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Back to Barbarism

Anand Teltumbde (tanandraj@gmail.com) is a writer and civil rights activist with the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai.

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Satyapal Singh, Maharashtra’s ex-additional director general of police and now minister of state for human resource development (responsible for higher education), drew flak with his proclamation that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was wrong. But after seeing the conduct of his cohorts from the Sangh Parivar in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, one can be forgiven for thinking that perhaps he is right. An eight-year-old child was kept locked in a temple, starved and gang-raped over five days. She was then brutally killed and her body thrown into a forest. All this was done in order to terrorise the Muslim Bakarwal community (to which she belonged) into leaving the area. This would shock and shame any human on the planet who believes in evolution. Following this, members of the Hindu Ekta Manch, those of the Bar Association of Jammu, and other outfits belonging to the Sangh Parivar took out marches led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers in support of the accused, waving the national flag. This was proof enough that Darwin was wrong—having come through a long evolutionary process, people in human bodies could not be worse than the beastly beasts. There are numerous other acts too, if not literally comparable with this one, which would certainly mark the undoing of what little progress we lay claim to.

Eventful April

Last month saw myriad such developments that further deepened the despair and gloom that mark our times. As the heart-rending story of the eight-year-old that took place in January exploded in the wake of demonstrations by Hindutva bigots in support of the accused, another saga of the agony of a 17-year-old girl, who was allegedly raped by Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a BJP member of the legislative assembly (MLA) from Unnao constituency in Uttar Pradesh, on 4 June 2017, came to light. According to her, she was subsequently abducted and gang-raped by his three associates over nine days. All this came out when she attempted to immolate herself in front of the residence of  Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on 9 April. This was also the day that her father died in judicial custody. He was brutally assaulted by Sengar’s supporters led by the MLA’s brother, for refusing to withdraw the first information report (FIR). Instead of arresting his attackers, the police had taken him into judicial custody where he succumbed to his injuries. It was only after widespread outrage that an FIR naming Sengar was registered and he was taken in by the Central Bureau of Investigation for questioning.

In the wake of these two rapes of minor girls, a spate of news reports of the rapes and murders of female children, as young as four months old, followed every day. This civil society orgy was competitively matched by a series of decisions and actions from the state. To cite a few, there was an angry dismissal by the Supreme Court of the scores of petitions that demanded an independent probe into Judge B H Loya’s sudden death in mysterious circumstances and the murky political context; the Gujarat High Court’s acquittal of Maya Kodnani, whom a designated special court had held in 2012 to be one of the “principal conspirators” in the Naroda Patiya case in which 97 Muslims were killed during the Gujarat riots in 2002—not the first acquittal. Most culprits involved in the Gujarat 2002 massacres have been out and Teesta Setalvad, who symbolises the demand for justice to the victims, continues to be harassed. A special anti-terror court acquitted Hindutva preacher Swami Aseemanand and four others accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, in which nine people were killed and 58 wounded on 18 May 2007. Most accused in these “saffron” terror acts, quite like Gujarat 2002, are out while the police raided the houses of activists in connection with the Elgar Parishad in Pune on 31 December 2017.

As for the last act, Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis gave a statement that these raids did not have anything to do with the Elgar Parishad. The lie was immediately nailed by social media activists who circulated copies of a search warrant that clearly referred to the Bhima Koregaon violence. If they indeed were in connection with Bhima Koregaon, one fails to comprehend the logic of raids on the houses of advocate Surendra Gadling in Nagpur and Rona Wilson in Delhi, who were not even remotely connected with either the Elgar Parishad or the Bhima Koregaon violence. While Fadnavis gives a clean chit to the first accused Sambhaji Bhide (in an FIR on the violence on 1 January 2018), activists connected or unconnected with the Elgar Parishad continue to be harassed.

Rise in Incidence of Rapes

Since 2014, there has been a sharp rise in the incidence of rapes. As per the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) Crime in India reports the number of rapes and rate of their incidence per lakh of population from 2010 to 2016 are as follows:

It clearly shows that although there was a consistent rise in rapes over the years and a significant jump in the terminal year of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule (2013), the rise thereafter is sharp. The average incidence of rapes during the three years of the UPA and the National Democratic Alliance works out to 27,613 and 36,778 and the rate of incidence per lakh of population, 4.7 and 6.23 respectively, which means there has been a 33% rise in both the absolute number of rapes as well as their rate of incidence. There may not be an indisputable reason that can be proffered for such an alarming rise but empirically, it may be observed that the rise is mostly contributed by the BJP-ruled states. Is it due to the ideological valorisation of India’s feudal past in which women were meant to be just sex objects for men? The incidence of female infanticide is maximum among the Hindus as revealed by alarmingly poor sex ratios in the BJP-ruled states. According to a 2011 study by the Lancet, 12 million girls were aborted over the last three decades (cited by Bhalla 2017).

