PRIME Minister Narendra Modi town hall show at the plush Central Hall in Westminster was by all standards one more of those ‘super-hit events’ – songs, dances, poetry et al. Whereas I enjoyed the show, I must say I was completely nonplussed on the way the heinous offences against the underprivileged innocent children in quick succession in recent times were passed by, quite matter-of-factly under another unrelated question as “rape is rape” and should not be politicised. “When a child is raped we cannot compare these incidents in numbers for different governments. Rape is rape… How can we accept this?”
And why do I say that? Well I don’t view these as normal sexual crimes of ‘a rape-is-a-rape’ variety, which of course, are no lesser grievous in any case. These two cases were different. These were not cases of a young paramedic and her friend accidentally falling prey to a pack of debauched drunkard drivers, helpers, carpenters in a bus, nor were they cases of petty criminals accosting helpless press women in desolate campuses. These were cases of innocent, economically and socially downcast children (one was 17 and the other just eight) being most horrendously violated by people in power – the people who by law or by social practice were expected to protect them. And that’s not all: the entire shockingly immoral sins being publicly supported by ministers and officials with their supporters waving the national tricolour crying out ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai!!’ in broad daylight and in full glare of international media!
It is appalling how the most heinous of crimes are carefully clothed under a colour of nationalism. The amount of international outcry these two nefarious incidents have kicked up and made us hang our faces in shame, can easily be gauged when the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez terms these incidents “horrific” and advises that the “guilty must be held responsible”. And I think, it is of great necessity we view these cases specifically and a host of new ones that surfaced recently, very very seriously, and proceed to address them with the seriousness they deserve.
In the Unnao case, the 17-year-old socially underprivileged girl calls upon her MLA at his house reportedly seeking his help in getting an employment for herself so she could help her father support their poor family. Instead of the job, she is reportedly brutalised by the MLA and others. The poor father of the victim, instead of getting justice for his daughter is thrashed and eventually brutally killed by the state police.
The MLA had not been arrested, although in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, the onus of proof of innocence under this case was on the MLA himself. It was only after the High Court did he make a regal entry in the police station and “surrendered”.
The Kathua case is even more ghastly. The eight-year-old girl from a family belonging to the nomadic Bakarwal tribe goes to graze horses and the local powerful temple chieftain and his cohorts, plan in cold blood the grizzliest of drug-rape-and-murder of this little girl, holding her captive inside a temple for seven long days and nights, under active support from the police who statedly go on ‘dry-cleaning’ the evidence. When under the court’s interference the police arrest the culprits – BJP ministers and officials from the state government come out openly in support of the
Not a word of apology till date from anybody in the BJP – the Prime Minister broke his silence after a good five days, that too only after the Supreme Court came out vehemently on the security to be provided to the family. We were told: “…No criminal will be spared. Justice will be done. Our daughters will get justice.”
But how, I ask. Although the ministers were asked to put in their papers, they continue as MLAs retaining their seats and drawing their hefty pay and perks at the cost of taxpayers. Pray exactly what form of ‘justice’ is being delivered?
I’m not surprised a bit. Although it was heartening to see the best of the retired bureaucrats raise their voice on the ignobility in all of this, the point is: the party brass would never budge an inch, I know, or even think in terms of disciplining ever, those foot soldiers – the very same who brokered those millions of votes they stand today on and enjoy the loaves of office.
The worst mockery in the whole drama is that these accused in Jammu and Kashmir and the MLA in Unnao vehemently demand CBI probe (you guessed it! – the easiest way to pocket a clean chit)!
What we need to do
I have once again heard voices saying we must have ‘tougher’ laws. My point is: what will you do with more laws when the willingness to enforce the existing laws falls far short?
I think the huge silent aloof middle class should speak up just like the 49 bureaucrats have done. Secondly, if the government is indeed serious in tackling these hateful crimes, let it punish and shame the guilty – let no guilty person go unpunished. Appoint special investigation teams as in law immediately. The accused should be sacked from cushy positions of power, having sworn allegiance to the Constitution of India and even getting promoted with confounded regularity!
Hollow statements have no meaning – punishment does – and heavy punishment at that!
In the Lok Sabha debate after the Nirbhaya case the then Union home minister had assured that justice would come within one year. It has been six years now the culprits are still living – one in fact is walking free! A study by Kailas Satyarthi’s foundation I saw shows POCSO crimes in Delhi alone have increased a good 34 per cent in the last three years. And it says the pending POCSO cases would take at least 13 years for the victims to get justice!
For once, let us sit up. It is our country’s prestige which is at stake!