Bhandara Case: An Eye-Opener

Paradoxically, criminal activities targeting women counter noise having been made frequently about Muslim women facing discrimination. The month of March began with nearly half a dozen cases reported within three days in the capital city of girls being physically abused and raped. What does this suggest? Massive demonstrations held earlier in several parts of the country in protest against the gang-rape of a 23-year woman in a moving bus have failed to deter criminals. At the time when these demonstrations were held together with media coverage received by the same, the impression was created that collective consciousness of people was aroused against such crimes.  The conscience was certainly aroused strongly enough to hit headlines across the country and most parts of the world. But even this had limited impact on society as facts state that it did not succeed in putting an effective check on crimes abusing women. Rather, women continue to be exploited and abused with criminals caring little for their violating social ethics, norms and also the legal process. Who, what has failed where and why?

While what happens in Delhi tends to receive prompt coverage, this does not imply that similar crimes do not take place in other parts of the country. Last month witnessed rape and murder of three minor girls in a village in Bhandara in Maharashtra. Three sisters aged 6, 8 and 11, had failed to return from school on February 14. Two days later, on February 16, their bodies were found in a well around 2 kms from their house. More than a fortnight has passed since the crime was committed and at the time of writing this, the police remained clueless about who were the criminal(s). The very nature of this crime from A to Z is disgusting, hardly reflecting any of the lofty cultural traits, the country’s citizens claim to be proud of.  

 There is a major lapse in the Indian system which apparently is being taken advantage of by criminals. Even though victims’ family spared little time in reporting the girls’ disappearance to the police, the criminals received substantial time to eliminate all clues of their crime. They did not even take the risk of leaving any one of the victims alive. To be doubly sure of their murder, they threw their bodies in a well.

 This is not Indian culture where, as per the country’s tradition, women are looked up to and even worshipped as deities. The job of the police is to continue with this case till the criminals are nabbed. Yes, the police would have been held as responsible had they been present at the time when the crime was being committed and they allowed them to escape.

The Bhandara-case exposes the degree to which Indian citizens cannot be absolved of their role. Three minor girls were targeted brutally and also shamelessly by probably more than one person. That was the prime objective of the criminals, commit the crime and do away with the biggest evidence, by sniffing out lives of the young and innocent victims and then disposing them of by throwing them in a well. The criminals had probably never been taught to display respect for women and the society’s norms. They probably aren’t feeling guilty or even remorseful at having committed such a disgraceful crime. They are probably feeling relieved at still remaining out of grips of the police. And this brings us to the fundamental malaise in Indian society that needs further attention. The society in general has little respect for women who at large are looked down as second-class citizens. The situation is worse in rural areas. Women are not given the status of human beings but treated as “commodities” to be used and abused as desired by men. What is more deplorable is that men consider their physical strength and gender as having given them the authority to exploit as well as abuse women.  

What a tragedy. One cannot forget the fact that there has prevailed a trend in other countries to overplay India’s negative traits, whether they are marked by communal riots, cows squatting on roads, stray dogs, beggars or open drains. Now, these have been replaced by the Indian rape-cases hitting national, regional and global headlines. This is not India. Yet, the fact that it is reflective of a major lapse in the country’s socio-cultural system cannot be ignored.

 Within three months, one has come face to face with the hard fact that protest demonstrations against such crimes can have only limited impact. Capital punishment for criminals is not the answer to this problem. The Bhandara-case has exposed the fact that women shall probably continue to be abused in most parts of the country till they are not treated as human beings and as equal Indian citizens. The right to vote cannot be viewed as Indian women’s passport to equality in the society. There is need of a continuing revolution across the country to make each and every citizen gradually but definitely accept that all women must be respected!