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17 April, 2018

A shocking tale of depravity

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

The United Nations, the World Health Organisation and the World Bank have all been looking at the issue of violence against women and girls (VAWG) lately. They all agree that it knows no social or economic boundaries. 

Shocked to the core by the gruesome details of the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl, which seeped out despite a determined cover-up bid by the perpetrators of the crime and their friends, India is now exploring the political boundaries of VAWG. 

According to the charge-sheet filed by the investigators in a court at Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir the child was abducted in early January, drugged and repeatedly raped for several days by a retired government officer, his two juvenile relatives and two police officers, among others. She was later killed and her body dumped in a forest. 

The investigators found that the crime was the result of a diabolical plot hatched by the retired official to scare away members of the nomadic Muslim Bakerwal community, to which the child belonged, from the area. Her family has already fled.

With the Jammu media largely ignoring the murder and one of the cops identified as a partner in the crime handling the investigation initially, the case was set for a quiet burial. The situation changed when the government entrusted the investigation to a Crime Branch team. 

Protesters mobilised by a Hindu organisation demonstrated in the streets of in defence of the accused. They demanded that the state hand over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is under the Modi government. Two Bharatiya Janata Party members of the state caninet who addressed them endorsed the demand.

Jammu lawyers attempted to prevent the Crime Branch from filing the charge-sheet. Their association demanded that Bakerwals as well as Bangladeshi and Rohingya refugees accommodated in the state be removed as they pose a threat to Jammu’s demography. 

The last elections in J and K, held in 2014 had thrown up a hung assembly. With 28 seats in the 87-member Assembly, the People’s Democratic Party was the largest. The BJP, which made a virtual sweep of Hindu-majority Jammu province, was close behind with 25 seats.

After prolonged negotiations PDP and BJP formed a coalition government on the basis of a common minimum programme, which put BJP’s demand for abolition of Article 370 of the Constitution (it grants J and K a special status) and PDP’s demand for withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (which grants the army impunity) in the freezer. 

The two BJP ministers’ conduct strained the relations between the coalition partners. In a bid to contain the damage, the BJP leadership collected their resignation letters and passed them on to the Chief Minister, who accepted them immediately. Both of them said the party had asked them to join the Kathua protest. 

A rape case is haunting BJP in Uttar Pradesh too. Kuldep Singh Sengar, a BJP MLA, and his brother are the main accused in that case, which relates to the rape of a minor at Unnao.

The alleged rape, which took place last June, received media attention only when the survivor attempted suicide outside Chief Minister Adityanath’s house, alleging he was shielding the MLA. Her father, whom the police arrested after being assaulted by Sengar’s brother, died in custody.

Sensing that the situation was going out of hand, the state government suspended six police personnel, arrested the MLA’s brother and three aides and handed over the case to the CBI. Some harsh words from the High Court compelled the CBI to arrest the MLA too. 

In December 2012 India had appeared to be going through a cathartic experience when in cities across the country people poured out to protest against the gang-rape of a 23-year-old in a Delhi bus. The outrage was purely humanitarian, for the attackers and the victim were ordinary people with no known political affiliation and caste and religion played no role in the crime. The Centre responded by toughening the law on rape. 

There was no catharsis, though. Official figures show that incidence of rape in Delhi and elsewhere in the country has gone up since then. 

In the Delhi case the trial was completed speedily and the culprits punished. However, most cases drag on for a long time, causing agony to the victims and their families. Success of prosecution in rape cases is only about 25 per cent.

Shockingly, cases of depravity are on the rise and children are being targeted increasingly. These are clear signs of decadence and the authorities need to deal sternly with the evil-doers and those who shield them.

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