The number of rape cases in which BJP leaders are the accused is alarming. A look at the figures of 2016 and 2017 bring home the point. The Uttarakhand police had booked BJP leader Harak Singh Rawat for raping and harassing a 32-year-old woman  (Zee News 2016). A BJP leader, Venkatesh Maurya, was charged by a 38-year-old woman from Chitradurga of raping her (Deccan Chronicle 2016a). A local BJP leader Ashok Makwana in Gujarat was arrested for allegedly molesting a 13-year-old girl on board a Goa–Ahmedabad flight of IndiGo airlines on 29 May (Hindu 2016). A tribal girl in Madhya Pradesh was allegedly kidnapped and gang-raped by a local BJP leader and his five accomplices for refusing to withdraw a molestation case filed against him by her, police said (Deccan Chronicle 2016b). A BJP corporator Anil Bhosale and the general secretary of the Mira–Bhayander unit of the BJP, and also the ward committee chairperson of the  municipal corporation  was booked for allegedly raping and having unnatural sex with a 44-year-old married woman (Times of India 2017). A local BJP leader Bhojpal Singh Jadon and two of his associates were booked for allegedly gang- raping a Dalit woman, a resident of Sumawali village in Morena, Madhya Pradesh, after promising her help in getting a below poverty line card (Hindustan Times 2017). Former Delhi BJP MLA Vijay Jolly was booked for rape after a complainant said that he spiked her drink before sexually abusing her in a Gurgaon resort (India Today 2017). A Gujarat BJP MLA Jayesh Patel, and founder-president of the privately-owned Parul University in Vadodara, was booked for raping a 22-year-old nursing student. The rector, Bhavna Patel, was also booked for abetting the crime (Indian Express 2016). These are not isolated incidents of rapes where BJP functionaries have been the accused. The Unnao case reveals how difficult it is for a victim to file a complaint against powerful persons.

Steady Regression

The last four years of the BJP rule, notwithstanding the government propaganda blitzkrieg, are marked by a steady regression of democracy signified by the erosion of rule of law and rational and scientific outlook. The attempts to saffronise all institutions in the country and attrition of the independent judiciary—the last hope of the people—exemplified by the controversy over Chief Justice Dipak Misra’s stint, against whom four senior judges of the Supreme Court spoke in a press conference—an unprecedented move that has caused the opposition to seek an impeachment motion—are the worrisome developments for the future of democracy. Venkaiah Naidu, the ex-BJP president and now the chairman of the Rajya Sabha has rejected the motion.

Thus while all the constitutional virtues are being systematically decimated, Babasaheb Ambedkar, projected as the architect of the Constitution, is being grandly monumentalised. A significant event during April was the unveiling of a grand national memorial in his honour at 26 Alipur Road in Delhi. Bewildered Dalits are left wondering as to whether Ambedkar’s memorialisation is meant to cover the brutal crushing of their voice. Is it to be seen to be similar to the idolisation of women as goddesses in Hinduism only to repress real women to inhuman levels?

Another victim of the BJP rule is a rational and scientific outlook, which is mandated to be promoted in the Constitution. Every BJP leader, minor or major, has contributed immensely to the spread of irrationality, with the Prime Minister being in the forefront; recall how he had said in 2014 that India had reproductive genetic technology and plastic surgery in the times of the Mahabharat. Recently, Tripura’s Chief Minister Biplab Deb insisted that the internet existed in the Mahabharat period and the state governor Tathagat Roy, who is supposed to be one of the conscience keepers of the nation, lent his support to this assertion. All those who believe in Darwin’s theory that humans are evolving in a progressive direction would be stunned by this gross regression. Therefore, Satyapal Singh seems to be correct when he says that Darwin was wrong!

References

Bhalla, Nita (2017): “Abortions in India Are 20 Times Higher Than Estimated: Study,” Reuters, 12 December.

Deccan Chronicle (2016a): “Venkatesh Maurya Woman Files Rape Case against BJP Leader in Bengaluru,” 9 October.

— (2016b): “Tribal Girl Gang Raped by Local BJP Leader in Madhya Pradesh for 36 Hours,” 18 December.

Hindu (2016): “BJP Leader in Gujarat Accused of Molesting Girl,” Ahmedabad, 1 June.

Hindustan Times (2017): “MP: BJP Leader, Aides Booked for ‘Raping’ Dalit Woman over BPL Card Promise,” 1 March.

India Today (2017): “Former Delhi BJP MLA Vijay Jolly Booked for Rape after Victim Alleges He Drugged Her Drink,” 23 February.

Indian Express (2016): “Gujarat BJP Leader Booked for Rape,” 23 February.

Times of India (2017): “BJP Corporator Booked for Rape in Mumbai,” 20 January.

Zee News (2016): देहरादून: कैिबनेट मंत्री हरक सिंह रावत समेत सभी नेताओं को िमली जमानत, जानें पूरा मामला, 30 July.

Updated On : 9th May, 2018

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