Are activists even-handed?
Why do some rapes come to be regarded as more heinous than others? First, of course, is the nature of the crime. When brutality is perpetrated on the victim, especially if she is a minor, the outrage is understandably greater. If a rape is perpetrated by powerful people to avenge an alleged insult with the aim of teaching the victim, her family or community, a lesson, it obtains some more media traction. Arguably, all rapes are heinous crimes, but some more than others.
But when do reports of a particular incident acquire a momentum of their own and dominate public discourse for a significant amount of time? Very often, of late, this happens if such a crime is connected in some way with the BJP or its supporters. No rape can be condoned, regardless of the ideological colour of the perpetrators. However, if the BJP can be even tangentially dragged into the controversy, the outcry is louder than in other cases.
The eight-year-old was kept captive, gang-raped and murdered in Kathua
This is not to suggest that the recent outrage over the sickening rape and murder of an 8-year-old Bakarwal girl in Kathua is overblown. It deserves all the outrage it can generate. Similarly, the gangrape of a young woman in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh is equally disgusting, particularly as it was allegedly perpetrated by a powerful MLA currently owing allegiance to UP's and the nation's ruling party. Happening virtually back-to-back, the two incidents have shocked India and brought the country into disrepute the same way as the 2012 brutal rape and eventual death of Nirbhaya had done. Unfortunately, nobody convicted in that case has been hanged so far although several were sentenced to death.
Each time a gruesome incident like the ones mentioned happens, there are vocal demands for tightening laws against rape. But in fact, India already has among the strictest of laws in the world, and their ambit was widened considerably after the Nirbhaya tragedy. But the judicial process in India remains endlessly tiresome; swift justice is something unheard of in this country. Clearly, mere tightening of laws is not the remedy for this heinous crime. Those who are again calling for death sentence to be awarded to rapists of children or juveniles need to remember that many such criminals are languishing on death row but few have actually been hanged. Clearly, the need is for speeding up the delivery of justice so that the convicted do not enjoy the luxury of a long waiting period.
BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar is accused of raping a 17-year-old girl in Unnao
But an equally big issue is the manner in which our law-enforcing agencies work. Are they transparent? Free from political interference? Do they act with alacrity and dedication when collecting evidence and building a foolproof case against the accused? Sometimes, the police have a difficult job because their political masters do not want such cases resolved quickly as they seek to protect some of the guilty. This is true in both the Kathua and Unnao cases.
Till Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the initiative to declare that none of the guilty would be spared, the Jammu and Kashmir police were dragging their feet. Despite open support to those who demonstrated against the State Crime Branch's report in the rape cases, the ministers concerned stayed put in their offices till the strong warning came from the Prime Minister. As the ministers were BJP leaders and the party shares power with the PDP in J&K, the police obviously hesitated to act.
The protesters questioned centre's inaction in both the cases
In the Unnao matter, the police had to be coerced by the Allahabad High Court into arresting Bangarmau BJP MLA Kuldeep Sengar, who was initially not even named in the FIR. The courts took notice primarily because of the hue and cry raised in the media by activist groups. While the High Court is to be commended for forcing the police to act, such activism is often seen to be missing in the case of criminals belonging to parties other than the BJP. It hardly needs reiteration that criminals and rapists infest every political party in India. But it would seem that activists are perpetually on the lookout for a BJP connection to crimes. This could well be on account of the ideological proclivity of most such social activists. But when there is no similar outcry against the shameful political crimes routinely committed in West Bengal, for instance, questions about the activists' neutrality are bound to be asked.As the ruling party in the bulk of India, the BJP must be mindful of the trust reposed on it by the people. To that extent, its leaders and members are required to be, like Caesar's wife, above all suspicion. But is it not essential that those highlighting such crimes are also seen to be free of bias while levelling allegations? Why is it that they appear to nurse a soft corner for the Congress and the Left?
The Nirbhaya case triggered nation-wide protests and led to the formation of new laws on crimes against women
Anybody with rudimentary knowledge of the Communist parties' role in world history and the bloody footprint of the CPI(M) and Naxalites in India would know that the greatest crimes against humanity have been perpetrated by them. The Congress too can hardly be deemed squeaky clean, considering its record in several states before and during the Emergency. That is apart from blood-curdling crimes such as the infamous "tandoor
murder" case in which a middle-level party leader killed his wife, chopped her body into bits and burned the flesh in a burning tandoor
in what was then known as Ashok Yatri Niwas in the heart of Lutyens' Delhi.
None of this is remotely intended to justify or even be placed as extenuating factors in the Kathua/Unnao cases. Here the issue is only about the exaggerated manner in which the BJP/RSS is painted blackest of black while other parties' crimes are spoken about in muted tones. Hopefully the criminals of Kathua and Unnao will meet their deserved fate very soon. Ideally, some of them ought to face the gallows. But our loudmouth activists must also ponder whether the cause of justice in being served in an even-handed manner by hyper-ventilating against the BJP/RSS alone?(Dr. Chandan Mitra is a journalist, currently Editor of The Pioneer Group of Publications. He is also former BJP MP, Rajya Sabha.)
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