by highway goons” on the front page as a lead. The web edition of the paper carried the story as well with same prominence aptly with a deck, “Horror of Highway.”

Three, The Tribune is a credible newspaper. It’s not known for sensationalism and trivialisation of news. Four, the story was credited to two of the newspaper’s senior reporters who had visited Murthal, spoken to people living and working around the spot where the crime took place.

They had also spoken to the police and army officials who were on duty in the area on the night of February 22 after the violence triggered by demand for reservation by Jats.

Five, the Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo motu cognizance of the incident the same morning, February 22, after reading the newspaper. Justice Naresh Kumar Sanghi who took the cognizance said say the incident required a probe by the “premier investigating agency” of the country.

Six, the Haryana Human Rights Commission also took suo motu cognizance of the report the same day. And lastly, The Tribunereported that the Haryana Police after making preliminary inquiries termed the report as a rumour.

The facts are being recounted here for one reason. Never or seldom, if ever, one comes across high judiciary, high court, and human rights commission moving with such speed on the basis of a news report. It reinforces the credibility of the report, the seriousness of the incident and its magnitude.

The Tribune reported that in the wee hours of February 22, vehicles on the National Highway-1 at Murthal in Sonepat district of Haryana were stopped by a group of 30-odd goons. They set the vehicles on fire. The male occupants of vehicles managed to flee.

Some women, as many as 10, according to the report, who couldn’t flee, were dragged out, stripped and raped. The women were found lying in the fields nearby when their male relatives returned after the goons had left. The victims and their families, the report said, were advised by the district officials not to report the matter to anyone for the sake of their “honour”.

The shame of national media:

For full four days after the incident was reported, the Delhi media was sleeping. It was so pre-occupied with reporting the war over “your nationalism versus mine”; so engrossed with reported threat to freedom of speech; and so captivated with the phony war between Arnab Goswami and Barkha Dutt that it chose to shove the shame of Haryana under the carpet.

Murthal is less than 50km from Delhi. It’s on the national highway linking Delhi with Chandigarh. There were tell-tale signs of molestation and “violation” of women reported by The Tribune. Torn jeans and clothes, dupatas and undergarments were strewn in the fields.

There were witnesses who had spoken to The Tribune reporters, roadside eateries’ owners who had given shelters to the women fleeing from the marauders. There were villagers who were talking of circumstantial evidence pointing to molestations. There were people from villages nearby who had said that they had rushed to provide clothes to women who had been stripped and molested.

By the time the Delhi media woke up to rush, the police and goons had silenced the eyewitnesses into submission.

No less culpable are politicians who were busy scoring brownie points over each other in Parliament. For political parties, debating merits and demerits of “Ma Durga versus Mahishasur” constituted a matter of more urgent national priority than raising the issue of a mass gang rape.

Had the opposition parties raised the issue in Parliament that very day, the culprits wouldn’t have the time to suppress the incident. The Haryana Police would have been under a lot more pressure to act. The Haryana police chief wouldn’t be staging the charade of calling for victims of rape to come forward to report the case after four days, rather than going after the culprits.

Had television reporters rushed there on the same day to report the horror of highway as “breaking news”, had the horror of Haryana been on the prime time debate on February 22, the shame of Haryana would been exposed more forcefully.

If an incident of mass rape of woman in the backyard of the national capital could remain virtually off the nation’s radar for four days, one shudders to think of the plight of the people who live in the country’s vast hinterland. The horror of Haryana is a collective national shame for which we all must hang our heads in shame.

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