By Poonam I Kaushish
Plato believed that democratic “life has neither law nor order.” And he was dead right. In today’s India where jiske lathi uske bhains and bulldozer politics rule the roost the country has been groaning under the weight of political malfeasance for decades. Primarily ensconced in their indemnified ‘bullet proof jacket’ our leaders, MP, MLA rule by law brooking no nonsense. Question their misdemeanor, be prepared for open fury, “Main VIP hoon, tum kaun?”
But of late one finds this power of political fathers have transcended to their progenies. From Punjab Congress Minister Vinod Sharma’s son Manu who shot dead Jessica Lal for refusing him a drink as the bar was shut in Delhi, down Lakhimpur Kheri’s infamous case of BJP Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’’s son Ashish mowing down 8 farmers to Uttarakhand’s ex BJP Minister Vinod Arya’s aankhoin ka tara Pulkit murdering 19 year old Ankita Bhandari working as receptionist at his Rishikesh resort for refusing sexual favours to the guests.
If this was horrendous recently a Rajasthan Congress Minister’s son stands accused of raping a 23-year old woman in Jaipur as also a ex-PDP Minister son for raping a minor girl in Jammu. What to speak of Owassi’s MIM MLA’s progeny raped a 17-year old teenager underscoring an environment, wherein our netas and their off-springs times out of number behave like Bahubalis with the State maintaining a deafening silence.
Invariably, operating with impunity akin to Caesar, can do no wrong citing “people are our judges” making a song and dance by trotting voters as testimonials that if “they had committed any wrong, the public would not have voted for their father.” A devise to badger courts into submission or to overawe them. Consequently, with people’s power of attorney they revel perpetually in venality till caught waiting for the snail-paced law to take it own course. Sic.
It is precisely this conceit bolstered by power which in turn has bred contempt for law in most constituencies and many States, where profiteering from deliberate misdemeanor are the objectives. Add to this the high octane decibels of Saada Haq whereby, just about everybody, who’s anybody abuses power.
That this arrogance is beginning to get traction is a fact as evidenced in the upsurge of protests by the common man in Uttarakhand resulting in mass protests, rioting, violence, highway blockades, road and burning down parts of the resort. Alongside a cry to hang the killers.
However, at another level it raises a more basic question: Of women safety in India. Appallingly a 22 year old was allegedly gang-raped by 6 men in front of her husband in Jharkhand yesterday and another deaf-and- mute girl in Ballia UP Sunday. Accentuating every day in some part of the country we witness a Nirbhaya, Kathua, Unnao, Muzzafarnagar, Surat, Etah, Chhattisgarh Telangana, Hathras etc. A society where a female killing is reported every 77 minutes, fives rapes occur every minute, women are burnt for bringing less dowry, female fetuses are aborted just because they are girls et al.
Worse is the remedial action. A complainant goes to file an FIR. The SHO first keeps them waiting for hours, behaves inappropriately, refuses to record the complaint if it pertains to powerful netas and their progenies or demands money, threatens and shoos them away. A woman complainant is molested and raped, witnessed in various States specially notorious UP and Bihar.
Appallingly, sexual abuse remains widespread despite tightening of rape laws. Daily newspapers scream headlines of girls raped, women routinely stalked, assaulted and killed, harassed by police or bullied into silence by family. And the country goes into collective maatam. According to the National Crimes Records Bureau, 39,000 sexual assaults occur every year and one woman is killed every hour. In a UN survey India ranked 85 out of 121 countries unsafe for women. Shockingly, 6.26 rapes take place for every 10,000 women.
UP ignominiously holds the record of most cases of crimes against women in the country for two consecutive years — 59,853 last year and 59,445 in 2018 according to the NCRB’s latest report. It ranked second in rapes (3,065) behind Rajasthan (5,997). It also ranked third in rape-murder cases. Out of 278 such cases in the country, 34 were committed in the State.
Undoubtedly, toxic masculinity tells men it is okay even commendable to seize women who they can’t otherwise have. Topped, by our regressive society which ensures that if they cross limits there would find sympathisers and defenders who will pin the blame on the woman.
Plainly, in a society heavily loaded in favour of men, women and young girls live in an increasingly unsafe environment wherein they are viewed as sex objects and mince-meat for male lust camouflaged as human animals. Comply or reconcile to battling it out at every level. Perhaps it has something to do with our patriarchal lineage and misogynistic culture.
Further, implementation of laws meant to protect women, post Nirbhaya are patchy. In 2016 over 35,000 rape cases were reported but only 7,000 were convicted. Tragically, women are on their own vis-a-vis their safety. There is no law against sexual assault or harassment and only vaginal penetration counts as rape. Horrifyingly, one Rajasthan hospital continues the “two-finger” test (doctors insert fingers into the vagina) to determine if a woman has been raped, despite the practice being banned in 2013. Sic.
The Home Ministry set up a new ‘Women Safety Division’ in 2018 to strengthen measures for safety of women and instill greater sense of security in them through speedy and effective administration of justice in a holistic manner and by providing a safer environment for women. Yet violence and discrimination threaten women’s lives and prevent them from participating in any social activities.
Clearly, only when the State reinforces its commitment to act impartially and with fairness can respect for the law deter the powerful from its breach. Time now, for Central and State Governments to promptly review women security and seek accountability from their police force. Law keepers unless held accountable to law will continue to go scot free. The police must document rapes and the judiciary to fast-track cases instead of lingering them for years.
Where lies’ India’s salvation from this leech-infested katil=neta? With citizenry hooting for answerability and accountability from netagan it is imperative we get our priorities right. Time our high and mighty wake up to dangers lurking round the corner and smell the coffee. The bottom line: When push comes to a shove there is no easy option. Time to break new ground and unshackle women else be prepared for a trigger happy nation! —— INFA