Aditya Sinha: BJP luminaries hit rewind button on rape
Praveen Arora reported in the Tribune exactly a week ago, at the height of the agitation by Jats for inclusion in reservations, that a crowd of stone-pelters on NH-1 at Muthal in Sonepat, the Haryana district that abuts north Delhi, stopped about 100 cars. People fled the cars, including women who were on their way to Delhi’s international airport to return abroad. About ten of them were apparently taken into the fields and raped by some agitators; the rest hid in a nearby dhaba — many in its water tank.
Locals block Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar’s car in Rohtak, unhappy with his handling of the Jat agitation crisis, during which a few women were allegedly raped near the national highway last week. Pic/PTI
The Haryana police chief denied it happened: he said no one filed an FIR (An FIR was filed on Sunday evening, according to news reports) and there was no evidence of rape at the spot. Yes, he said that. His boss is Manohar Lal Khattar of the BJP, a Punjabi who was unprecedentedly selected to head the robust majority that his party won in the Assembly because he is close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Khattar, a former RSS pracharak, during the 2014 Assembly election campaign, held women responsible for the rising number of rapes in the country; he also said that if women dressed decently, rapes could be avoided. Not surprisingly, an outcry over the rape allegations by Jat agitationists has forced the state government to deploy three woman police officers to inquire into the allegations. Also, the factions who were not happy with Khattar as CM have started murmuring about how his handling of the agitation crisis was poor.
Sadly, just when we thought that the December 2012 Nirbhaya rape-murder had forced the nation to wake up and introspect (as well as hurriedly enact a law to try 16-year-olds as adults, the repercussions of which we have yet to see begin), rape has made a comeback in our society for all the wrong reasons. Besides the authorities’ dismissiveness towards allegations of it, rape is these days also used as a political weapon. This is obviously wrong, not just for the false accusation but also because it trivialises the survivor.
In the ongoing sedition-controversy at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), in which a student union president was brutally beaten up by thugs posing as lawyers while the Delhi Police looked on like scared children, rape has been mentioned twice. First, a journalist went online and said that Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, the students who recently surrendered to the police (and on a lighter note, tried to explain subaltern studies, their area of research, to dumbfounded cops), ought to be sent to Tihar Jail and raped by other inmates. It takes a twisted, violent mind to wish this upon another person, no matter how disliked. But if a tier-III lawyer like Vikram Singh Chauhan can, in open court, beat up accused as well as journalists on the job, then I suppose you can’t blame people who wish rape upon those they disagree with: as far as Modi’s silence has signalled to them, it’s open season on all who are not part of the herd.
Similarly, a BJP MLA from Rajasthan, Gyandev Ahuja, of the 3,000-condom-a-night fame, has not stopped bloviating ever since he produced a stunning grocery list of evil-doings on the JNU campus. (Frankly, if 3,000 condoms and 500 contraceptive injections are being used on a nightly basis, then JNU ought to be the most peaceful campus in the Universe.) Rather than repent and reflect, he has lately added that JNU students were responsible for 50 per cent of rapes in the city, and that they were not “kids”, as CPI-M chief Sitaram Yechury had said, but “producing kids”.
The use of sexuality by the right-wing has been documented and psycho-analysed by people smarter than me; it is obviously about controlling other bodies. All I have to add is that in the last couple of years, it started with merely the hint of rape — the ‘love jihad’, wherein Muslim boys were seducing Hindu girls, which ultimately led to the Muzaffarnagar riots, which BJP legislators from UP have credited with the massive 73 parliamentary seats Modi won in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Modi coming to power unhindered by anyone inside his party or outside can be directly attributed to that rich electoral haul.
These cultural regressives deny rape when it happens, but can’t get it out of their minds when they look for conspiracies. In an era when we’re trying to modernise our attitudes towards women and help create a more egalitarian society — and no one can sanely argue that such is not compatible with Indian culture — the BJP’s rank-and-file are trying to push back, to keep everyone in their place (or even leave their wives back home). Egalitarianism is obviously anathema to the Modi parivar’s project, but does it ever occur to them that if India makes a U-turn on rape, it distracts from the still elusive economic growth story?
Journalist and writer Aditya Sinha is the co-author of Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years. He tweets @autumnshade. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org