Focus

Rapes in “India” & RSS’ “Bharat”

The reaction of the Hindutva camp has been most brazen and only aimed at rubbing salt into the fatal injuries of the victim and the gravely hurt sentiments of the people of the country who totally identified with the victim.
By Shamsul Islam
notoinjustice@gmail.com

The gang-rape of a young girl in a moving bus on a highly busy area of Delhi in the evening of December 16, 2012 (who put up heroic resistance with her male companion against the criminals before falling prey to brute force. This brave girl later died in a hospital abroad) shocked not only the common people of India but created gloom world over. This ghastly incident seemed to have crossed all limits despite the fact that Delhi was already regarded as ‘Rape Capital’ of the country. As the news spread and it was found that Delhi Police, as usual, played a highly criminal role in facilitating this crime, there were spontaneous large-scale protests in Delhi and other parts of the country. The most significant aspect of these protests was that young people in their thousands came out on streets in chilling winter; female protesters almost equalling male protesters. They even attempted to lay a siege to the grand Presidential Palace (Rashtrapati Bhavan) on Raisina Hill. These protests continued unabated despite unheard of curbs imposed by the State on peaceful protests. The dead body of the rape victim was brought in a curfew-like situation and cremated in total secrecy. The Nation was not allowed to mourn the death of this brave girl or pay appropriate homage to her body. However, the Chief Minister of Delhi, Ms. Shiela Dixit, was allowed to organize a ‘Shanti’ or Peace March after her death. Peace with whom? Nobody explained it.  

This gang-rape in the heart of the capital, bustling with crowds and despite the fact that Delhi Police was informed about this gang of criminals moving in a bus but took no action, could be an appropriate time to indulge in a serious, honest and critical evaluation of our de-humanized State machinery and society. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost that opportunity.

The gang-rape of December 16 was not an isolated incident. The organizations which have been keeping track of human rights violations in the country have irrefutable data showing how women of Northeast, Jammu & Kashmir and tribal areas have borne the brunt of rapes indulged in by the para-military forces of the Indian State. Moreover, there has been a constant increase in the number of rape cases against Dalit women as well as in custodial rape cases.1

It is really unfortunate that thousands of the above-mentioned rapes did not stir the Nation. It looked as if some rapes are good and some rapes are bad. However, the recent protests against the December 16 rapes are a welcome development. It is hoped that ‘Der aayad, Durust aayad’. One hopes from now on the country will also protest against the rapes being indulged by groups/organizations aligned with the State.

By diverting the whole issue to the debate whether we should have death penalty for rapists or not and whether we should disclose the identity of the rape victim or keep it secret (though international press has disclosed full details of the victim with her photograph), we have skipped the examination of the anti-people and pro-criminal attitude of the Delhi Police. The Delhi Police establishment led by Neeraj Kumar who is known for his over-zealousness in targeting minority youths went into deep slumber while faced with this ghastly crime and hardened criminals. Despite a total failure of the police force under his command, he continues at the helms, courtesy the Central Home Ministry officials.

To the convenience of the rulers, we have also skipped discussion over the gradual destruction of the public transport system in Delhi which eventually forced the gang-rape victim and her companion to take that private bus manned by  criminals.

The reaction of the Hindutva camp has been most brazen and only aimed at rubbing salt into the fatal injuries of the victim and the gravely hurt sentiments of the people of the country who totally identified with the victim. The chief of RSS Mohan Bhagwat while addressing RSS cadres in Silchar, Assam, declared, “Crimes against women happening in urban India are shameful. It is a dangerous trend but such crimes would not happen in Bharat or rural areas of the country. You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang-rape or sex crimes… Where Bharat becomes India with the influence of western culture, these types of incidents happen. The actual Indian values established and culture should be at every stratum of society where women are treated as mother.”2

This great flag-bearer of Hindutva and champion of Hindu rights explained the Delhi gang-rape as a matter of routine fact which was the outcome of western influence. He had no sympathy for the victim as she happened to be living in ‘India’ where western culture prevailed. In fact, she deserved no sympathy. In other words, it was of her own making.

