Union minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation Uma Bharti feels that rapists should be tortured in front of their victims until they agree to the crime. The law, she feels, can kick in later. Speaking at an election rally at Agra, Uttar Pradesh, last week, the minister said that while she was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh (December 2003 and August 2004), rapists were hung upside down, beaten till their skin came off, and salt and chilli was rubbed on their wounds till they begged for forgiveness.
It is appalling that such views are expressed by a minister, who has taken an oath to uphold the law of the land. At the rally, Ms Bharti made these alarming comments while referring to the rape two women in Bulandshahr in July. She was criticising the ruling Samajwadi Party government for not doing enough to stop the release of the accused on bail.
However, a fact check done by Hindustan Times reveals a different story: Madhya Pradesh reported the highest number of rapes in India during Ms Bharti’s tenure as chief minister, indicating the BJP leader’s supposed diktat of public torture of “rapists” didn’t curb actual crimes against women. In crimes against women, Madhya Pradesh had dubious distinction of coming second to Andhra Pradesh and reported 14,547 cases or 10.3% of the total.
Increasing incidents of violence against women across the country is a genuine cause for concern. The harassment victims face while filing a complaint, the delay in conviction — from patchy investigation to the prolonged judicial process — are problems that need to be tackled on a war footing. But, rather than working to fix these challenges and speed up the processes, one cannot — especially an elected representative of the people — forget there is a law in place to tackle such offenders. This form of retributive justice she believes in is a medieval concept that does not — should not — find space in a modern democracy.
Ms Bharti’s open justification that the law must be bypassed to tackle rape cases is a fit case for opening a governmental inquiry on whether she actually ordered such punishment or not.
If she did, then she will have to face legal proceedings.