The Rape and Hypocrisy of Indian Politicians
By Suresh Jaura*
NEW DELHI - Over the years, there have been cases of step-fathers / uncles / grandfathers, coming from different classes and religions in different countries, raping or molesting the ones who trust them the most. The cases are hidden to protect so-called ‘family honour’.
The recent gang-rape of a 23-year student in a moving bus in Delhi has outraged the public who have protested against the inaction of the authorities including the police and transport licensing body.
Much to the surprise of wide sections of the public, a leading Congress member, Abhijit Mukherjee, son of the President of India, made derogatory remarks calling the protesters ‘dented’ and ‘painted’ and said that it has become ‘fashionable to hold candle marches’. Considering the magnitude of the protesters, he said that they are ‘backed by some political groups’ who have ‘hidden agenda.’ He apologised later on as his remarks drew criticism from protesters and politicians.
The death of the Delhi gang-rape victim, airlifted to Singapore, for treatment has brought the politicians together and they have promised action. They have expressed sympathy for the rape victim’s family, condemned the rape and assured the protesters again that they are with them. But as a new study reveals, the political parties are guilty of abetting rapists.
“By giving tickets to candidates who have been charged with crimes against women especially rape, political parties have been in a way abetting to circumstances that lead to such events that they so easily but vehemently condemn…” says press release issued by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).
A 32-page study conducted by ADR reveals that the political parties have fielded candidates for election of Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) who have declared crimes against women including rape.`
Six MLAs have declared in their sworn affidavits with the Election Commission of India at the time of their election that they have charges of rape against themselves. Of these MLAs with declared rape cases, 3 are from Samajwadi Party namely Sribhagwan Sharma, Anoop Sanda and Manoj Kumar Paras from Uttar Pradesh (UP), 1 from Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) namely Mohd. Aleem Khan from UP, 1 of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) namely Jethabhai G.Ahir from Gujarat and 1 of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) namely Kandikunta Venkata Prasad from Andhra Pradesh.
36 other MLAs have declared that they have other charges of crimes against women such as outraging the modesty of a woman, assault, insulting the modesty of a woman etc. There are 6 MLAs from Congress, 5 from BJP and 3 from Samajwadi Party.
The state of Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of MLAs (8), Orissa and West Bengal with 7 MLAs each, who have declared that they have charges of crimes against women, including cruelty and intent to outrage a woman’s modesty etc.
The study reveals that since 2007, political parties gave tickets to 27 rape accused candidates who contested in state elections. Of these seven are Independent candidates, five from Samajwadi Party (SP), two from BJP, two from BSP and one was given ticket by the Congress. Out of these 27 candidates, 10 are from Uttar Pradesh and five from Bihar.
A report compiled by the National Election Watch (NEW) and the ADR also stated that political parties had given tickets to 260 men who declared that they have been charged with crimes against women, 72 are independent candidates, 24 have been given tickets by the BJP, 26 candidates have been given tickets by the Congress, 16 have been given tickets by the SP and 18 have been given tickets by BSP
Maharashtra has the maximum number of such candidates (41), followed by Uttar Pradesh (37) and West Bengal (22).
"Political parties should stop giving tickets to candidates with criminal backgrounds and all those lawmakers who are accused in rape cases should be thrown out of power," says Jagdeep Chhokar, the founder of ADR. “The politicians who come out to condemn rape are the ones who are openly giving the rape accused a chance to fight elections. This is hypocrisy,” he told AFP.
"By giving tickets to candidates who have been charged with crimes against women especially rape, political parties have been in a way abetting to circumstances that lead to such vents...but (they) vehemently condemn in Parliament," NEW and ADR said, demanding that even the cases against such elected representatives be "fast tracked."
In a statement, they said: "Such people should be debarred from contesting elections and the political parties should be forced to disclose the criteria on which candidates are given tickets." Sadly, according to the report, such candidates weren't just restricted to the state assemblies.
"In 2009 Lok Sabha (lower house of Indian parliament) elections, political parties gave tickets to six candidates who declared that they had been charged with rape," it stated. In all, 34 candidates who contested 2009 elections declared that they had been charged with various crimes against women.
NEW and ADR representatives said they had sourced the information from affidavits filed by the candidates with the election commission. "Since they condemn such incidents in Parliament and outside, the least they can do is not give tickets to persons from such backgrounds," they said.
Sonal Bhadoria of IndiaTimes said, “The same elections that results in people choosing candidates to represent them in the Parliament, listen to their grievances and fight for their rights. And we are expecting these people, who clearly have no respect for women to understand that girl's pain and take strict actions against the animals who did this to them?"
A Supreme Court bench, comprising justices KS Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra, was told that out of 4835 MPs and MLAs in the country, 1448 were facing criminal cases.
Referring to the prayer made for a direction for suspension of MPs and MLAs who have been chargesheeted for crime against women, the bench said that "the issue of disqualification of MPs and MLAs is not in our jurisdiction." The bench observed that without going into the status of a person in life, they should be put on fast track trial.
It is imperative that the political parties do not allow as their candidates those who are facing criminal charges.
* Suresh Jaura is President Globalom Media (North America). He is managing editor of the South Asian Outlook e-Monthly and Indo-Canada Outlook published by Globalom Media (North America), which also runs the South Asian Web TV.