Shockingly, Bhagwat was not alone holding such a view. Simultaneously, another prominent RSS cadre, Kailash Vijayvargiya, a cabinet minister in Madhya Pradesh BJP government, opined that rapes were taking place because women were crossing ‘Laxman Rekha’ or limits set for them. He even held Sita responsible for her abduction. “Only when Sitaji crossed the ‘Laxman Rekha’ she was kidnapped by Ravan… If woman crosses the ‘LR’ then Sitaharan [abduction] is bound to take place as Ravans are out there… When people cross their limits, deterioration is bound to happen. It applies to everyone in society, men or women.”3

A prominent woman leader of BJP from Chhattisgarh, Vibha Rao, chairperson of the state women commission, a statutory body, echoed the same view as expressed by Mohan Bhagwat and Kailash Vijayvargiya. She said that women were “equally responsible” for the sexual offences, committed against them. “Women display their bodies and indulge in various obscene activities. Women are unaware of the kind of message [their actions] generate.”4

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) did not lag behind in supporting the RSS/BJP line. The international advisor of VHP, Ashok Singhal, held adoption of the “western model” responsible for rapes and eve-teasing. He said, “This western model is dangerous. What in fact is happening is that we are aping America… Before coming of westerners we were living a pure life and maintained chastity which has been corrupted.”5

As this was not enough, a self-acclaimed god-man, Asaram Bapu, who is very close to the BJP/RSS establishment in Gujarat, went on to blame the gang-rape victim for the horrible incident three weeks after the spine-chilling gang-rape and 10 days after the brave victim’s death. He crossed all limits when he said, “Mistake is not committed from one side… She [the victim] should have taken God’s name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said ‘I consider you as my brother’ and should have said to the other two ‘brother, I am helpless, you are my brother, my religious brother’…”6

The sermon of this Hindutva saint continued, “The accused were drunk. If the girl had chanted hymns to Goddess Saraswati, then she would not have entered the bus…”7 As if arguing that the victim virtually invited the rape, he further said, “Can one clap with one hand? I do not think so.”8

The above mentioned degenerated views by the followers of Hindutva are not the outcome of some kind of rushed or non-commonsensical understanding of the issue. The reality is that this truly reflects their understanding of the gender issue or the status of women in the Indian society, especially the Hindu society. The denigration of women is an essential ingredient of Hindutva’s world-view of society. It believes that Manusmriti (Codes of Manu) is the Hindu law 9. Hence, it is important to know how women are treated in Manusmriti.


Codes of Manu concerning women 10
1.    Day and night, woman must be kept in dependence by the males (of) their (families), and, if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under one’s control.
2.    Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects (her) in youth, and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is never fit for independence.
3.    Women must particularly be guarded against evil inclinations, however trifling (they may appear); for, if they are not guarded, they will bring sorrow on two families.
4.    Considering that the highest duty of all castes, even weak husbands (must) strive to guard their wives.
5.    No man can completely guard women by force; but they can be guarded by the employment of the (following) expedients:
6.    Let the (husband) employ his (wife) in the collection and expenditure of his wealth, in keeping (everything) clean, in (the fulfillment of) religious duties, in the preparation of his food, and in looking after the household utensils.
7.    Women, confined in the house under trustworthy and obedient servants, are not (well-) guarded; but those who of their own accord keep guard over themselves, are well-guarded.
8.    Women do not care for beauty, nor is their attention fixed on age; (thinking) “(It is enough that) he is a man,” they give themselves to the handsome and to the ugly.
9.    Through their passion for men, through their mutable temper, through their natural heartlessness, they become disloyal towards their husbands, however carefully they may be guarded in this (world).
10.    (When creating them) Manu allotted to women (a love of their) bed, (of their) seat and (of) ornament, impure desires, wrath, dishonesty, malice, and bad conduct.
11.    For women no (sacramental) rite (is performed) with sacred texts, thus the law is settled; women (who are) destitute of strength and destitute of (the knowledge of) Vedic texts (are as impure as) falsehood (itself), that is a fixed rule.
The fact should not be overlooked that rape is not simply a physical act. It symbolizes male hegemony over the body of the female. It is added and abetted by the Hindutva’s structural belief that women are inferior, backward and an object or commodity for consumption. The RSS book-shops sell many titles of Gita Press, Gorakhpur, which provide the ideological basis to denigration of women and glorify a subservient wife as the ideal Hindu woman. One of the titles, which is in a question-answer format, provides the following answer to the question whether wife-beating is permissible:

