The recent molestation of a teenager in Mumbai by the self-claimed proponents of moral ethics shook me badly. Like others, I also admired the fact that women were safe in the dream city, whatever the time of the day or night it may be. Still shocking was the fact that the culprits were members of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Eu Tu! I privately thought.

While in Mumbai I had heard their roar against bhaiyas for messing up Mumbai’s law and order. But the Maharashtra Nav Nirman Sena could never scare the north Indian in me? But it did  hurt my pride when my Mumbaikar friends used to contemptuously ask me, “Can you travel in the night in the bhaiyaland?” My cryptic reply often was, “ Why not?” Sometimes I taunted them, ” Safety in Mumbai comes more from the crowds on the streets, and not the culture you people glorify.”

Sometimes I would share with them what’s written below to make them shut up.

It was a massacre by dacoits right in the heart of the ravines. There were no roads, kucha or pucca as the village was located on the riverbank. And I had to cover it. I reached Auraiya in a rickety ambassador car (it was early 1990’s) early morning and drove straight to the residence of the Senior Superintendent of Police. His ruffled looks told me he had not slept. He looked at me as if the worst had come.

“What! You want to go to the village?” he yelled. “We have enough problems, please don’t add to them.” Realising I was not the one to budge so easily, he said, “Do you have any idea how dangerous the ravines are? Look there is no road. We were told last night that some minister might come. So we are trying to make one through the jungle, houses ——.” His words did not convince me to return to Lucknow without doing the Page one story.

“Ok, if you have to go, then take our jeep instead of your car. I can’t have you spending your night amidst wild animals and dacoits.” So my 18-km-long journey started with four armed cops accompanying me. Soon I started feeling the pain of an awful ride — there were bruises on my arms that started bleeding, the jeep was throwing me out, sometimes sharply tripping over to the side that I could touch the ground.  This was when I heard some harsh words from the back, “ Can you hold our rifles? When we can’t help ourselves, how are we going to protect you? You never know the dacoits may be hiding somewhere in the jungle!”

That was enough to make me cry. I held back my tears while assuring the cop, “Nothing of that sort would happen.” That cooled his tempers as he asked, “Don’t you have men in your office that they have sent a girl to such a dangerous place.”

I have not looked back since then. That one trip emboldened me to travel extensively through out the state, during the day, during the night. And has not given up till date. Jai Ho Bhaiyaland !

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Where is the rape victim? Where is the rapist? What an irony! No one is talking about them.

Instead the central characters of the ongoing political brawl in Uttar Pradesh are the Chief Minister Mayawati and UPCC President Rita Bahuguna Joshi.  Mayawati is a victim of caste slur; Joshi has suffered irreparable loss of some of her precious personal belongings in ‘state-sponsored’ fire at her place.

The law is also threatening to take its own course. Joshi is booked under the incontrovertible SC/ST Act. Maya faces political flak for state-sponsored violence. She will have difficulty in disproving it in a CBI probe, if ordered.

They are powerful women, flushed with finances to fight legal battles and public and party support, whatever, to take on political cudgels.

But what about the poor Dalit women whom the DGP was doling out financial compensation in the state? He had a state plane at his disposal for the purpose. Why should he, the DGP, be giving away pecuniary compensation when his job is to put criminals behind bars? Not even a single rapist has been arrested in half a dozen recent cases. What can one expect when the focus is on disbursing compensation and not on punishing the culprits.

Compensation for rape sounds more detestable than the crime itself.  Can one quantify the cost of women’s honour? What about the trauma with which she lives rest of her life? How can one compensate that with few notes, in this case Rs 25,000? In the rural areas of the Hindi heartland there is hardly any guarantee that vultures in uniform or in the form of relatives will not take away the money much before the DGP’s chopper took off.

That’s precisely what Rita wanted to emphasize. But she used the wrong words. And this is what Mayawati wanted to say when Mulayam Singh Yadav was compensating rape with money. She too had used the wrong words. Why? They had politics more in their mind than relief to the poor victims.

Put the two controversial statements of Mayawati and Joshi aside (see box). How can they prove the wrong (which they themselves condemned) when out of power as right when in power? This is what Mayawati has to understand.

Lets not dilute the core issues. One should not insult a rape victim by doling out compensations. There is a strong view favouring compensation to victims. The proponents talk about their poor economic conditions and the money needed to fight the court battle.  I don’t agree. It’s insulting, its humiliating.

I feel the concept of financial compensations was introduced to compensate loss of life and property during natural calamities. The political masters extended it to riot and rape victims. Both, especially rape, can’t be compensated as the scar lives lifelong.

Second issue involves punishment for the rapist. Some have demanded death penalty. Again there is a strong opinion against it by human right activists. But I will vote for ‘ hang the rapist to death.’ One such hard, may be inhuman, decision would work as a solid deterrent. Or else rapist would continue to move scot-free while politicians will put a price for the victim’s her honour.

Have your say!

What they said?

Reacting to disbursement of compensation to rape victims in the state Rita said in Moradabad on July 15

Aaj uttar pradesh ka DGP helicopter se udke gaon gaon jata hai … kehta hai tumhari beti ke saath balatkar hua hai … yeh lo pacchis hazaar rupiya … tumhare bete/beti ke saath hatya ho gayi … yeh lo pacchas hazaar…sattar hazaar ….arrey mein kehti hoon yeh paisa Mayawati ke mooh par maar … aur ussasey bolo ki Mayawati agar tere saath balatkar hua toh mein Rs 1 crore dungi ….

What Maya said in January 2007 during election campaign?

Aaj Muslim Samaj pooch raha hai Mulayam Singh Yadav se…. Mulayam Singh Yadav tumhari beti nahi hai…tunhare bhai, bhateeje, rishtedaar ki to hogi … yadi uska balatkaar ham karwadeti hain… yeh Muslim Samaj  kahta hai … Toh…yedi unki balatkar ki qimat two lakh hai to .hum Rs 4 lakh denge….

Mayawati had made these remarks following rape of a Muslim girl in Allahabad in January 2007 in which the then Yadav government had given Rs two lakh compensation.

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Some of my friends were on a visit to Lucknow recently. The first place they wished to visit was not the famous Imambaras, Tune ke Kebab but the new Mayanagari flushed with red stone or sparkling white marble statutes of herself, Kanshi Ram and other Dalit icons. Read more

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A generation has been born after the demolition of Ayodhya shrine in December1992. For them its history, best not talked about. Hindutva is also not a catchphrase that appeals them.

They want co-existence, in other words peace and progress that BJP’s brand of Hindutva, displayed in Godhra and Ayodhya, can’t deliver. Read more

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