[Swami Chinmayanand is founder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (a militant wing of RSS which is working overtime to drag India into a civil war state), was organizer of Shri Ram Janambhoomi Mukti Sangharsh Samiti and home minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2003.]
The gang-rape of a young girl in a moving bus on a highly busy area of Delhi on the evening of December 16, 2012 had shocked not only the common people of India but raised concerns about the security of Indian women world over. This gang-rape and a series of other incidents of rapes in Delhi (which earned the capital of India the infamous title 'Rape Capital of India') shattered many touted myths like Indians worship women, non-violence is the creed of Indians and women is Lakshmi or goddess of wealth.
The reaction of the Hindutva camp was not less shocking. The semi-illiterate (a status worse than being illiterate) chief of RSS Mohan Bhagwat had declared that “Crimes against women happening in urban India are shameful. It is a dangerous trend but such crimes would not happen in Bharat or rural areas of the country where women are treated as mother”.
Another prominent RSS ideologue Kailash Vijayvargiya held rape victims responsible for inviting rapes as women were "Laxman Rekha". The then international advisor of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Ashok Singhal held declared adoption of "western model" responsible for the rapes.
The present rape storm in India not only shows the hollowness of the claims of the Hindutva ideologues but also unashamed culpability of the individuals and organizations connected with the Hindutva ideology. The three rape cases which have shamed India took place in the rural India and the perpetrators in all cases have been connected with the Hindutva organizations/politics.
Swami Chinmayanand Rape Case
According to the victim, a sadhvis, she was a former disciple of Chinmayanandand and manager of Mumuksh ashram run by Chinmayanand in rural Shahjahanpur. She filed an FIR against him on November 30, 2011, alleging that she was held captive, raped and assaulted for several years. It may be noted that Chinmayanand is founder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (a militant wing of RSS which is working overtime to drag India into a civil war state), was organizer of Shri Ram Janambhoomi Mukti Sangharsh Samiti and home minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2003. He moved the Allahabad high court and got a stay on his arrest in 2011 itself. The woman recorded her statement before the judicial magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC, but no action was taken by the police.
The State of UP did not take any action for vacating the stay ordered by the High Court. When the victim came to know that Yogi government had moved for cancellation of the case she sent letters to the President and the district judge raising objections over the move, urging them for immediate issuance of warrant against the accused. However, the decision of freeing Chinmayanandand stands.
Unnao Rape Case
The news of Unnao rape case exploded when a minor girl attempted suicide outside the residence of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on April 8, 2018 after her 55-year-old father was thrashed and critically wounded allegedly by BJP lawmaker Kuldeep Sengar's brother Atul Singh on April 3, 2018. Shockingly, out of the two complaints filed, one by MLA's men and the other by the girl's family, police acted only on one complaint of the BJP MLA and his cohorts, arrested the injured father of the rape victim and sent him to jail. He died on April 9th while in judicial custody. According to a video shot during his arrest he could be seen and heard holding MLA and his brother for his injuries. Police took no action despite this crucial and clinching proof.
This minor girl and her family were struggling to lodge an FIR. The minor girl in Unnao district alleges rape by BJP MLA Kuldeep Sengar, his brother and others in June 2017 in their village, Makhi. Innumerable visits of the victim to the police begging for an FIR were not entertained. It was only after nation-wide uproar that the case was handed over to the CBI while Allahabad High Court ordered arrest of the MLA which even high officials of UP police had refused to do.
Kathua Rape and Murder Case
The blood-chilling and nauseating details of Kathua rape and murder case of an eight year old innocent girl who was kidnapped on January 10, 2018 kept in a Devisthan (temple) thrashed, sedated, raped multiple times by different rapists and killed on 16th are difficult to share.
One of the greatest conscience keepers of democratic-secular India, Bhanu Pratap Mehta expressed the horror and grief in the following spine-chilling words:
Our conduct as a society in the rape and murder case of an eight-year-old in Kathua has been so despicable that it can be said, without exaggeration, that India’s moral compass has been completely obliterated, carpet-bombed out of existence by the very custodians of law, morality and virtue who give daily sermons on national pride. This is by no means the first time a child in India has been subjected to the kind of heinous crime that makes you wonder about the dark sickness in our society that we so easily cloak.
