There is zero tolerance

The Modi government, in its very first test on its approach to cases of sexual assault, has been found wanting.

Written by Brinda Karat | Updated: July 1, 2014 7:44 am
sexual_assault In fact, investigations by the All India Democratic Women’s Association indicate that the girl is a tragic victim of what can be described as cross-party “case fixing” and even worse, “victim fixing”. (Source: PTI)

By: Brinda Karat

The zero tolerance policy on sexual assault declared by the Narendra Modi government faced an early test when an additional district court in Jaipur issued a notice to a Central minister to appear before it in a rape case where he has been named as one of the accused.

The right thing would have been for the minister to step down till his name was cleared. But not only does he continue in office, he flaunts his proximity to top leaders in government at the Centre and in his state. It has been put out that they consider the charges to be a fabricated Congress conspiracy.

In fact, investigations by the All India Democratic Women’s Association indicate that the girl is a tragic victim of what can be described as cross-party “case fixing” and even worse, “victim fixing”. This happens in cases of sexual assault, when men of different political parties are seen to be involved in the same case or similar cases, and there is a conspiracy of silence among the parties concerned to suppress the case. In this particular case, apart from the BJP minister, important men linked to the Congress have also been named by the victim.

The girl is from Haryana, one among three daughters. She was married to a man from Ganganagar in Rajasthan. The marriage is said to have turned out to be a façade for exercising control over her and for pushing her into sex slavery. Within a few months, in 2011, the husband and his younger brother allegedly took the girl to Jaipur and offered her as a sexual bribe for favours from important people, a thank-you gift for benefits received. Banned from contact with her family, she was allegedly taken from one rented house to another, all subsequently identified by her to the police, sometimes drugged, more often beaten into submission, trafficked for the sexual gratification of those with power.

She escaped in October, fled to her home in Haryana, registered an FIR and a statement under Section 164. Contrary to the lies being spread that the whole thing is an “afterthought” since she had not reported it earlier, the FIR describes how she was “drugged and made into a call girl”. The list of men she named include a businessman known to be close to a top Congress leader in Rajasthan, an office bearer of the Youth Congress and a leader of an important caste-based organisation. Also included was the name of the then MLA of Ganganagar and now minister of the Modi government.

Demands for the minister’s resignation today by the Congress are hypocritical and self-serving. It was the Ashok Gehlot government that, seemingly to protect its own people, called the case fabricated and sabotaged the investigations. The case occurred around the same time that Rajasthan was rocked by the Bhanwari Devi case, in which a senior minister and leader of the Congress and others of the ruling party were accused and jailed for Bhanwari Devi’s murder. It may have been felt that this case would have further damned the government. They seem to have been helped by the tacit support, for obvious reasons, of the BJP.

In any country which claims to be democratic, when there is the slightest evidence that men in power have been involved in a case such as this, the entire machinery should automatically spring into action to help the victim in her struggle for justice. But in this case, as in so many others in India, it would seem that punishment of the criminals depends almost entirely on the courage of the victim to stay the course, when she is not helped, but obstructed at every turn.

It took 18 years for the child victim in the Suryanelli case to get a semblance of justice. As she shuttled from court to court, she had to hear the worst abuse about herself. A high court judge held that she should have escaped and that she did not, which meant that whatever happened was with her consent. This was about a 15-year-old victim of sex trafficking, forced to have sex with 40 men, helpless, traumatised. What a shameful judgment. She fought to get it overturned and succeeded, but every party in the alliance in power at the time did what it could to sabotage the case.

Why? Because she had named an important leader of the ruling party. He never had to face an investigation, never had to face a court, yet he was exonerated. Around the same time, another very senior leader of one of the alliance partners was also implicated in the exploitation of a minor girl. He too was protected by the government. This happened in Kerala. The bright young woman poet in Uttar Pradesh who named an important minister who had been sexually exploiting her was brutally murdered by him. Her sister and mother, who fought her battle for justice, were threatened and terrorised till the court intervened and sent him to jail. But other political parties also remained silent. In Haryana, when Gopal Kanda, a minister in the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government, was accused of sexually exploiting a young woman employed by him, who tragically committed suicide, why were the main opposition parties silent? There are many such examples.

It is very rarely that a girl caught in such a web can extricate herself and live to see her tormentors behind bars. With the entire might of the state against her, a girl fighting her own battle gets tired. She gets tired of being looked at disapprovingly, she gets tired of being gossiped about, she gets tired of being confined at home as though she has an infectious disease, she gets tired of the fear, of the indignity of unending court appearances. Once she is victimised, everything that happens is beyond her control except her own courage. How long will it be the shoulders of the victim that have to push the wheels of justice to make them move?

