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Anshul is a Political Science and Law graduate from the University of Delhi. He is interested in political, legal and policy developments and frequently writes on related themes. You can contact him on anshulkumarpandey [at] gmail [dot] com.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Tale of a Rape Accused in Modi Sarkar

While horrendous reports of rapes, molestations, kidnappings and murders of women across the country continue to pour in every day, the new government has recieved an additional cause of worry with a sessions court in Jaipur, Rajasthan issuing summons to Union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers Mr. Nihalchand Meghwal along with 17 others in a four year old rape case. The Minister is accused of sexually assaulting a woman from Haryana.

The opposition, justifiably, has demanded the resignation of the Minister until the completion of the enquiry. Coming close on the heels of the shocking Badayun gang rape and double murder case, the presence of a rape accused occupying a ministerial berth in the cabinet deflates the government's claim to be tough on crimes against women. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Meghwal has vehemently refused to resign and has instead tried to brazen it out by asking hostile reporters "Did you make me a Minister?"
  
I wish I could say that such an attitude is shocking, but frankly, it is not. For anyone familiar with India's political landscape, such issue specific somersaults have become frustratingly common. They signify the classic doublespeak of the quintessential Indian politician who promises all the riches and wonders at the time of campaigning for elections and conviniently turns his back on those promises when in power. The present administration rode to power with women empowerment being one of its major electoral planks. In the 15th Lok Sabha, speaker after speaker belonging to the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), then in opposition, slammed the UPA-II government for failing to do enough on the question of women's security. Most of those speakers, who have been re-elected to the 16th Lok Sabha while their opponents cool their heels outside the parliament, have gone oddly quiet now.


It is important to recognize the fact that a major part of the whole problem starts when political parties decide to field tainted candidates in the elections. According to a Press Release by Association for Democratic Reforms dated 9th May 2014, 1398 (17%) of 8163 candidates contesting the Lok Sabha 2014 elections declared criminal cases against themselves with 58 candidates declaring cases related to crimes against women on them. 6 candidates declared cases of rape. Out of 58 candidates with cases related to crimes against women, 6 candidates were fielded by BSP, 3 candidates by AITC, BJP, INC and SP each, 2 candidates by JD(U), 1 candidate by AAP, CPI, CPI(ML)L, MNS, RJD, Shiv Sena and YSRCP each and 18 candidates contested as independents. Fortunately, only two contestants with cases related to crimes against women on them, Adv. Joice George (an Independent from Idukki constituency, Kerala) and Ahir Hansraj Gangaram (BJP, Chandrapur constituency, Maharashtra) were able to emerge victorious (ADR Press Release dated 18th May).

Voices have begun to emerge questioning the Prime Minister's silence on this issue. This, after the rape victim revealed that the concerned Minister sent his men to threaten her to take back her complaint and offered her a job. While Mr. Meghwal may have succeeded in getting his name cleared in obscurity with resources and political power backing him in Jaipur, it would be interesting to see if he can repeat the same under the glaring spotlight of the media and the hawkish scrutiny of the National Commission of Women, whose chief has expressed her intention to write to the Prime Minister seeking his dismissal. However, this whole case has further highlighted the fact that regardless of the political party in power, the disparity with which law applies to the commoners and those held dear by the establishment continues to hold.

Mr. Modi would be well advised to rectify this imbalance.