‘Why do armed women cut off a particular organ of Indian soldiers engaged in combating armed insurgencies across India, be it Punjab, Kashmir, Arunachal, Assam, Bengal or Jharkhand?’ asked senior opposition leader Azam Khan. The insinuation was unmistakable, and it had a basis: armed Maoists had indeed chopped off private parts of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel slain in their latest big ambush in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, which killed at least 25 soldiers. The gory act was attributed as revenge for the alleged rapes committed by the CRPF personnel, many of them corroborated by the state and national human rights commissions.
Azam Khan received a lot of flak, mostly from the unabashedly jingoist media houses that treat any criticism of the Indian Army as an affront to the ‘nation’, and the critic as ‘anti-national’. Azam Khan’s long history of making controversial statements added fuel to the fire, leaving many important nuances lost in the ensuing cacophony.
The record of the Indian Army is interesting, with lots of glory, but much gore as well. It has shown exemplary courage in both fighting at the borders and saving citizens during calamities. At the same time, it has often blemished its record by clear cut cases of committing serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings and rapes.
The case of Thangjam Manorama comes readily to mind when thinking of Army brutality. A resident of Manipur, Thangjam was picked up from her home by Assam Rifles personnel in the dead of the night. Her brutally tormented body with dozens of gunshots was found the next morning. A judicial commission appointed by the government of Manipur later found that she was brutally tortured and killed. The Commission also suspected that she was gangraped by the soldiers, which could not be confirmed because she was shot in the vagina as well, perhaps to destroy the evidence.
Sadly, her case is not an aberration committed by some rogues in uniform. Dig just a little deeper, and it comes out as a pattern, a pattern of rapes, and gangrapes, deployed as a regular weapon to fight insurgencies. The pattern is so unambiguous that the Supreme Court asked the Indian Army if it has “rapists in uniform”, while hearing a petition filed by the Extra-Judicial Execution Victims Families Association (EVAM) in Manipur.
Such rapes, committed by those constitutionally obligated to protect citizens, are neither limited to Assam Rifles nor Manipur. Take, for example, the case of Meena Khalkho, a 16-year-old tribal girl brutally raped and killed by Chhattisgarh police personnel. This too is a finding of judicial commission established by the government of Chhattisgarh itself, which booked 25 cops for her rape and murder. This too, sadly, is not an isolated incident of a whole police station gone rogue.
In a later investigation in the same state, the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) admitted to have found prima facie evidence of security personnel having raped and sexually and physically assaulted at least 16 women, mostly belonging to the tribal communities, and directed the state government to pay compensation to them.
In Jammu and Kashmir as well, there are countless charges of rapes, gang rapes and even mass rapes, against the security forces. It is therefore clear that India’s security forces, including the Army, have a fairly blemished record of sexual violence. Hiding such brutal crimes within the cloak of nationalism will do nothing but help those bent to unravelling the nation, citizen by citizen, state by state. Real nationalism would be to ensure that all the constitutional guarantees are applied to every single citizen. The right to life with dignity is a fundamental constitutional guarantee, and rape by security forces is a clear violation of that constitutional promise. 

It is high time for the Indian state to stop trivialising rapes and identify such rogues and weed them out with exemplary punishment.

Samar  is Programme Coordinator – Right to Food Programme Asian Legal Resource Centre / Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

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  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Army persons or police should face the same criminal system as the common persons. They , in fact, have strict orders from the government of immediate punishment for rape of women

  2. Sally Dugman says:

    I tend to be shy and modest. I always was and don’t like “getting out there” and displaying myself unless I am fighting for some cause that supersedes my personal interests, ones that impel me to stand back in the shadows and avoid confrontation.

    Yet I would have bowed down deeply with my head towards the ground to show respect and have asked the group of naked women in the photo accompanying this above composition whether I could have joined them in nakedness. Had I been there when they did this action, I would have felt forced to join in their effort.

    I would have used gestures, facial expressions and other body language to show my intention. This sort of indirect method to communicate can work if no translators are present to meld languages.

    Then in horror at myself, I would strip down my 67 year old body with elderly sagging breasts that had nursed my daughter, my fallen stomach and de-muscled buttocks and shown myself to the gawkers watching our display. … Let them peak at where their own bodies are going in time.

    “A gawker
    is a person who stares openly at someone or something. After a bad car
    accident on the highway, gawkers often slow down for a look. To gawk is
    to gape, stare, or rubberneck without trying to hide the fact that
    you’re doing it. A gawker is someone who does this.”
    gawker – Dictionary Definition :

    I would also wear a sign on my neck — a cardboard plaque with string to hold it in place.
    It would state: “I am a USA citizen. I was not raped, although almost was in a park in NYC,
    USA. … I am naked here before you because I stand in humble respect and solidarity with
    my raped sisters.”

    I’d stand there in a state of shock with my little sign and try to avoid looking at the scene
    around me. Instead, I would stare at the dirt ground and try to imagine Lady Godiva, a wealthy and physically beautiful noble’s wife, riding naked on her horse to protest maltreatment of poor people and peasants. … All of the commoners shut their window shades to respect her except for Peeping Tom, who got caught looking at her nakedness and condemned by the surrounding community.

    Lady Godiva – Wikipedia to Peeping Tom – Godiva, Countess of Mercia in Old English Godgifu, was an English noblewoman who, according to a legend dating at least to the …

    ‎Leofric, Earl of Mercia · ‎Lady Godiva in popular culture · ‎Lady Godiva Rides Again

    I would also think about the film, “The Virgin Spring” about the rape of a child. After all, one has to be careful not to kill other children, even ones as army members, who didn’t participate in a horrendous act. … So I would condemn killing all members of an invading army for which there were many rapists in their membership. … Not all are culpable! So we need to be careful in condemnation!

    The Virgin Spring – Wikipedia Virgin Spring (Swedish: Jungfrukällan) is a 1960 Swedish film directed by Ingmar Bergman.
    Set in medieval Sweden, it is a rape and revenge tale about a …
    ‎Plot · ‎Cast · ‎Themes · ‎Production

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