The shooting of a school principal by a student in Yamunanagar on Saturday capped a week of shocking violence against women and girls in Haryana. Barring this latest incident, in which the boy is said to have whipped out a gun and shot the principal during a parent teacher meeting at the school, the others involved sexual attacks against the victims.
There were at least nine incidents of rapes last week including three gangrape-cum-murders. The incidents were reported from Fatehabad, Hisar, Kurukshetra, Faridabad, Jind, Charkhi Dadri and Gurugram, cutting a wide swathe across the state.
The crimes have shaken the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government and its claims of rapid strides towards better gender indices under the flagship “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” scheme.
In one incident that resonated across the country, a 15-year-old girl’s body was found on January 13, four days after she was reported missing by her family. She had been allegedly abducted and raped by more than one person. A boy from the same village, whom police accused of abducting her, was also found dead three days later.
Citing a “crumbling law and order situation”, the Opposition has repeatedly knocked at the doors of Raj Bhavan seeking the dismissal of the government. The government has been on the defensive. Khattar, who is also the Home Minister, said the incidents were “unfortunate” and reeled out a long list of measures, including special courts for speedy trials in cases of sexual violence, that his government had taken.
Even though, in most cases of rapes, the accused are known to the victim and her family members, it has not mitigated the impression that Haryana has become a crime hub. The brazen daylight killing of the principal can only strengthen that view.
NCRB numbers support Opposition claims that a rape and a murder are reported in Haryana every eight hours. At least 1,189 rapes were reported across Haryana in 2016. These include 518 cases of sexual violence against minor girls. In the same year, 1,120 murders were reported in the state. The number is likely to be higher in 2017, but the government cites “free and prompt registration of FIRs in such cases” that creates a perception of an “increasing crime-graph.”
The Khattar government has launched a counter-attack against Congress for not taking adequate steps to contain crime during their decade-long two-term government. A BJP spokesperson cited at least 40 such instances of gory incidents of sexual violence when Congress was in power. “Had the Congress taken any effective steps against the skewed sex ratio and harassment of women, people with pervert mentality would not have been grown in the society,” he said.
But on the other hand, the Khattar government’s focus on increasing the piety index of the state, with all the focus on the Gita, Saraswati and cow protection, does not seem to have brought down the crime graph. Nor indeed the progress it claims to have made on sensitising Haryana to gender equality. The government recently boasted of having increased the sex ratio to 913 per 1,000 boys from 830 per 1,000 boys a decade ago.
With the state Assembly elections looming, and speculation that it could be advanced to be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP is aware that crime, law and order could prove to be its Achilles’ heel in Haryana. Three big episodes of law and order failure have shaken Haryana under the BJP government in the state: the Sant Rampal ashram incident, the Jat agitation, and the violence after the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim. In all, 76 persons died in these three episodes. A senior Cabinet minister confided in an off-the-record conversation that the “the ghosts of these 76 people are going to haunt our government in the coming elections.”
Add to that the ascending crime graph, and it is no surprise that senior members of the government are nervous, with the self-imposed public silence of even the most loquacious among them speaking volumes.