India is regarded as world’s biggest democracy. But more than half of its population, women, have been described as the most vulnerable lot, prone to sexual and physical attacks. In a recent survey, global experts put India as the most dangerous country for women, worse than war-torn Afghanistan and Syria which occupy second and third place. The Thomson Reuters Foundation, which conducted the survey, released its results early this week of a survey of 550 experts on women’s issues, finding India to be the most dangerous nation for sexual violence against women, as well as human trafficking for domestic work, forced labor, forced marriage and sexual slavery, among other reasons. It was also described as the most dangerous country in the world for cultural traditions that impact women, the survey found, citing acid attacks, female genital mutilation, child marriage and physical abuse. India was the fourth most dangerous country for women in the same survey in 2011. The release of the report comes amid mounting public outrage after a series of high-profile rape cases, including rape and murder of a 8-year old girl in Kathua and rape of 16-year old girl in Unnao Utter Pradesh, have forced the issue onto the national agenda. The worst of it is that in, both, Kathua and Onnao cases people associated with the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) were involved directly as also indirectly. In Unnao, the minor girl was not only raped by a BJP legislator but her father was done to death in police station for complaining about the rape of her daughter. In Kathua, then BJP minister besides several local and state level leaders of the BJP rallied around the people accused in rape and murder of the 8-year nomadic girl. Though the case if now being heard by a court in Pathankote, the BJP leaders are still running a public campaign in favor of the accused. India has long grappled with the issue violence against women. After public outrage and angry demonstration across the country against the rape of a young doctor in Delhi in 2012, government of India introduced some stringent punishment sections to the existing rape law. But it, in no way, helped reduce crimes against women. In a quite reverse way, there was rather increase in sexual crimes against women. But despite the introduction of stricter laws, around 100 sexual assaults are reported to police in the country every day, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, with nearly 39,000 alleged attacks reported in 2016, an increase of 12% from the previous year. It is a serious indictment of a country which boosts of a great humanitarian and cultural history. It should be a matter of concern for the society and country as a whole that India’s glorious past is being replaced by a disgraceful era with open support from the people in power. The rape and murder of Kathua gilr could be termed as a poisonous cocktail of religious bigotry and communal prejudice. The Muslim girl was kept captive in a Hindu temple, fed sedatives and raped repeatedly and latter murdered and dumped in a forest. It was a warning to nomad Muslims to leave the area. Eight Hindu men have been charged with the Kashmir gang-rape and murder. In the southern state of Kerala, a bank manager declared on his Facebook wall that it was “good” that the nomad girl was killed, because “she would have come as a [human] bomb against India tomorrow”. His employers sacked him. It should surprise one that the crimes against women are supported at highest government level. A rape—accused in Rajasthan, Nihal Chand, was accorded a ministerial berth in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in 2014. It doesn’t matter if India is really the most dangerous country for women. It does matter that too many women in India live in a constant state of fear. And our government’s silence tells us that we’re on our own.
Uncertainty over government formation
Uncertainty looms large on government formation in Jammu and Kashmir. Though some circles claim that a new government of hotchpotch coalition is likely to be installed in the state any time by the end of October, there is no definite word on as who would lead the government. The speculations about the new government had strengthened after hints by dropped by some aspirants of chief ministerial post. However, the latest from the BJP point-man is that there is no possibility of government formation and the Governor’s rule will continue. Ram Madhav was recently in Srinagar and his latest statement is deemed as BJP’s failure to get required support for the government it wanted to install in Jammu and Kashmir. There are many a claimants/ aspirants of the chief minister’s post. Altaf Bukhari of PDP and Sajjad Lone of Peoples’ Conference (from Kashmir) are deemed as ‘front runners’. A section of PDP legislators are ready to break away from the party but they want their own party man to be the chief minister with Altaf Bukhari as their choice. BJP, however, is silently acting on a plan to get its own man installed as the chief minister.
