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Millennium Post

Hope, that foul, deceitful thing

When powerful people show concern and promise speedy action on injustice, there is a transient moment of hope. Given how many times this charade has been played in front of the people, including this time with regards to the Delhi rape and violence incident, it may be useful to take this incident up as a case and analyse. This may be a useful exercise in calling out the double-speak from the Indian nation state.

On 22 December , Sushilkumar Shinde, the home minister of the Indian Union, tried his best to appear statesmanlike at the press conference at the Press Information Bureau. Flanked by a couple of other ministers and a smattering of bureaucrats, he announced to the assembled media, and through them to ‘people-at-large’, that the government had heard the rape protestors of New Delhi.

The poor should learn something — it is not enough to be displaced, raped, maimed, killed, brutalised for years. It is also important to know how to chant slogans in English and write them in chart-paper. The star-studded press conference was not so much about firefighting — after all, youths holding placards written in English are not a major electoral constituency. It was more about appearing sensitive to a larger populace. Shinde saheb even tried the ‘common-man’ approach.

He said that he understood the outrage for he too was a father. Oh, so that’s the connection! Lesser mortals are lesser in more ways than one. Rare are the moments when people in power include themselves in ‘everyone of us’, as if we are one community. When the ‘common bond of humanity’ ploy is used in such moments, those in the charmed circle in Lutyen’s Delhi and its South Delhi spillover nod liberally in agreement. One would almost want to believe that Shinde
saheb
’s daughter would buy a 10 Rupee ticket on a green Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) bus and travel from Daryaganj to Kapashera border after a hard day’s work, you know, like many, many others.

No such luck. Shinde saheb has Z-plus security. One of his daughters, Praniti madam, is an MLA. With more police force out to protect his powerful daughter than what would be deployed to protect an average neighbourhood, it is hard to imagine an anxious father of a commoner here. Unless, of course, she was meeting aspiring legislators of his own party. After all, in the last five years, Maharashtra, Shinde
saheb
’s home state, has had the largest number of candidates with declared cases of crimes against women, including rape.

At least 26 Congress candidates to different legislatures had such cases against them (source: Association for Democratic Reforms). Shinde saheb may say that all of these cases are politically motivated or ‘law will take its own course’, but surely, as a father, would he take chances?

If not, what have the people done to deserve these candidates from his party? That the BJP, the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party also have numerous such candidates does not help matters, does it? What do Smriti Irani’ji and Sushma Swaraj’ji think about the ‘jewels’ that their party has been nominating? Why is the tirade against the bad guy always directed towards an inchoate other or society at large, when there are more tangible alleged rascals inside the party?

There have been calls for ‘fast-track’ legal procedures for such cases. Ostensibly, this fast-tracking should also apply to alleged crime committed against women by tricolour and saffron ‘social workers’. Shouldn’t it?

In a statement after meeting the Prime Minister of the Indian Union, Manmohan Singh’ji, Shinde saheb stated that ‘To ensure a strong law to deal with crimes of this nature, the government will take immediate steps for the amendment of the Criminal Law for enhanced and more effective punishment in the rarest of the rare cases of sexual assault such as this.’

This is something that has a resonance with a significant section of the protestors where public hanging and castration have been demanded. But there is rape and there is rape. The state has hinted that it might toy with the idea of death penalty or something more severe that the present punishment for ‘rarest of the rare cases’.

Is the alleged rape of a 56-year-old woman in Gujarat by a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) jawan a ‘rarest of rare case’? Does the alleged repeated sexual brutalisation of Soni Sori in the custody of Chhattisgarh police qualify as a ‘rarest of rare case’? Was the alleged gang-rape of a 12 year old mentally challenged deaf and mute girl by three jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) near their Warangal area camp a ‘rarest of rare case’?

What about the alleged gang-rape in Basirhat, West Bengal by five jawans of the Border Security Force (BSF)? Is the alleged rape of a Congolese child a by Indian Army jawan posted as a ‘peace-keepers’ a ‘rarest of rare case’? Did the forensic evidence of DNA match matter in that case? Did anything matter? Did anything get fast-tracked, or was a clean-chit thrown back on the face of the victim? What about the Kunan Poshpora tragedy of 23 February , 1991 — the alleged gang-rape of more than 50 Kashmiri women by jawans of the Indian Army?

It has been 22 years. Does ‘morale’ come before justice or does ‘honour’ look different when viewed through tricolour blinders? Or are these not ‘rarest of rare cases’ not ‘rarest of rare’ precisely because they are not that rare? (IPA)
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