How does one even begin to get a grip on this story? The crime itself is unimaginably horrific: The brutalisation and death of a child. But the purposeful nihilism in the crime is equally chilling. By all current reports, it seems premeditated. If current reports are correct, the crime seems purposeful in that the brutalisation was also meant to frighten whole communities, in this case it seems the Bakharwals. Whatever the exact facts of the case may turn out to be, the context of the crime, and the reactions of some Hindu groups suggest everyone understands the message this crime was meant to send. The sheer physical torture unleashed on the eight-year-old has also been paralleled by the extraordinary effort to deny her humanity.
Think of what the reactions to this crime say about us. Groups protesting the J&K police investigating the crime have assorted names like Hindu Ekta Manch and Bharat Bachao Rathyatra. It is as if the last vestiges of any respectability associated with the use of terms like “Hindu” or “Bharat” have been torn off. This is what these ideas have been reduced to: The instrumental use of brutal violence against children to terrorise communities, and to turn perpetrators into victims.
What does it say about us when the Bar Association of Kathua decides to obstruct the presentation of the challan by the Crime Branch? This is a mob of lawyers, allegedly speaking in the name of Lord Ram, obstructing justice. Rather than acting as officers of the court, they have done everything in their power to shift the attention from the crime and its enormity to low politics. They prematurely impugned the credibility of the local investigating agencies. If the context were not so heinous, there would be a profound irony in the stand of the Bar Association. For, they were saying quite categorically that the local state cannot be trusted. But does that not lend credence to all those Kashmiris who have been saying that the state cannot be trusted?
In this case, the context is not just that a crime was committed. It is the fact that political groups, claiming to be close to the BJP, seem to be the ones obstructing justice and communalising the local justice system. It is the fact that this crime was so enormous that even in the normal course of things you would expect political leaders to be the conduit through which we express our sorrow, regret, and outrage, however inadequate that might be. There will be doubtless a formulaic statement at some point by the relevant leaders, but the fact that a moral voice is their last choice rather than first instinct already reveals the hole we are in. What the vacuum reflected in the political class suggests is a combination of impunity, shamelessness and any lack of moral instinct. We are ready to empower our supporters to the point where even ordinary human instincts and sympathies will get lost.
What do we say for a country that converts the gang-rape and death of a child into a political weapon? What locus standi does anyone have left to even extend genuine sympathy to her family? What language are we left with, that has not been denuded of meaning? I wish we could say with confidence that the Kathua case will morally haunt us for a long time to come; our conduct as a society has shown how easily we can brush it off. But we can say this: Our conduct in this case is already an indication of the moral black hole we have now entered.
The above figured rape-cum-murder cases have few intriguing similarities.
- In all these gruesome incidents, rapists/killers and perpetrators are affiliated to Hindutva organizations especially RSS/BJP.
- The rapists/killers have been secular in committing crimes as they did not spare even a Hindu minor girl and a woman.
- The States of Jammu & Kashmir and UP where these crimes happened are ruled by the RSS/BJP leaders, former State being ruled with Mehbooba Mufti's PDP as equal coalition partner.
- RSS/BJP leaders took diametrically opposite stand on punishing the perpetrators. In Jammu & Kashmir they took the side of the perpetrators whereas in Swami Chinmayanand and Unnao rape cases the government of Mahant Yogi Adityanath tried to save the culprits despite victims being Hindu women, one of them a sadhvi.
- Despite RSS/BJP rulers ganging up against the victims, the latter resolutely resisted the Hindutva juggernaut which aimed at crushing their resistance. In Kathua rape case despite RSS/BJP's all-out aggression to communalize the crime, the father of the raped and murdered eight year old girl has not lost faith in the democratic-secular society of India and in humanity. According to him it is only handfuls who have been protesting against it. He insists that most Hindus and Muslims of the region condemn the murder and want the accused punished. He adds, “We would have come on the roads seeking justice if this had happened to a Hindu girl. Humanity comes first, before one’s religion as a Hindu or Muslim.” Asked whether he would ever return to Kathua after this terrible loss. He says with determination that "he will return to the Kathua village come September, like he does every year, when it’s winter in Kargil. Why will we not return? We have a home there. At the most, they will kill us as well.”
The most intriguing aspect is that in these barbaric crimes, religious places, religious babas and those who talk of religious based politics have been directly involved. But out of hundreds of omnipresent and omnipotent gods/goddesses sitting in the Heavens, none was moved by the cries, pain and sufferings of the victims. We must ask the question which martyr Bhagat Singh asked in 1930: "I ask why your Omnipotent God does not hold a man back when he is about to commit a sin or offence. It is child’s play for God."
[Shamsul Islam is former professor of Delhi University. Views expressed are personal.]
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