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Who is responsible for sexual violence in India?

Intro: We should have the courage to ask what is wrong with us before asking what is wrong with our country

By Mathew Joys

“Gods are extremely happy where women are respected, where they are not, all good works will be fruitless”. (Yatra nāryastu pūjyante ramante tatra devatāḥ/yatraitāstu na pūjyante sarvāstatrāphalāḥ kriyāḥ – Manusmriti).

“Manusmṛiti’ is an influential social text that has molded much of social behavior and practices of Hindu society in India. In the past century, it has been grossly criticized for political and sectarian reasons by people who don’t understand Sanskrit or have no compassion. The fact is, our tradition says unequivocally that we have to respect women.

We have for centuries proclaimed proudly that India is a country that respects and protects women and children. Even the Indian Constitution – Article 15 (3) – instructs the state to create special provisions for protecting the interests of women and children. That is why Parliament instituted Child Rights and Child Protection Committees, and Women’s Protection Boards for these two vulnerable groups.

 Yet, unfortunately, almost every day lately Indian news media carries ghoulish reports of young girls raped, children kidnapped and molested — often brutally killed or bodies burnt to destroy evidence of the heinous crimes. The most shocking abomination which continues to hog headlines is  of course the murderous gang rape of a 19-year-old girl from Hathras in Uttar Pradesh.

In 2014, Narendra Modi came to power pledging zero tolerance to violence against women after the 2012 brutal gang rape of Nirbhaya in Delhi shocked the nation. But India is still the most dangerous country in the world to be a woman, according to a 2018 survey of experts by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which cited sexual violence, cultural traditions and human trafficking as the main reasons for the ranking.  So, nothing seems to have changed since Nirbhaya’s rape-death which hit international headlines.

In Hathras on 14 September, a Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped by four upper-caste men. After fighting for her life for two weeks, she died in a Delhi hospital. Not only the police made no arrests for 10 days, they forcibly cremated her body without the consent of her family. The case and its mishandling continue to provoke widespread condemnation and protests.

The problem is not confined to the underdeveloped parts of India. In Kerala, in a shocking incident on September 6, a Covid patient was sexually abused by the driver of the ambulance carrying her to the hospital in Pathanamthhitta district.

Government statistics reveal how widespread the problem is. A woman is raped in India every 20 minutes. The country is ranked third in rape cases after US and Africa. Sexual violence on Dalit women is imposed systematically as punishment and dominance by the men of superior castes.

None of this should be seen as a matter of law and order only. It needs a total society approach in coordination with the government and voluntary sector.

What is worse is that sexual violence against women and children also takes place within the four walls of the home, at some houses of worship, at the workplace, and in schools.

The need of the hour is public awareness and our spiritual upliftment as an educated, civilized and gender equitable society. Those who need to be protected as per the Indian constitution are still crying for justice and protection after seven decades. In a progressive society, the women and children should be put in the circle of respect and protection, and nurtured with loving care.

A society and nation without gender justice can never be said to go on the path of development, as Manusmriti reminds us. The responsibility to affect systemic changes for the well-being and better future for all falls upon us. We should have the courage to ask what is wrong with us before asking what is wrong with our country?

(The Las Vegas-based writer is Vice Chairman of Indo-American Press Club).

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India Latest News

UP gangrape brings focus back on crime against women

Greater Noida: High drama prevailed on Thursday after Uttar Pradesh Police personnel pushed former Congress President Rahul Gandhi on the ground near the Yamuna Expressway and detained him along with his sister and party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, while they were walking towards Hathras to meet the family of the rape victim, party leaders claimed.

Gandhi, along with his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other senior leaders had left Delhi on Thursday to meet the family of the Hathras rape victim.

However, they began marching towards Hathras after their vehicle was stopped near the Yamuna Expressway.

Later Rahul Gandhi told the media, “Just now police pushed me, lathi-charged me and threw me on the ground. I want to ask, can only (Narendra) Modiji walk in this country? Can’t a normal person walk? Our vehicle was stopped, so we started walking.”

Ranvijay Singh, Additional DCP, Gautam Budh Nagar, said Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have been detained.

Singh further said that Rahul and Priyanka won’t be allowed to proceed further as the police have a letter from DM Hathras saying that if they visit the village, it may disturb the law and order situation in the district.

Uttar Pradesh Police Personnel also told Gandhi that his sister and he have been taken into custody as they were marching in an area where section 144 has been imposed.

The section relates to assembly of not more than five people at one place.

Rahul Gandhi said that even if Section 144 had been imposed, he will walk alone towards Hathras to meet the family of the rape victim.

The Congress leaders claimed that the police had arrested Rahul and Priyanka and taken them to the Budh International Circuit guest house.

Before being detained, the Congress leaders had a heated exchange with police personnel and enquired about the grounds on which they were being arrested.

Rahul Gandhi, along with Priyanka, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Rajiv Shukla and several other top leaders was walking towards Hathras to meet the family of the victims a day after the last rites of the rape victim were allegedly performed during the night in the absence of her family members.

Yogi calls up Hathras victim’s father, announces SIT probe

Lucknow: Amid an uproar over the cremation of the body of a Dalit gang-rape victim early on Wednesday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath spoke to the 19-year-old woman’s father in Hathras district and offered his condolences.

He also announced a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the bereaved family, apart from a job to one of its members. The family would also be given a house.

The victim’s father sought the harshest punishment for the four accused arrested for the crime reported on September 14. The young woman had died in a Delhi hospital on Tuesday and her body was allegedly cremated forcibly by Hathras police on the night of September 29-30.

Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Avanish Awasthi said that the Chief Minister assured the woman’s father of the most stringent action against the culprits and all possible help to the family.

Earlier in the day, the CM set up a Special Investigation Team led by Home Secretary Bhagwan Swaroop to probe and submit a report on the crime in seven days.

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IOC, USA condemns Hathras rape and murder

Indian Overseas Congress, USA has condemned the horrific rape and murder of Manisha Valmiki of Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. “The barbarity and the bestiality involved in the killing show the depraved and criminal mindsets of those who perpetrated such heinous acts against a Dalit woman who is from the lowest rung of India’s caste system. The ghastly way this woman was raped and murdered has indeed shaken the nation to its core and terrorized the people of conscience across the world,” it said in a press release.  

“Mr. Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, it is your party which is in power. Given your supremacy within the party in U.P. and the centralized control you exercise, you more than anyone else have to be held responsible for this terrifying state of affairs,” said George Abraham, Vice-Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA.  

“while you have ordered an inquiry, Mr. Chief Minister, you haven’t taken any steps to cure this rape culture in your state or shown any resolve to change the social, political, and administrative conditions under which such anti-Dalit hatred is bred,” said Mohinder Singh Gilzian, President of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA. “Your continuing inaction in this regard will gain you the title as the Chief administrator of the notorious Rape State in India,” Gilzian added.

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