Kunan Poshpora 1991. A nondescript village in North Kashmir makes headlines. All the men of the village rounded up in an open field during a night crackdown. Inebriated and ‘gallant’ soldiers of Indian Army’s 5th Rajputana Rifles disgrace ‘Rajput-valour’ – strip and rape dozens of women. Youngest victim was 13 and oldest 80. Police register a case against Army. Case closed. Justice done (Indian way).
2004 Thangjam Manorama. Thirty-two-year-old woman raped and shot dead after she was arrested by troops of 17 Assam Rifles. Outraged women from Meirapaibi (torchbearers) Group strip outside Kangla Fort – base of Assam Rifles in Imphal, Manipur holding banners ‘Indian Army Rape Us’. Killers not even touched till date.
2011 Soni Sori. A tribal schoolteacher in Chattisgarh arrested for ‘being a Maoist sympathiser’. Stripped in police custody. Electric currents given to her body and objects shoved into her genitals in front of a police officer. Case continues. Sori rots in jail. Accused police officer conferred a gallantry award by the President of India.
India shamelessly watched the spectacle. No countrywide protests. No feminists and women groups taking to streets. No media coverage. No TV discussions and debates. No clamour for tough anti-rape laws or resignation of ruling party politicians.
But now India has woken up from slumber – let’s be little pessimistic about it. Youth have taken to streets across the country, especially in ‘rape capital’ New Delhi after the gut-wrenching gang rape of 23-year-old medical student on a moving bus last Sunday night. Delhi police has acted ‘swiftly’ (it always does in solving terror cases by rounding up innocent Kashmiri students and businessmen) and arrested all the six accused who took turns to rape the girl before reportedly shoving an iron rod into her genitals. Girl’s male friend was also hit with an iron road and both were stripped and thrown out of the bus. The girl, who has been on life support since the horrific incident, is battling for life at Delhi’s Safdarjang Hospital.
Though there are countless reasons why a rape takes place but can we ignore people who are comparing rapes committed in the name of national interest in Kashmir, northeast or Naxal areas? Of course, not! Many people would find it hard to digest, but there is a strong connection, at least how administration that involves law-enforcement agencies, deals with rape and its victims.
Rape is a rape, irrespective of the fact whether the victim is white or black, Hindu or Muslim, patriot or ‘anti-national’. The selective outrage against the savage crime has only exposed our weakness – accepting rape as a tool to silence adversaries – in this case a woman. We can’t ignore people who allege that men are using rape to silence more assertive women who are of late challenging them in every field – be it politics, sports, or job markets.
When we choose to ignore rape in Kashmir or northeast, we are sending a message to rapists (the list includes police, army and paramilitary as well) that they can go scot-free. To stop dissent, rape is being used in these regions and the license is granted by the same parliamentarians who are these days demanding capital punishment for rapists and shedding crocodile tears on the floor of India’s temple of democracy.
What makes rape the most savage crime is the stigma imposed on all who are touched by this violence – this makes it an awfully efficient weapon to destroy the enemy. And that is exactly what we are witnessing in places like Delhi where, according to some studies, a woman is raped or molested once every forty minutes. Even though there is not a full-fledged war going on, but rapists are using this to ‘teach victims a lesson’ – as has happened in this brutal case.
Rarely have we witnessed such scenes in Delhi that protesters are clashing with police, who are using water canons and tear gas to shoo they away. Indian intelligentsia is horrified by the response of the government (police officials to be specific) and some have called the reaction ‘depressing’. I heard one of the politicians criticizing the police for using force to break up peaceful demonstrations of kids.
Similar situations have taken place in Kashmir, not once but hundreds of times where children as young as eight have been killed when policemen opened fire on peaceful demonstrations (Sameer Rah, 8, was beaten to death using bamboo sticks by Indian paramilitary). Nobody in the mainland India protested at Jantar Mantar or India Gate, even though they don’t hesitate to call Kashmir as India’s ‘attot-ang’ (integral part).
The point I am trying to make is that using different yardsticks for similar ‘crimes’, just because they happen at two different places is only making the matters worse for you. As they say things have a habit of coming full circle and that is exactly what is happening now – just outside your homes.
These rowdy policemen – who enjoy official patronage to commit worst of the sins have now become Frankenstein’s monsters. They know there is no accountability and they will get away with anything they do. And how did this all happen – all because of the silence you and I maintained all these years by turning a blind eye to their crimes.
Only last month two Kashmiris – Mohammad Ali and Mirza Nisar – were acquitted by the High Court, which termed investigation – ‘shoddy and full of grave prosecution lapses’ – but not before they had to spend 16 years in various Indian jails – including two years on death row for their alleged involvement in 1996 Lajpat Nagar blasts.
Has any policeman involved in these ‘shoddy’ investigations given a slap on his wrist, leave alone suspended? No, there is no such provision in Indian law. But what has it shown? Of course, policemen can do any wrong and sadly they can get away with it too.
And when they get used to such situations, they would not find any distinction between a youth from Kashmir, northeast or Delhi. For them victim is a ladder to success to promotions and medals. Now they are using it against the same people who they are supposed to protect. Only today, many women protesters at the Indian Gate alleged that policemen manhandled them in the presence of women cops. Why don’t they exercise restraint, people say in frustration.
Unless, India reins in the police force, which has been raised for the protection of the society, rapists or any other criminals will have a free run to go about their filthy business. Besides moral education and raising awareness to respect the fairer sex, it’s high time that Indian police is sensitised and made accountable for all its lapses.
It’s time astute learn lessons or doom is inevitable and on the horizon.