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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Crimes against Women plague India

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The details of the ordeal of an eight-year-old girl held captive, starved, sedated and repeatedly raped inside a ‘devisthan’ in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district before being murdered and dumped in a nearby forest, have emerged. Meanwhile, an Indian man, who was arrested after accusing a ruling party official of raping his teenage daughter, has died in police custody, prompting outrage and calls for an independent investigation.

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The abduction, rape, and killing of the girl from the Bakherwal community was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area, the 15-page charge-sheet filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Crime Branch in the chief judicial magistrate’s court said. It lists the caretaker of the Devisthan, a small temple, in Rassana village in Kathua, as the main conspirator behind the abduction, rape, and killing.

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Sanji Ram was allegedly joined by special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma, friend Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, Ram’s nephew, a juvenile, and his son Vishal Jangotra alias “Shamma”. The charge sheet also names investigating officers — head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs. 4 lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.

This week a chaotic scene unfolded outside a courthouse in Jammu and Kashmir, as a mob of Hindu attorneys tried to physically stop police from filing charges against the men accused. The attorneys in a statement argued for a federal investigation, stating that the government had failed to “understand the sentiments of the people.” Police still managed to complete the paperwork and charged the men, who include four policemen and a retired government official.

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Protests have now spread across much of Kathua. Hindu activists argue that some of the police officers who worked on the case are, like Asifa, Muslims — and cannot be trusted, according to the Times. Dozens of Hindu women have helped block a highway and organize a hunger strike.

Notable BJP members have asked the case be moved out of the state police’s jurisdiction and into that of the Central Bureau of Investigation, claiming the agency would act neutrally. The bureau, however, reports to the BJP-led government in New Delhi.

Asifa’s case has shaken the state’s Legislative Assembly. Weeks after her body was found, lawmakers still questioned the police’s behavior in the days after Asifa disappeared: Police waited two days to file a report after Asifa disappeared, for example, and did not alert newspapers until days after she was killed

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The BJP is also involved in another anti-women crime case, this one against a Hindu woman. The day before the man died, his daughter had gone to Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh, doused herself in kerosene and tried to self-immolate in protest against the alleged unwillingness of police to pursue her allegations.

Uttar Pradesh is a state of 200 million residents with poverty and malnutrition levels close to those of sub-Saharan Africa and a reputation for lawlessness. The allegations have shocked Indians and prompted renewed scrutiny of the power wielded by politicians in small-town India.

The mother of the girl, who court documents say is 15, has alleged in a handwritten note to police that her daughter was raped on 9 June last year by two men one of whom was Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a member of the Uttar Pradesh parliament with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

“Her family had been unsuccessfully trying to convince police to register a case against the politician for months until last Tuesday when the family alleges Singh Sengar and his brother Atul Singh Sengar barged into their home at about 6 pm with a group of men. “My two young girls were molested and when my husband protested he was tied to a tree and was beaten,” the woman alleged in her note.”

On Sunday, in front of the residence of the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, the girl tried to burn herself to death in protest against the official inaction. Police managed to stop her, but early the next morning, her father died in police custody after being admitted to hospital complaining of abdominal pain.

The Chief Minister of the state, Yogi Adityanath, called the incident “unfortunate” and promised a thorough investigation. “Whosoever is guilty will not be spared,” he said. The leader of the opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, said the events mocked the government’s high-profile campaign to improve the welfare of girls and young women, called “Protect your daughter”. He tweeted in Hindi: “Protect your daughter and get killed.”

Analysts assert that such crimes taking place during the reign of a Hindutva group is not a surprise. Ostensibly such crimes arise from the misogynist and patriarchal ideology. The Hindutva ideology pushes for a docile wife subservient to a patriarchal system. Career-oriented women are discouraged and deemed to be the opposite of good mothers and wives. This is apparent from the statement of the RSS chief that the duty of the woman is to look after her husband, failing which he can disown her and refuse to take care of her.

Women are in fact chattel in the eyes of Hindutva. While Hindu women are to be kept captive for their own good, the women of other communities are to be targeted as legitimate targets. It is out of this vile thought that such heinous crimes are emerging in the land of India