Is It Fair To Compare Hathras To Nirbhaya For Political Vendetta?

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In an opinion piece today, Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi criticised the UP government for its handling of the Hathras gangrape case, labelling its response as “vile”. Gandhi further went on to compare the case’s handling by UP government with that of Nirbhaya case by UPA in 2012. But is that a valid comparison? Does any government deserve a pat their backs for the handling of any heinous rape cases in the recent past of this nation? Be it Nirbhaya, Unnao, Kathua, Hathras or Hyderabad?

The opinion piece, published in Hindustan Times openly targeted Bhartiya Janata Party government at the centre. “India’s hard-won democracy is being hollowed out,” wrote Gandhi. However, things got a little off-track when the letter touched upon the Hathras incident.

On Hathras Gangrape Case

Targetting the UP government for its handling of the Hathras gangrape case, Sonia Gandhi wrote that it was “in total contrast” to how the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government handled the Nirbhaya case back in 2012. “The Uttar Pradesh government’s vile response to the Hathras protests against the rape of a Dalit girl, the unlawful cremation and the intimidation of her family crying out for justice is in keeping with this intolerant and undemocratic mindset,” wrote she.

Also Read: Hathras Case: AMU Doctor Who Said FSL Report “Holds No Value” Asked To Leave

Is rape being used to win political battles?

Sonia Gandhi’s comments on the Hathras case would have resonated strongly, had she not compared its handling to that of one of the most terrorising sexual crimes in our history. The Nirbhaya gangrape case is a wound that will not heal. That such a crime could happen in our country, and that it took seven painful years to hang Nirbhaya’s perpetrators is a matter of shame to each one of us, let alone how it was handled.

Has Gandhi forgotten the massive nationwide protests Nirbhaya gangrape and murder had sparked? Was the arrest and conviction of perpetrators in the case not sped up because the whole nation was seething with anger and demanding justice? Didn’t Sheila Dikshit, the then Chief Minister of Delhi, say in an interview later that Nirbhaya case had been “blown out of proportion” by media”? Nirbhaya will always remain too fresh in our minds. And thus it doesn’t sit well for Gandhi or Congress party to pat their backs for the case’s “handling”.

Yet again, a brutal sexual crime committed against a woman has been politicised. Yet again the focus has shifted from addressing caste-based atrocities and the dilapidated state of women’s safety in this country. But our politicians are busy pointing fingers at who went wrong where, and how they could have done a better job than their rival party, when in reality we are still where we eight years ago, on that terrible December night.

The streets are still unsafe for women. They are still vulnerable to rape, harassment, violence and physical harm that will make your blood curdle. Is any woman in this country willing to trust any politician to turn around the rape culture of this country? Or of having the power to change the misogynistic mindset that demeans women and lets people get away with treating women inhumanly? No. And that should tell you enough about both Indian society and Indian politics.

We love to point fingers in every direction possible, but in our own. We cannot forget that the true power to curb crimes against women, to ensure that their consent and dignity is respected lies with us as individuals. The way we raise our boys, the way we treat women and girls in our homes and outside them, that is where the change needs to come from.

Also Read: Nirbhaya Convicts Hanged. Justice Delivered. But What Now India?

Similarly, how accountable ruling parties on state and national level are to ensure that justice is neither delayed nor denied, lies with us as too. But are we willing to hold them accountable? Are we willing to challenge their style of politics? Do we even believe change is possible?

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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