“The wife should think that she is paying her debt of her previous life and thus her sins are being destroyed and she is becoming pure. When her parents come to know this, they can take her to their own house because they have not given their daughter to face this sort of bad behaviour.”11

And if her parents do not take her to their house, the answer is:

“Under such circumstances…she should reap the fruit of her past actions. She should patiently bear the beatings of her husband with patience. By bearing them she will be free from her sins and it is possible that her husband may start loving her.” 12

And there is the following holy advice for a rape victim:

“As far as possible, it is better for woman [rape victim] to keep mum. If her husband also comes to know of it, he too should keep mum. It is profitable for both of them to keep quiet.”13

To the question whether women can demand equal rights, the answer is very unambiguous:

“No, it is not proper. In fact, a woman has not the right of equality with man… In fact, it is ignorance or folly which impels a woman to have the desire for the right of equality with man. A wise person is he/she who is satisfied with less rights and more duties.”14

Compare the above advice with the following words of Mohan Bhagwat which he uttered while addressing a recent RSS function at Indore (M.P.). He said that woman was bound by a contract to look after her husband. “Till the time wife follows the contract, the husband stays with her, if the wife violates the contract, he can disown her.” 15

In view of the despicable attitude of the Hindutva camp towards the gang-rape in Delhi, it may not be out of place to know what Manusmriti expects from a ruler in case of a Brahmin who has committed all possible crimes. According to sloka 380 of Chapter VIII, “Let him never slay a Brahmana, though he have committed all (possible) crimes; let him banish such an (offender), leaving all his property (to him) and (his body) unhurt.” 16

So it is not difficult to know who are the people who can never be tried or punished for rapes.

The claims of Mohan Bhagwat and VHP that rural India is without the menace of rapes needs to be compared with the statement of RK Raghavan, a much decorated cop and a former chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation that “A majority of rapes occurring in villages are suppressed by local bigwigs who run their parallel criminal justice system… Our caste system and the role of money in the rural setting are principal contributors to this state of affairs.”17 Bhagwat pretends to be unaware that (as per the Indian Express report dated 7 Janury 2013) tribal girls between the ages of 8 and 12 were repeatedly raped by the caretakers of the government-run tribal hostel at Kanker, Chhattisgarh, a state which is run by a BJP government.

Abduction of Sita and disrobing of Draupadi, two prominent incidents of women persecution, did not occur in modern times or in urban centres. If it was happening with the women of ruling clans what miserable status would have been of the common women, especially the Shudra women, is not difficult to imagine. The only regret is that in those times of ancient India there were no god-men like Asaram Bapu who could advice Sita or Draupadi to come out of their ordeal by chanting hymns to Goddess Saraswati.

Footnotes
1 See National Crime Record Bureau data.
2 The Indian Express, Delhi, 5 January 2013, pp.1-2.
3 The Hindu, Delhi, 5 January 2013, p. 12.
4 Ibid.
5 Jansatta, Delhi, 6 January 2013, p. 1,8.
6 Mail Today, Delhi, 8 January 2013, p. 4.
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid.
9 V. D. Savarkar and RSS both have been demanding that Indian Constitution should be replaced by Codes of Manu.  
10 This selection of Manu’s Codes is from  F. Max Muller, Laws of Manu, first published in 1886.
11 Ramsukhdass, Swami, How to Lead a Household Life, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, 2001, p. 43.
12 Ibid.
13 Ramsukhdass, Swami, Grahast Maen Kaise Rahain, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, 2004, p. 88
14 Ramsukhdass, Swami, How to Lead a Household Life, p. 48.
15 The Indian Express, Delhi, 7 January 2013, p. 4.
16 The Laws of Manu, c. 1500 BCE  Translated by G. Buhler. http://hinduism.about.com/library/weekly/extra/bl-lawsofmanu1.htm
17 R. K. Raghavan, ‘Rose Garden Predators’, Outlook, New Delhi, August 3, 2009, p. 42.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 January 2013 on page no. 1

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