Daya Varma and Vinod Mubayi


The fatal rape of a young aspiring woman in Delhi evoked massive protest by civil society. It is a heartening development because this is the first protest of this scale on an important social and cultural issue. The deceased woman might well prove to be the saviour of thousands upon thousands of girls and women and the forebear of a more civilized India.


One can hope that the Government of India, which for years has treated brutality against girls and women as one of many acceptable evils, will positively respond to the Justice Verma Commission Report.  Any reluctance on the part of the government and major political parties to shy away from committing to implement the Verma Commission Report would prove its complicity in such crimes and its intention to allow lawlessness to continue as a method of governance.


Rapes, even brutal ones, are not rare in India, especially in Delhi. There could be many reasons why for the first time such a tragedy stirred the hearts and souls of thousands of Indians, especially women and youth.  At the same time there was a spate of obscurantist outcries by numerous politicians and leaders counter-posing tragedy against tragedy. The chief of the RSS, Mohan Bhagwat, remarked that acts such as rape do not occur in Bharat, by which he meant rural and traditional India, but only in westernized cities. Statistics would show that he is completely off the mark in this assertion but facts matter little to such faith-based ideologies.


Rapes happen in every country but in India they are more frequently ignored by the authorities than elsewhere.  The independence of the subcontinent started with mass scale rape and brutalization of women—Muslim, Sikh and Hindu.  What is unique in India among practicing democracies is the impunity which rapists enjoy. Even more unique is that the majority of rapes and attacks on minorities, such as Muslims and Dalits, are committed directly by or with the approval of the instruments of governance, the police and the army; a majority of such crimes are instigated or condoned by governing or non-governing political parties.  This is why horrific mass rapes of Muslim women were carried out and openly bragged about in prosperous Gujarat, which has become the virtual factory of Hindutva ideology. In states such as Haryana, feudal ideology embodied in the khap panchayats openly protects rapists from punishments for their crimes.  That is why fewer social crimes of this nature were committed in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura under communist rule than in other states.


Rape was relatively rare in Kashmir until Indian army entered the state. Rape was also not common in Nagaland and Assam until the custodians of Indian nationalism arrived there. In these states, the occurrence of rape is an instrument of intimidation practiced by the military against a hapless population.

Only a few steps, which both the central and provincial governments use liberally against the so-called  Maoists and separatists, would be sufficient to greatly curtail the rape of girls and women and even more successfully prevent terror against Muslims and Dalits. Indeed these steps are supposed to be mandatory requirements of governance.


Many rapes in India are committed by the police and the army personnel. These are direct employees of the government that can easily force its organs of governance to abide by the accepted laws of the land.  In the final analysis when police and army act arbitrarily, they cease to be the organ of supervising good governance; instead they become the unofficial coercive arm of the government machinery.


All that the government has to do is to govern the country by its own rules of law. Justice Verma Commission Report demands that the government and political parties abide by the law of the land. In the meantime it will be desirable that leftists and activists demand action rather than attempt to further intellectualize the issue.

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