After the gruesome incident of the gang rape of a 25-year-woman, who was working as an assistant veterinarian at a state-run hospital, not only the streets but even the Parliament was taken in an uproar. The charred body of the young vet was found under a culvert in Shadnagar in Hyderabad on November 28, a day after she went missing. In the said case, four male lorry workers, ageing between 20 and 24 were arrested on charges of raping and killing the woman, presently in 14-day judicial custody. When the issue arose in the ongoing session of the Rajya Sabha, the demands of the Member of Parliament [MPs] are far from a well-thought solution to this rape cycle in the country. As M.P.s expressed outrage over the gruesome incident in Hyderabad and the following news coming from across the country, the demand was the death penalty, mob lynching and castration of the convicts. Though the motion was not allowed, the M.P.s were allowed by the Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu to make mention of similar news being reported from elsewhere in the country. The Parliament rose in one voice with blurring party lines, condemning the recent spurt in abuse against women and demanded stringent laws for stringent punishment in a speedy manner.
On the issue, Chairman Naidu described the gruesome incident that took place in Hyderabad a ‘disgrace to humanity’. Leader of the Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad has urged the parliamentarians to tackle this societal problem at the roots. He also said that the ones who are found guilty in committing such an offence should be awarded stringent punishment without any discrimination of religion or caste. What came from the famous actress turned politician, Jaya Bachchan from the Samajwadi Party is problematic. She began with fixing responsibility on the security personnel in charge of the area in which the crime in Hyderabad took place. She went ahead to say that therapists should be brought out in public and lynched. Her views found support when P. Wilson from the DMK suggested that the courts should be empowered to order castration of the convicted rapists with due surgical and chemical processes before releasing them from jails, to keep a check on repeat offenders. He also went ahead to suggest that the cost of the procedure of castration has to be borne by the convict himself in lieu of his assets. He suggested that a list of sexual offenders be made and be put in the public domain for everyone to access. Amar Patnaik from the BJP demanded the death of the convicts of such heinous crimes.
Another voice that was raised in support was that of Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar of the TDP who along with highlighting the delay in police action in Hyderabad, also demanded capital punishment for the rapists in public view.
Emotionally charged and practically wrong statement by Jaya Bachchan on the floor of the house.
What draws our concern is that though our M.P.s are uniting beyond party lines, but for all the wrong reasons. Given the responsibility of representing a large group of people and their concerns in the Parliament, an emotionally charged demand as the ones made were not expected. However, what is coming from the Parliament is the most usual demands which an emotionally charged public hurt by the incident would raise. But what justice do we talk about when we are employing one crime (mob lynching) to stop another. Though there is little data on the status of mob lynching in the country, the Quint tracker shows that there are a total of 113 deaths due to mob lynching in the country since the year 2015. What Jaya Bachchan said in the Parliament is just another way to empower the people to take law in their hands with little to no regard for the procedure established by law. It is sure that the society is gripped with a situation not pleasant to deal with for anyone. But we should stop making it a society of bloodlust and rather look at the bigger picture and go for the roots. Not everyone in the country has had the privilege as Jaya Bachchan herself. Deciding the punishment for a rape accused, mostly belonging to lower privileged and poor families from the parameters of a celebrity, is the last thing we need today.
In a manner, her comments incited the vigilantes not to allow the law to take its own course, rather decide on behalf of it. Preaching of mob justice and lynching coming from a Parliamentarian is not how we want to deal with this situation.
When will think to reform the rapists? Blame your Government to still running a system in which the rapists are born.
Discussion about reformative punishment and justice in the country has a long way to come when the Parliamentarians are not giving due regard to the law in place. It is the time when the people in India have to decide where to lie their conscience. In these great times of difficulty, remember that two wrongs do not make a right. Raging of people in the country at such a time is justified, but it cannot be allowed to play wild in the open. There has to be a channel for this rage to vet out. There is ample literature and research out there, suggesting that harsher punishments will not deter heinous crimes. It is time for our legislative bodies to seek the literature and build upon it and not be another reaction similar to an uninformed Whatsapp forward. In the capacity of a parliamentarian, Jaya Bachchan should have been more cautious of what she is stating on the floor of the Parliament as she is a representative and a cry for blood is not something we are prepared for.
The more legitimate demands, but are they enough?
On the other hand, there were some legitimate demands to modify the laws relating to the sexual abuse of women. Congress MP Mohammad Ali Khan has asked to set a timeline for trial of the accused in a fast track court and has urged to not communalize such incidents. He highlighted that in the Hyderabad rape case, the four accused belong to four different religious community and thus no question of religion, caste or community should be raised, it will only dilute the matter further. Aam Aadmi Party being represented by Sanjay Singh called out for ‘stringent action in all cases of sexual assault on women’. He supported the demand for a fast track court and awarding punishment within a set timeframe. T.K. Rangarajan of CPM urged that the laws be framed in a manner, to tackle crime are ‘not percolating down’. Vaiko of the DMK demanded concrete action be taken to deal with such crimes of sexual abuse. One voice among the many of Manoj Kumar Jha from the RJD suggested that deterrence will not be enough. R K Sinha of the Bhartiya Janta Party [BJP] said that capital punishment in the 2012 gang rape case in New Delhi is still not given, due at the stage of appeals in the case. AIAMDK representative Vijila Sathyananth demanded fast track court for such trials and banned on sale of drugs which are seen to be a reason for such incidents.
While there are many voices of concern hovering over from all sides, the sad reality is that not even one is enough. No conversation goes around attacking the supposed notions of masculinity, about providing a platform to young girls and boys to fuel conversation around sexuality and consent. The accused that we look in most of these cases belong to deplorable conditions while growing up. We should ask the Government to educate these men for them to grow up and find jobs so that they can support their families and end this cycle. A majoritarian government at the Centre and rampant many big states will never talk about women safety. And the issue is not limited to ‘women’. It is an issue for all the parents out there, whose child might be a potential rapist if the Government does not take the initiative to empower him.