Rape – A Criminal Manifesto

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We speak of women empowerment and emancipation, yet it is a dictum of truism that being a man is an advantageous position in the society and so to say paradoxically a woman is more vulnerable. The relative existence of the fair gender is itself a manifestation of the plethora of issues that they face and physical aggression/violence is the gravest of them.

Most of the times such crimes go unreported due to societal pressures; even though women are increasingly confronting their offenders they rarely get justice because of the flawed criminal justice system and the inherent discrimination. From the filing of an F.I.R often faulty and then completing investigation to medical examination and recording other material evidence which is full of lacunas, and then the subsequent proceedings in the court of law where the victim has to undergo repetitive and embarrassing questioning of the defence counsel. The longer than life procedures mar the effective delivery of justice and convictions are very rare. It is not unusual for the victim to be forced into wedlock with the perpetrator and withdraw the complaint to drop the charges due to intimidation or family pressures. And live a life of shame and unwarranted worthlessness. They are easy targets who rarely get redressal for the bestiality inflicted on their person.

Laws against the physical violation of women with the introduction of Indian Criminal Law Amendment of 2013 and introduction of POCSO Act regarding the minor females have been made more stringent yet such incidents have shockingly spiked over the past years. The Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 is another safeguard for the protection of the rights and lives of the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes in India. Yet, the laws have failed to produce any substantial deterrence.

The consciously cultivated misogyny and patriarchy are incurable elements in the Indian society. The recent times are more regressive as there is a radical shift perpetrated by the ruling regime that is attempting revivalism of ancient Hindu tenets. This policy has tattered the social soul of the nation; conscience lies battered today as an untouchable with a chopped off tongue. Rule of law is being overruled. A comfortable life lived with dignity is still a distant dream for the downtrodden Dalits and religious minorities in India. They continue to be underprivileged and isolated even after more than seven decades of independence. And any resistance to being stymied has to surrender to the majoritarian pressures.

Women are constantly seen as temptresses and a threat to the social equilibrium while as men are even allowed to flaunt debauch mindsets. Today the gender inequities in India are more pronounced than ever. Therefore, dignity of women seems an illusion. Minor young girls are constantly being victimized and the response of the State and state machinery is appalling. ‘Beti Bachao’ is only a rhetorical veil to cover the ugly implications of the predicament. Religion and caste are epithets of abuse in the new power-prejudice dynamics. Chauvinism is having a field day.

Kathua to Hathras is a memoriam that captures our demeaned state of affairs. Rape is a criminal manifesto perpetuated upon the women of the weaker and minority communities. How demoralizing is it to see the perpetrators of such a horrible crime finding political and administrative support. Bigotry has atrophied the conscience of such supporters. There is blatant criminalization of public life. A thousand lies to hide a lie putting the whole state machinery and the bogus media behind it has exposed the fox hiding in the political thicket. Tragedy is being tantalized. But the truth speaks for itself.

It happened in the Kathua case and the Hathras rape incident is a sequel where every decent limit has been crossed. Her dying declaration discarded, the victim’s body was discretely cremated in the dead of the night by the District administration and the police under duress to her family, thereby tried to eliminate the last shreds of evidence as if there much had remained any.  And tearfully, I must say there is no end to these horrifying sequels. Injustice can never be allowed to get legalized or become institutionalized against minorities and the marginalized to create a culture of impunity.

Such pervasive violence violates the soul of the ravished women and destroys the minor girl children who have traumatized memories from childhood to adulthood, not to speak of the health hazards they have to live with. Softened stand towards the perpetrators makes the victims weak and more vulnerable to social pressures. It makes their rehabilitation an arduous task, and never gets them rid of the social stigma.

Class inequities and communal divisions cannot camouflage a nation’s guilty conscience towards their vulnerable women folk. Such terrible crimes cannot be banished from the conscientious minds. No wrong as injustice breeds deep resentment.

This is precisely what the visionary Dalit leader Dr. B. R. Ambedkar had espoused in the Round Table conference held in London (1930-31). He represented these backward and depressed classes and unequivocally vouched for their inclusion in the politics of free India. He vouched for their equal rights in a society dominated by deep rooted caste system securing the right of franchise for them. Thus creating a constitutional mandate for them with the ideal of ‘one man, one value’ in the social, economic and political sphere of life, which is being flouted with all audacity.

Does intelligentsia have a place in Indian politics today? It is a piercing question which makes one wonder. Violent outpour against dissidents results in systematic silencing. Patriotism stands scandalized! Politics has been denuded; it’s all about Machiavellian tactics and Manu Smriti savarnas blown from the pipe of petty politics. Despite their rights being secure in the Constitution the Dalits and the minority communities feel insecure today.  The rigid exclusionary politics propagated has dealt a severe blow to the free spirit of democracy.

As debates rage across the spectrum will doing away with the legislations and caste based provisions in the Constitution resolve any of the issues? Seems highly unlikely! The laws are all beneficial but it is the lingering castiest mindset in India that has adamantly clung to the society which despite education and exposure to the world has refused to let it go.

Melodramatic trials on the TV screens leave nothing to be decided thereafter. It improves their TRP rates at the cost of the Constitution and the due process of law. One rues this disarray of democracy. Socrates had said he was dissenting for love. It’s the gravitas of the situation-discontent is brewing deep within.

Shefan Jahan is a  Practicing Advocate J&K High Court/Srinagar



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