Those were the formative days of the AAP. Finding the 16 December 2012 Nirbhaya case a wonderful stick to beat the Sheila Dikshit government with, volunteers of the less-than-one-month-old party congregated at the India Gate roundabout, donning party caps, to condemn the incident and, more importantly, project the then INC government in Delhi as ineffective, callous or both. Mercifully, a cross-section of society had assembled at the venue of protest; they slammed the politicisation of the brutal rape, after which the AAP’s novice politicians hurriedly got rid of their caps. Soon, however, the news of a child raped in a slum of the national capital surfaced. With no civil society to shame them at the new ‘venue’, Manish Sisodia, who went on to become the deputy chief minister of Delhi, stormed the hospital with his Luddites. The INC has, following the cases in Kathua and Unnao, picked up the baton of rape politics from where the AAP had discarded it in 2013. Ironically, none less than Priyanka Gandhi, the sister of the INC president, realised to her horror that the workers of her party, who were supposed to march through the midnight purportedly in solidarity with women, were hardly better than the devils who lurk from the midst of society. With continuous criticism of the government but no alternative model on offer, the INC seems to suggest, with this latest round of activism, that, if or when it returns to power, it will form as clueless a government as that of the AAP in Delhi. While highlighting the story of the brazen BJP MLA from Unnao was legitimate, the accounts that emanated from Jammu today have challenged the previous narrative. A re-examination of the autopsy report is called for, too, because there are medical improbabilities in the SIT’s version of what had transpired with the victim. Besides, how a corpse can tell that the crime was committed inside a temple remains inexplicable — more so because, for quite some time, the parents of the victim hadn’t had the foggiest idea where she was. Neither the opposition nor Bollywood should now prejudice the case of Kathua and hold a rigid albeit politically convenient position.
The BJP was found ham-fisted in Uttar Pradesh and not in sync with the local dynamics of Jammu. The CBI detention of MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar after keeping the nation outraged for three days for his alleged involvement in the rape of a minor and killing of her father was a fiasco. Infamous that the politician is, the BJP should not have embraced the habitual turncoat, to begin with. Then, his infamy should have ensured that the leadership of the ruling party both at the Centre and in the State readily believed that the allegations against him were credible. Or, if they were so sanguine about his innocence, they should have put the record straight three days ago by placing the evidence in the public domain by means of a press conference. In Jammu, the extent to which people are annoyed by the effort of some quarters to add a pro-Muslim skew to the demography, arguably in connivance with the PDP, can be gauged from the fact that even a former election agent of the INC’s Ghulam Nabi Azad felt compelled to take the side of the protesting lawyers. And these lawyers say they were never in favour of the alleged rapists in the first place; rather, a section of the media projected them as such to derail their anti-Rohingya movement that was gradually gaining momentum. Now, two ministers of the BJP have resigned their posts in the PDP-BJP coalition government of Jammu & Kashmir. It is anybody’s guess whether they are exasperated with their party’s central leadership that appears too enamoured with the media discourse. At the same time, if Azad’s agent has got the pulse of Jammu right, not only the BJP but also the INC and PDP have a bleak future in the Hindu-dominated regions of the State. Yet, the aspect that must override politics is the truth. Everything said and done, even if the version of the advocate of the Bakerwal community is true, the Constitution mandates that the judgment of the court of law alone will be the last word.
The Prime Minister has spoken up on the issue, using measured and dignified words. It is indeed a colossal shame that women, including little girls, have to lead a life so precarious in this country that they could be assaulted not only by sexual predators among commoners but also by some evil guardians of the law. It is a rare occasion when a prime minister of the country had to make a statement on incidents of rape, although several chief ministers, belonging to different States, have held and repeated this record. Without defending the accused of Kathua or Unnao, Modi could have added a sombre note addressed to the politicians of the country cutting across party lines. Women’s dignity faces the risk of assault across the world, a fact that the #MeToo campaign underscored while, thankfully, not letting the campaign get politicised. A change in government has never led to a change on the social scene. Keeping in mind especially the case of Unnao, since the accused is a proven weathercock that hopped, skipped and jumped from the INC to the BSP to the SP to the BJP, the polity must reach a consensus to excommunicate people with diabolical mindsets. Politicians of all affiliations coming together to seek a veritable treatment of the malaise would endear to the entire population of women and the majority of men who are sane and sensible. On the other hand, not only the party that is accused but also the one that is the accuser falls from grace in no time when rape is politicised.