Political overtones in rapes of minors in BJP-ruled states

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An Indian activist holds a placard during a protest against a rape, which has now turned political. PHOTO: AFP/SAJJAD HUSSAIN

Two rape cases in states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India are fast becoming national controversies and raise disturbing questions for the party.

In BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, BJP lawmaker Kuldeep Singh Sengar and his associates have been accused of gang-rape by a 17-year-old girl.

Alleging that Unnao police did not register a case against BJP Member of Legislative Assembly Sengar after her complaint last year, the victim tried to self-immolate in front of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s Lucknow residence on Sunday.

However, amid widespread criticism against Yogi Adityanath-led government, an FIR was finally registered against Sengar on Thursday and the case has been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The victim claimed she was first raped by Sengar and later abducted by his three associates who drugged her and raped her for nine days.

Her father was allegedly beaten up by Sengar’s brother Atul Singh and his associates for filing the complaint and died in judicial custody. He sustained as many as 14 injuries, according to the postmortem report. Atul was later arrested.

The police has also drawn flak for allegedly safeguarding the MLA with their inaction. The rape victim alleged police excluded the politician and his brother’s names from her initial First Information Report (FIR). A recent video apparently showed the father saying he was beaten up by Atul while the police watched; the police said it’ll be part of the investigation.

However, police said the first rape complaint filed, along with the victim’s statement to the magistrate, did not name Sengar.

Sengar has denied all the charges and called it a conspiracy by his opponents.

AlthoughYogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, gave assurances of justice, the Indian Express reported that the girl’s family was scared to go back to their village as Sengar’s family held several administrative positions there.

The opposition Congress demanded Adityanath be dismissed, saying his government has “failed to protect women.”

Kashmiri child raped and murdered

The second case of gang-rape happened in January in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, where the BJP is in a coalition government with the PDP.

The charge sheet, filed by the state police’s Crime Branch, revealed the eight-year-old girl from the nomadic Musilm Bakerwal community was repeatedly raped, sedated and kept captive in a prayer hall, which was “manned” by former revenue official Sanji Ram. She was murdered afterward by being strangled and hit on the head with a stone.

Ram was one of the eight arrested in the case. He was the alleged mastermind of the plan to dislodge the Muslim community from the Hindu Brahmin-dominated Rasana village in Kathua.

The Bakerwal girl’s family lodged a police complaint after she went missing on Jan. 10. After seven days her body was found in a forest. “Her lips were bitten. There were marks of violence including burns on her thigh and face,” her father Muhammad Yousuf said. He added that her genitals were mutilated.

Ram’s nephew, a juvenile, was allegedly tutored to give a false statement about the Bakerwal girl’s rape and murder at the Hiranagar Police station and take the blame himself, according to the charge sheet. But after protests by the girl’s community, the J&K Crime Branch started investigating and further details were revealed.

Policeman involved in rape

Deepak Khajuria, a Special Police Officer, played a crucial part in the conspiracy. Ram gave him 400,000 rupees as well as bribing local police to cover-up the crime. The Crime Branch arrested three other police involved in the case.

On the day she was murdered, she was raped three times by the juvenile, Ram’s son, and policeman Khajuria. “On the spot, accused Deepak Khajuria told JCL [Juvenile in Contravention with Law] to wait as he wanted to rape the girl before she is killed,” the report stated.

By February, the issue had taken a communal tone as Khajuria, a Hindu, had been arrested in the case. The right-wing Hindu Ekta Manch staged a protest march demanding his release and waving the national flag, which was condemned by the state’s chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is part of PDP.

The march was backed by BJP leaders and two serving state ministers from the BJP were seen in the rally.

Eventually, the J&K police, which has Muslim officers, has sought appointment of Sikh policemen as prosecuting officers to neutralise the agitating Hindu groups.

The controversy over the rape cases with the accused getting political backing from leaders of the BJP could affect the party’s reputation ahead of the upcoming national elections next year.

The BJP government in Uttar Pradesh has also decided to withdraw the rape and kidnapping case against former Union minister Chinmayanand.

A rape case was filed against him in 2011 by a girl who stayed in his ashram for years. The victim has written to the president and the district judge, complaining about the latest move and said Chief Minister Adityanath had visited the accused in his residence in February, news agency PTI reported.

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