Iron Heels

Of Rape and Politics

Sankar Ray

Who can forget Geetaben, a victim of Gujarat riot of 2002? Born as a Hindu, she was hacked to death on 25 March 2002 in broad daylight near a bus stop in Ahmedabad. Her crime was to try to save her Muslim husband. Her photograph, stripped in a torso form on a hot and dusty patch of asphalt mocked at India's pride about democracy. Her left arm was bloodied with left thigh too covered in blood. It was a rejection of the pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 during the chief-ministership of Narendra Modi. To many the Gujarat riot was a dress rehearsal of Fascism of Indian variant or Hindu majoritanan version of Fascism, a concept, mooted almost simultaneously by Jawaharlal Nehru and Ajoy Ghosh, politbureau member of undivided Communist Party of India during the end-1930s. Geetaben remained a symbol of protestation against the humanimalistic posture of storm-troopers under the patronage of NaMo, the prime ministerial candidate of BJP, a subordinate constituent of the rightwing Hindu chauvinist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Or consider the horrifying rape of Bilkis Bano, a pregnant Muslim woman during the same riot in March 2002 by 12 thugs of other RSS constituents, like the Viswa Hindu Parishad. All her family members including her three-year-old daughter were brutally killed when they were fleeing the state of Gujarat although in vain. In the same abominable tradition four Roman Catholic nuns were raped in Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh in 1998. All this are a blot on the Indian cultural tradition. The Jhabua episode happened during the regime of the ruling Indian National Congress. The chief minister was Digvijay Singh, now a general secretary of INC. The INC member of Parliament, Kantilal Bhuria, representing Ratlam under which is Jhabua, snapped fingers at the VHP, quoting intelligence reports which cautioned beforehand about sneak-in of some VHP from the neighbouring BJP-ruled states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, with the sole aim to "defame" the INC regime by carrying out atrocities on minority women. However, the BJP leader of the state Dileep Singh, a former member of the Parliament, denied the allegation and instead accused Bhuria of shielding INC-fostered anti-social elements.

The systematic use of gang-rape as a weapon since the Gujarat riot is a manifestation of 'sexual politics'. Discrimination towards women, especially belonging to religious minorities is a part of this. After the demolition of Babri Masjid, there was an endemic retaliation from the Muslims in Maharashtra. The counter-retaliation was gang-rape of Muslim women. A group of civil rights activists did a spot assay in which an instance of raping at night with flood lights in front of frenzied masses. Rapes took place during the gruesome massacres of Sikhs in 1984 as a retaliation of assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 31 October 1984. According to one report in Delhi alone 12,733 Sikhs were burned alive, butchered or beaten to death. Women were raped indiscriminately by INC-backed roughs in front of their helpless and their terrified families whose mercy-pleading were of no use. A woman was gang-raped in front of her 17-year-old son who was torched thereafter. Small wonder, the RSS supported the pogrom whose victims were thousands of Sikhs.

The RSS ideologue, the late Nanaji Deshmukh, former BJP MP, in a message wrote that Mrs Gandhi "was killed by a person who had the duty to protect her person. This act came as a blow not only to her admirers in the country and the world but also her critics. This cowardly and treacherous act of killing not only ended the life of a great leader but also killed, in the name of the Panth, the mutual faith of humanity. Explosion of sudden arson and violent hysteria throughout the country was probably a directionless and improper expression of the hurt, anger and feeling of loss of her followers. Lakhs of her followers used to see her as the only defender, powerful protector, and a symbol of united India. It is a different matter whether this is right or wrong".

Indian feminist legal practitioner and civil society activist Flavia Agnes stated poignantly "Sexual violence against women has been used as a key weapon in the many communal riots and pogroms in India. The scale and extent of atrocities perpetrated upon Muslim women in Gujarat far exceeds any reported sexual crime during any previous riot in the post-independence period." NaMo regime in Gujarat encouraged the police commit sexual assaults and deprived survivors of justice. A court in Gujarat closed the Bilkis Bano's gang-rape case and she could reverse it only after she moved the Supreme Court of India that directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to swing into the probe and ordered the case be shifted out of Gujarat.

All this are reflexes of heightened sexual politics. The dialect of Nanaji reminds one of racist pseudoscience, Eugenics during Nazi era in quest for a so-called "Master Race" to exterminate human beings outside Nordic stereotype.

A powerful Bengali poet, Arin Deb, although remains unrecognized posts his poems in face book, narrates the plight of a girl, born into an economically weak household. Reproduced below is the original poem in Roman alphabet and free translation in parenthesis.

Meyeti hoye uthechhilo
Samay dulchhe jawrosawro manusher chokhe
chokher bhetor kangkal jwolchhe jawrosawro
Kothao keu ki benche uthchhe chokhe
Banchte cheyechhe agune pora naree? Jodi bolte
mahaplabone fondi fikire tuktake chokh jodi maliker
bharbahee hoto
meyeti pur-e jeto eibhabe.
Samay hoye ache meyeti -meyetir kachhe.
meyetir modhye meye
meyetir danay chhonyache akash
gum hoye ache, se bhay bindu paltate giye
him hoye ache -himer yuge
bawddo deri hoye gyache
bawddo deri hoye gyache bujhte shishirer manomay kawbe
hoyechhe payer nirvana.
sawb jhanjhat guchhiye niyechhe.
meyetir meye hawoyar akankhar jal goriye sei je
chita nibhe gyachhe dekhe
manusher sange manusher nihsangota shudhui dayamoy andhakare
sur hoye achhe.
Meyetir bhetorer meyeti
Meyetir bairer meye hoye uthechhe.
[The girl was growing up
The time oscillates before the eyes of huddled human beings
Inside the eyes like huddled skeletons.
Does someone gets enlivened inside the eye -
the burnt girl longing to be alive? As if she wants to say,
through juggling the deluge could turn her eyes into
a loader-animal.
The girl could be burnt alike.
The girl has become a time - time as a dimension to her,
a girl within a girl.
In her wings is the infectious sky, having tried in vain to flee the fear,
she is frozen in the ice age.
But it's too late to realize it's too late. But has ever the feet of nirvana
Been attuned to the mood of dewdrops!
She has put all troubles arranged in order.
The water-drops of her ambition to grow up as a girl
has extinguished her pyre. She sees
the loneliless between men is melodious in generous darkness.
The girl within the within the girl.
The girl has become a girl outside herself.]

To be born as a girl into a penury-hit family is a misfortune. They are pans of sexual politics in which communal frenzy acts as a sanguinary catalyst.

Vol. 46, No. 46, May 25 -31, 2014