There seems to be a cruel template associated with the rape and murder cases in India. After every such horrific crime, a macabre political blame game erupts, with those in power using every trick in their bag to justify the laxity and those in the opposition staging street protests, lining up before the victim’s home with news cameras in tow and seeking to garner political mileage out of a human tragedy. A familiar trope follows with allegations and counter-allegations flying thick and fast and confusing signals being sent out by the police, often deliberately. In the process, the victims are reduced to mere footnotes in their own tragic sagas. There is never an honest, bipartisan attempt, rising above narrow political divide, to fix the issues bedevilling the criminal justice system. There is never an effort to reform the police administration or end caste discrimination and oppression, which are at the heart of the problem. After a brief political circus and a breathless media coverage bordering on voyeurism, it is back to business as usual. And, the rape cases end up becoming cold statistics tucked away in the government records. Every rape and murder case in the country is a sad commentary on the functioning of the institutions that are meant to provide safety and security to women. The political overtone of the protests in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan is a pointer to this macabre pattern.
The BJP government in Uttar Pradesh is facing flak for its handling of the aftermath of the Hathras case where a teenage Dalit girl was raped and killed by upper caste men while two alleged rape incidents, involving Dalit girls, in Congress-ruled Rajasthan have triggered protests from the saffron party in Jaipur. Lost amid all the political din is the desperation and grief of the victims’ families. Their cry for justice is usually lost in the political cacophony. The response of the police in the Hathras case was particularly shameful. Claiming fears of a caste riot, the police forcibly cremated the victim in the dead of the night, without allowing her parents. The tragedy has shaken India. In a country where an average 87 rapes are reported daily, the Hathras incident has exposed how every institution— the police, the media and the politicians — has failed women. It has also exposed how medieval caste identities are still a source of oppression of millions of Indians. And, it is women from the bottom of the hierarchical system who bear the brunt. After handing over the Hathras case to the CBI, the Centre has issued a routine advisory to the States to ensure strict compliance of laws pertaining to crimes against women and compulsory registration of FIR in such cases.
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