Minister of state in Prime Minister’s Office, Dr Jitendra Raina is the BJP favourite. A BJP (Hindu) chief minister in a Muslim-majority state would be a big boost for the party ahead of next year’s general elections. For having failed to keep its election promises made in 2014, BJP is looking for some emotional issue to woo back the Indian voter. While five PDP MLAs who have rebelled against Mahbooba Mufti publicly are not averse to any chief minister from BJP, other “rebel” MLAs from the valley, however, have serious reservations. They believe that supporting BJP’s agenda of Hindu chief minister would cost them heavily. That is making the formation of the new government a difficult proposition. In disagreement between the BJP and PDP (rebel), the two-member party chief Sajjad Lone perceives a chance for himself. Sajjad’s dream of becoming the chief minister is for two reasons. First, no PDP or BJP MLA wants to go back to the electorate for fresh elections. Second, Governor’s rule for prolonged period too is not an option before New Delhi. In such a scenario, in his estimation, there is enough chance for him to emerge as alternate choice.
He is reported to have held meetings with several PDP MLAs and sought their help. Knowledgeable sources however reveal that BJP is not too keen to see Sajjad Lone as chief minister. But being their most trusted ally, the BJP leadership has told him that if he could manage support and get the required numbers, the party would support him. A strong lobby in the party believes that it would give rise to many questions for the party at national level. They say that ahead of next year’s general elections the BJP cannot afford any messy situation in Jammu and Kashmir. “If the state needed a chief minister from the valley only why Mahbooba was toppled then and the state was plunged into serious crisis” is a question that would be posed to the BJP even by its own cadres. BJP cadres think that there is a chance for their party to pitch for its own chief minister. But where are the numbers and wherefrom these will come is something that the party leaders have no answers. Mahbooba Mufti had, some time back, accused New Delhi of using NIA for breaking her party. That gives one the sense that BJP is working on influencing PDP legislators to get the required support.
Ram Madhav’s latest assertions that Governor’s rule will continue makes one to understand that BJP’s game-plan has seemingly gone to smithereens.
What’s in a name?
The RashtriyaSwayamSewakSangh (RSS), through its sectarian policies is creating conditions of the division of India on the basis of caste, religion and ethnicity. By renaming that sounded non-Brahman or non-upper castes the organization that has its strong presence in all aspects of Indian life is sending a clear message to minorities and Hindus who do not share its version of history that India is not for them and if they have to live in the country, they will have to submit to RSS vision of nationalism.
Its campaign to change Muslim or Christian sounding names is not different than what Taliban did in Afghanistan when they destroyed Buddhist structures or the ISIS did in Iraq and other places when it demolished historical monuments reminiscent of other religions. The RSS is doing exactly the same by changing names and removing all traces of history that contradicts its views on India.
The policy which is no different cultural genocide would leave few options for India’s Dalits, non-upper caste Hindus or Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Pagans, Jains and even non-RSS Hindus. In India’s six out of 29 states the Brahman or the upper caste of Hindus are between 10 and 20 percent of the population. In the remaining states they are between one and nine percent, Uttarakhand has 20 percent while Andhrapradesh has one percent of Brahmans.
The caste with highest population in India is known Other Backward Class or Castes. They account for more than 70% of the total Indian population. The lowest of the castes are described as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. They are about 16.6% and 8.6%, respectively, of India’s population The states with highest number of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh
Despite the fact that lower castes and backward communities suffer the worst treatment socially and religiously, the RSS and its political leadership has cleverly projected itself as a party of Hindus trying to save India from the culture of Muslim and Christian invaders and from the deviant behavior of religions that emerged in opposition to caste hierarchy perpetuated by Brahman.
Even though scholars regard Hinduism as a synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no single founder, the RSS view India as a special place in the world of Hindu deities, a place that India never achieved under its political rulers who despite sharing the same religious traditions never created a united India. The RSS believes that it has a divine mission to accomplish by turning India into a pure Hindu state in the image of its ideal.
Not all Hindus agree with that vision. Certainly, non-Hindus such as Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Muslims and pagans have different perspectives on India and its history. Yet, the RSS asserts that it owns India and if anyone claims to be Indian must accept its vision of the country.
