This is political apathy at its very worst. Several appalling incidents of rape have been reported from different parts of Uttar Pradesh over the last week and yet those holding the reins of the government seem to be unperturbed by the deteriorating law and order situation. Those in the Opposition are doing little more than politicising the tragedies and demanding President’s rule. On the night of May 27, two teenage Dalit girls were kidnapped, raped, killed and then hanged from a tree in Badaun. In Azamgarh, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Lok Sabha constituency, a 15-year-old girl was gang-raped by four men while in Etawah a rape victim’s mother was beaten up and stripped publicly by those accused of raping her daughter as she refused to withdraw her police complaint. In Bareilly, a woman was gang raped, forced to drink acid and then strangled. That the police allegedly asked the caste of the victims in the Badaun case shows that discrimination based on caste and gender is pervasive among the law-enforcers and that the administration of Akhilesh Yadav has yet again failed in its job. The chief minister’s appeals for a CBI probe into the Badaun rape-murder come a bit late in the day, especially after he insensitively shot back at journalists, "Aapko toh khatra nahin hua (it’s not as if you faced any danger)" when asked about the rise in crimes against women. This came as no surprise as last month, Mulayam Singh Yadav defended the Shakti Mills rape convicts, saying boys make such mistakes but that does not mean that they should be sent to the gallows. This shows that patriarchy runs deep and wide and the younger Yadav has not been able to reverse this at all.
Besides the caste angle, there’s another dimension — the lack of toilets, particularly in rural areas. This leaves people with no option but go out into the open, making women vulnerable to sexual assaults. A senior police official was quoted as saying that on an average 10 rapes are reported in the state of which 60% to 65% take place when the women go out to attend nature’s call. There are no two ways about the need of better policing and law enforcement, but there’s also a need to create better sanitation infrastructure both in rural and urban areas to make them safer for women. But it would seem that as assaults against women grow, so does the cavalier attitude to their plight.
The SP government, already under fire for the gross mishandling of the Muzaffarnagar riots and subsequent rehabilitation of victims, would do well to remember that the party was ousted from power in 2007 on law and order issues and if the Lok Sabha elections are an indication then the party must understand that its apathy will only erode support for it further.