India: Hindu nationalists accused in child-rape cases
Indians are aghast at the sickening gang rape and murder of a Muslim girl, said Harinder Baweja in the Hindustan Times. Police in the state of Jammu and Kashmir say 8-year-old Asifa Bano was grazing her family’s ponies in a field when she was kidnapped, drugged, and locked inside a Hindu temple. Over the next four days, she was raped repeatedly by at least four Hindu men; finally, they bashed in her skull and dumped her body in a forest. Police say the perpetrators wanted to terrorize the girl’s ethnic group, Bakherwal nomads, into leaving the area. The attack occurred in January, but shot to national attention last week after charges were brought against eight men, including the temple’s custodian and four policemen—two of the officers are said to have accepted money to cover up the crime. The “gruesome details” should “make our collective blood boil,” and thousands of Indians have marched demanding justice for Asifa. But last week a group of Hindu lawyers surrounded a local court in an attempt to keep police from filing charges, claiming the suspects were being discriminated against because of their faith. Two state ministers from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party who protested in defense of the alleged rapists have been forced to resign.
Meanwhile, allegations of another rape have shaken the state of Uttar Pradesh, said Amulya Gopalakrishnan in The Times of India. A 16-year-old girl said she was raped last summer by BJP state legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar and his brother, but that police refused to investigate. After she tried to immolate herself at the governor’s residence earlier this month to draw attention to the crime, her father was allegedly beaten by Sengar’s henchmen and died in police custody. Sengar was finally arrested last week. It’s damning that in both the Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir cases “the alleged rapists were either from the BJP or had been shielded by senior BJP leaders.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, issued only a brief condemnation of the crimes after opposition leaders criticized his silence. Modi is playing politics, said Indian journalist Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay in AlJazeera.com. India has elections next year, and there are “worrying signs” that his party is “increasingly relying on majoritarianism and hypernationalism to get re-elected.”
This isn’t simply about party politics—our country refuses to wake up to its rape epidemic, said Manish Tewari in The Indian Express. Many of us thought we had reached a turning point in 2012, after a 23-year-old woman known as Nirbhaya was gang-raped on a New Delhi bus, suffering horrific injuries that resulted in her death. “People were outraged and took to the streets to vent their anger.” Those protests spurred changes in the law, including the imposition of the death penalty for rape. And yet reports of rape in New Delhi have actually gone up since Nirbhaya was brutalized. The bitter reality is that in India, every woman and girl is still “considered fair game.”