It is easy for the prime minister to refuse to meet a girl because among the accused is a minister in his own government. It is easy to call her names. But then it should also be known that there is zero tolerance not for the exploiters, but for victims who dare to break the conspiracy of silence. The Modi government, in its very first test on its approach to cases of sexual assault, has been found wanting. The struggle for justice for the victim is on.

Join it.

The writer is a member of the CPM politburo and patron, AIDWA

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First Published on: July 1, 2014 12:00 am
  1. S
    Jul 2, 2014 at 1:48 pm
    what action did Congress govt took? why they kept quiet? they could have arrested BJP MLA and took some mileage in their embly elections in Rajasthan - think no proof and hence could not do any!! AIDWA is a congress insution uptill the post of President.... do they have any credibility?? Having said, still think that this Minister should have resigned and come back after proven innocent - this would have made him a Gentlemen !!
    1. S
      Jul 4, 2014 at 2:38 am
      There must be a law that who ever may great he one is higher than judiciary..representatives who involved in any criminal and other cases should be treated as comman man..and he must be come out of that post to prove he is not involved and if in case it is proved that he is involved he must be given punishment.This makes public to be away from this activities no one dare to do them again..
      1. A
        Anuradha Kalhan
        Jul 1, 2014 at 12:28 pm
        There is a silent civil war going on against women and dalits in India. Its a symptom of a deep sickness in the society. On what grounds and why did the author expect anything better from the NDA?
        1. A
          Jul 1, 2014 at 10:47 am
          Read her views on the UPA's involvement please. Don't be a blind bhakt.
          1. A
            Jul 1, 2014 at 4:42 am
            Brinda, please start a higher level of dialogue if you want to get any respect. Simply because someone is accused doesn't mean they have to step down. Anyone with an axe to grind can accuse someone. Don't try to score points by being holier than thou. The Indian electorate sees through these things and you will have no respect, or more importantly, votes.
            1. S
              Jul 1, 2014 at 2:28 pm
              Vrida Kharat Should remember Ravindra Sarovar incident in Sixrties Your JYOTI BASU was head of Bengal Communist.Please do your Homework First.Your Party,s DNAS is of that type.
              1. A
                Jul 1, 2014 at 3:11 am
                It is shameful of our elected leaders to exploit their given powers in such a manner. But what is worse is the apathy of our PM, who is hailed by all as a bringer of change, towards the victim.
                1. K
                  Jul 1, 2014 at 4:18 am
                  These comments by the losers of the recent elections show that they have not accepted their loss. That is why they are accusing Modi even though he has been PM for just over a month. Did Karat raise such issues when the UPA government ruled India for ten years?
                  1. M
                    madhukar nikam
                    Jul 1, 2014 at 3:56 pm
                    its Red Propaa.....what have they done in Kerala & Bengal?
                    1. P
                      Jul 2, 2014 at 5:04 pm
                      Brinda Karat is a powerful politician and rather than just talking to score political points, she should help poor girl get the justice. She has media attention, strong connections, lot of money and everything that is required to get the justice. But like every other politician, she is happy blaming others.
                      1. R
                        Jul 1, 2014 at 8:53 pm
                        The arrogance of political leaders of any stripe is mind boggling. I am more surprised by their supporters. I have seen congress and BJP collaboration in Rajasthan for more than 50 years even when Sukhadia was the CM and Bharro Singh was the leader of opposition. Leaders of both parties help each other in all sort of corruption and looting.Whatever the perception mentality is the same. Nomo is no different at least in this litmus test case. I donot expect any change of atude unless the people of the country will force it.
                        1. S
                          Satya Ramchander
                          Jul 1, 2014 at 3:27 pm
                          1. S
                            Jul 1, 2014 at 2:59 am
                            Normally I donot support Brinda Karat views on important issues. But on this issue she is absolutely right. Even if the minister is framed and congress is responsible for allegations Modi Should have removed him from cabinet and reinstalled him only after he clearing allegations. Modi it is time to walk the talk other issues like price rise extra where there are external factors involved Modi can be excused but not in this matter no amount of excuse will do . Modi should have by this time removed the said Minister from cabinet. Hope bettr sense prevails
                            1. u
                              Jul 1, 2014 at 1:25 pm
                              Looking at daily reports of rape in this news paper along with ual ault of foreign tourists, one wonders if there is any law and order in India. If NAMO really wants to put and end to this type so shame, first p laws that must be enforced. A rape ( if proven beyond doubt by scientific methods), the perpetrator must be left in jail to rot for 15 to 30 years. Regardless if he is a central minister or his son, this law should apply to on end all. Having said this, it was the previous government which was in power for 60 years has done absolutely nothing to stop to such heinous crimes. Why did Brinda did not speak up when this was ongoing during the previous administration? May be she should start a movement with all the women to pin point this problem on a daily basis and identify the culprits publicly so he can be apprehended and punished.
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