Compassion, it seems, has no place in the corridors of power dominated solely by electoral considerations. Nothing else perhaps can explain the plight of the 14-year-old rape survivor of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh who gave birth to a baby last week after losing a legal battle to abort her unwanted child.
Her tale is poignant and powerful enough that ought to have melted hearts: A young unwed mother saddled with the onerous task of bringing up a child in a poor family that struggles to feed its members.
Livelihood, however, is just one of the many daunting challenges that the girl faces. Though her alleged rapist is in jail, she is forced to confront stigmas associated with rape and out-of-wedlock motherhood in her village, Bairamnagar, about 40km from Bareilly town. Steeped in traditions and customs, neighbours look down upon the family, though they are simply victims and not perpetrators of a suspected heinous crime.
But logic is in short supply in Uttar Pradesh preparing for crucial assembly elections next year. The focus is firmly on votes and the cries of a single mother, pleading for justice and a bit of help, find no takers. The judiciary took too long to decide and even insensitive officials kept her waiting. Time was of the essence to abort the foetus that grew in her womb, but the establishment took no notice.
Politicians focused instead on a murder suspect who died in a jail.
By no stretch of imagination, Ravin Sisodia could have evoked any sympathy from anyone under normal circumstances. Accused of being part of a mob that lynched Mohammad Ikhlaq, an elderly Muslim man of Bisada village last year on the suspicion of possessing beef, he was found dead in detention in Luksar jail.
Beef is an emotive issue with great electoral significance and Sisodia was made into a martyr in his death. His body was wrapped in the Tricolour and elected representatives rushed to his village to placate villagers divided on religious lines. In no time, his family had secured monetary pledges of Rs 25 lakh: the state government gave Rs 10 lakh, an NGO promised another Rs 10 lakh, and two BJP politicians – Union minister Mahesh Sharma and state legislator Sangeet Som – assured another Rs 5 lakh.
The unwed mother, on the contrary, was given just Rs 25,000 on Tuesday after months of ordeal – maybe because empathy for her wouldn’t fetch votes. For that matter, no politician has bothered to visit her till date despite newspapers consistently highlighting her plight. And the only time an official called on her was when she went to the local health centre to deliver the child and was refused help by a nurse for being a rape victim. The sub-divisional magistrate came to find out what exactly happened, but has not returned since.
Districts in Uttar Pradesh also have probationary officers to look after unwed mothers and rape survivors. But none so far has bothered to take care of the Bareilly girl. Uttar Pradesh boasts of a chief minister who is young, articulate and decent. But the establishment he runs has failed the girl at every step. Besides being shameful, the systemic failure is nothing but criminal.