The RSS and its political wing BJP are not only aware of the electoral advantage they might gain through this campaign but are also clear of their policies especially towards Muslims. The RSS view Muslims as invaders who challenged India’s caste system and Brahmanical hegemony. They blame Muslims for conversion of Dalits and other lower castes to Islam. They accuse Muslims of abducting their women and molesting them. They propagate that Muslim rulers during their rule in India demolished Hindu temples and subjugated Hindu masses. They even say that culturally, Muslims did everything to humiliate Hindus either in the form of beef eating or adopting a life style that was different than the Brahmanical domination.
The RSS believes that without humiliating Muslims and reducing them to a non entity, Hindus dignity cannot be restored. Brahmans and other upper castes are aware of their numerical weakness. They know that without the strength of Dalits and other backward communities, they cannot impact India’s electoral politics. Hence they poisoned the minds of Dalits and backward communities by projecting Muslims and Islam as enemies of India and Hinduism. In their effort to win over Dalits, they always use the Pakistan card saying that Muslims opted out of a united India by carving their own state in the name of religion, thus, forfeiting their right to live in India. They should either convert to Hinduism or settle in Pakistan. They have always questioned the loyalties of Muslims to India and projected them without any evidence as traitors.
Kashmir on the verge of a social crisis
Banned drugs continue to pour into the valley, with an increasing number of cases being registered by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). Official figures, as reported by this newspaper on Wednesday, revealed that in 2016, 873 persons were arrested in the state in 607 cases under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. The number increased by over 40 per cent in 2017, as 1,327 persons have been booked under the Act in 874 cases. Over the last three months, the NCB has seized 161 kg heroin valued at Rs 800 crore from Jammu alone. Parts of south Kashmir’s Kulgam and Bijbihara belt and north Kashmir’s Kupwara district are, in particular, reported to be the centre of narcotic production and sale. In Bijbihara and Kulgam belts cannabis is openly cultivated on large swaths of paddy and maize fields. Though the Narcotic department, on many occasions, took steps to destroy these fields but these cultivations come up every year. The worst of it is that the cultivators prefer cannabis over rice, maize and other crops. The cultivation of such narcotic produces has made addict to number of people in the area to charas-smoking. Many people in towns and cities too in other areas of the valley have fallen to the habit of charas-smoking. The inflow and availability of banned drugs is other form that is catching up many people across the state. Be it a way to fight personal crisis, means to wipe the mental scars or just a sign of being cool, many youth in Kashmir have fallen into the net of drugs, with such cases increasing by 35-40 per cent in the last few years. Charas, brown sugar, cocaine, cannabis, psychotropic drugs et al are the new weapons of mass destruction for the youth in Jammu and Kashmir. On the face the issue does little seem to be so menacing but delve a bit deep, the scale and horror would frighten you.
Around forty per cent of our youth, a majority of them students, have become habitual drug addicts. What is more disturbing is that drug peddlers having found their way in, have by now entrenched themselves into spaces of educational institutions as well. Some lower rung employees of educational institutions are reported to be in involved in trafficking of drugs in colleges and schools. Educational institutes for girls are on their radar. Easy access to drugs and uncontrolled activities of drug peddlers are reported to be the main contributing factors of this insidious phenomenon. If the menace is not arrested immediately, it would have its horrendous effect on the society as a whole. That makes it a national duty for every individual to fight it out in every possible way. While the government should galvanize police and other concerned departments to deal harshly with the drug peddlers, suppliers and their masters under law, the civil society and political leadership of all sorts too owe a responsibility towards the society. They too need to come forward against this menace by way of public awareness campaigns. Imams of mosques should speak on social issues including drug abuse in their Friday sermons. The separatist political parties of all sorts should also put in their effort to make society clean of this dirt. It should not be taken as offence. Azadi is a long drawn struggle, and may or may not take time. But that does not mean that we would ignore moral and social issue till ‘azadi’ is achieved. Our leadership must rise to the occasion and launch a comprehensive fight against all sorts of immoral activities.
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