The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party should be vilified for its inaction in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), where two its ex-ministers have been accused of rape by two young women. Four-time MLA (member of legislative assembly) from Unnao district, Kuldeep Singh Sengar and MLA from Jaunpur as well as a former Union Minister of the third Vajpayee cabinet, Swami Chinmayanand have prima facie, indulged in gross abuse of power to prey on vulnerable, young women. The Yogi Adityanath government has been rightly receiving a lot of flak for its lackadaisical approach in dealing with these matters of grave importance. The chain of events that preceded these cases becoming a matter of public interest must be examined, to fully realise the horrifyingly malicious nature of these incidents.
Sengar asked the Unnao rape survivor to meet him under the pretext of offering her a job. He then allegedly proceeded to gang-rape her with his associates. The survivor’s father was beaten up in broad daylight by the MLA’s brother and his accomplices, after which both parties filed FIRs (first information report) against each other. However, only the survivor’s father was arrested and he met with an untimely death while in custody, purportedly due to police torture.
The survivor tried to immolate herself outside the UP CM’s residence, claiming police inaction drove her to this extreme measure. Has the law and order situation in the state deteriorated to such an extent that the survivor had to try to kill herself to be taken seriously? This step by the survivor prompted media houses to take cognizance of the matter. Sengar was arrested. The tragedy doesn’t end here though.
The survivor’s uncle was sentenced to 10 years in prison, after being convicted in a 19-year-old case. Fearing for their lives because of Sengar’s influence in the district, the survivor and her family penned a letter about the imminent danger to their lives to the Chief Justice of India (CJI). This was followed by an over-speeding truck ramming into a car in which the survivor, her advocate, and her aunts were traveling to visit her uncle in prison. The accident resulted in the death of both her aunts. It also critically injured the survivor and her advocate. The security personnel who were assigned to be with her at all times were missing. An FIR was registered against Sengar and some others in the road accident case.
The letter written by them came to light, following which the Supreme Court of India (SCI) ordered that all the cases related to the case be transferred to Delhi. This is a clear indicator that the SC recognised Sengar’s sway in the region. The SC also ordered the UP government to pay the survivor ₹25 lakh as interim compensation but isn’t this intervention too little, too late? No amount of money can make up for the physical and psychological hardships that the survivor and her family have had to endure.
The government in UP boasts of a “double engine sarkar“ as the BJP is the ruling party at the state and the center. The BJP is a party proud of its swift decision making, but it expelled Sengar from the party only two years after rape allegations against him first surfaced. Not only did the BJP dilly-dally with regards to Sengar’s membership, but Sakshi Maharaj, a BJP parliamentarian, met Sengar in jail. Maharaj told reporters that, “he is lodged in the jail for a long time. Sengar is one of the most popular lawmakers so I came to thank him after the elections.”
In a just as eerie and similar incident, Chinmayanand was booked for kidnapping and criminal intimidation when a 23-year-old law student who accused him of physically exploiting her in a viral video, went missing. Questioned by the media, he feigned innocence and said that he was being falsely accused to defame the Yogi Adityanath government. “Earlier, Kuldeep Singh Sengar was being implicated and now I am being targeted,” he said.
Chinmayanand’s lawyer used a WhatsApp message blackmailing him to file a complaint with the UP police. The message was sent by someone who was demanding ₹5 crores if he wanted his and his ashram’s image among the public to remain intact.
A group of lawyers filed a plea in the SC, fearing another Unnao-esque escalation. They asked the CJI to take suo motu cognizance of media reports about the missing law student. Meanwhile, the law student was found in Rajasthan with a friend. Police claimed that she wasn’t kidnapped. The SC asked the police to produce her before the court, where there was a closed-door meeting between the law student and the judges of the SCI after which they directed that no one would be allowed to meet her till she meets her parents. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) was constituted to look into the matter.
The law student filed a rape complaint against Chinmayanad in Delhi and said that he raped her repeatedly for a year. She told the SIT that she had met him because she wanted a seat in his college. He helped her gain admission to his college, offered her a job in the library, and then asked her to move into the college hostel. She said that he used a video of her bathing to blackmail her to give in to his disgusting, carnal urges. She said that she had secretly filmed him using a spy camera in her spectacles, in an attempt to expose him.
In a bizarre twist of fate, the SIT arrested the law student in relation to the extortion case after gathering enough evidence against her and three of her friends. The SIT also arrested Chinmayanand for “misusing authority for sexual intercourse” or “sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape.” But he was also admitted to a hospital in Lucknow. BJP’s spokesperson denied that Chinmayanand was still a member of the party. Unlike in Sengar’s case, no BJP leader has publically extended their support to the disgraced Swami.
I think that BJP’s members’ unabashed flouting of the law is symptomatic of a much deeper problem in the party. It almost feels like it does not reprimand its members for their despicable behaviour because it wants to let them get away with it. The fact remains that even though the party has had some women leaders like Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman, women have had negligible representation in decision-making bodies, vis-à-vis men.
In the 2019 general elections, the BJP fielded only 53 women candidates. A report by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the National Election Watch (NEW) showed that out of 1616 BJP MPs (Members of Parliament) and MLAs (Members of Legislative Assemblies), a mere 150 of them or 9% of them were women (so 91% were men). I believe that this skewed gender representation means that even though the BJP speaks of women empowerment, it hasn’t walked the talk. It hasn’t done enough, internally, to ensure that power is truly accessible to women. All its talk of gender justice hasn’t reflected in how it conducts itself as a party, because gender justice is apparently not a priority for the BJP.
Earlier in the year, BJP’s state secretary was a part of the protest march demanding the release of a Special Police Officer, accused of raping and killing an eight-year-old girl, in Jammu’s Kathua district. The BJP needs to practice a zero-tolerance policy for violence against women if it wants us to truly believe its adage of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’. UP’s state machinery should have acted as a catalyst in the deliverance of speedy justice, instead of allowing its ex-members to run amok. In the face of such serious allegations against BJP’s ex-members, and a blatant violation of young women’s human rights, justice delayed is justice denied.