Mrinal Pande:

The BJP MLA Kuldeep Kumar Sengar speaking to the media

Neither the gang rape of Nirbhaya in 2012 nor new law against rape seems to have made much of a difference, evidenced in public demeaning in both Unnao and Kathua rape cases

In the last few days, India has been shamed yet again by a reality that is ugly. It is the realisation that no matter what our Constitution may say, women in this country continue to be treated like animals, or second-class citizens, not human beings; as objects to be possessed, abused, thrown away and killed. Even platitudes that women are equal to men and that women are free have acquired a hollow ring to them.

A shamed and stunned India will take time to recover from the twin horror stories reported from Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh. The details are shocking and despicable.

A ‘priest’ got his son among others to rape and kill an eight-year-old girl in Kathua (J&K) after confining her to a ‘temple’ for several days. The priest, who himself was known as a womaniser, then bribed the cops with Rs 4 lakh to look the other way. In Unnao, (Uttar Pradesh) a teenaged girl was raped by a BJP MLA last year and when her father when the father of the victim protested and sought to lodge a complaint with the police, he was so brutally assaulted, before being arrested, that he died in custody.

In both places, political leaders, ministers, police and lawyers did not quite cover themselves with glory. In both the cases, people having close links to the Government and the ruling party cooked up justifications for the rapes and murder. In Unnao, the narrative was that the girl’s father was a himself a ‘criminal’, as if that gave others the right to rape his daughter. Thereafter, it was said that the victim was of “loose character.” In Kathua, the perpetrators justified their act by claiming that the nomadic tribe of Bakerwals to which the girl belonged had encroached on their land and that the animals of the Bakerwals destroyed their crop.

In Uttar Pradesh, in a similar case involving a Samajwadi Party legislator before the last assembly election, BJP leaders and the Uttar Pradesh Governor were vocal in demanding the arrest of the culprits. This time, the Governor and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath maintained a studied silence. In Jammu, the lawyers hit the streets , tried to stop the police from filing the charge sheet against the accused, threatened a lawyer and tried to stop her from representing the victim in court.

It is small consolation that the UP Government finally handed over the case to the CBI which detained the MLA and the Allahabad High Court ordered his arrest. The Supreme Court’s decision to take notice of the conduct of lawyers in Jammu also appears too little, too late to restore confidence in the ‘system’.

No law provides an entitlement the men to rape a child. No law silences victims of rape. I write today sadly and in anger, not as a woman or a Hindu, but as a supporter of justice

National Herald