Sunday of protests as thousands across India demand justice in Kathua and Unnao rape cases

Sunday of protests as thousands across India demand  justice in Kathua and Unnao rape cases

New Delhi/Lucknow/Mumbai, April 15: Thousands of people took to the streets in various cities of the country on Sunday to protest the rising incidents of sexual violence against women and demand justice in the rape cases in Jammu’s Kathua and Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao.
Carrying banners and placards, protesters marched in New Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and other cities, demanding that the government quickly prosecute the rape suspects. Candlelight vigils were also held in some places.
Hundreds of people participated in a protest march called “Not In My Name” at Parliament Street in the national capital, led by filmmaker Saba Dewan
A similar gathering was seen in Lucknow at the Gandhi statue near the general post office (GPO).
In Kathua, the 8-year-old girl was kidnapped on January 10 and gang raped by men who wanted to scare away her community from the area.
In Unnao, a 17-year-old accused a BJP?MLA, his brother and others of raping her when she had gone to meet him last year seeking a job last year. The case came into spotlight after she attempted self-immolation in front of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence on April 8. The victim’s father died on April 9 in judicial custody after he was allegedly attacked by the MLA’s brother.
The protesters demanded immediate dismissal of the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly shielding his party legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar, accused of raping the girl in Unnao.
They also sought adequate security arrangements for the families of the victims, and state support for arranging a competent prosecution team.
Saba Dewan said common citizens wanted to send out a message that they are angry with the way rapes have been provided a certain kind of patronage by the ruling party.
“There is anger over the way women’s safety and security is being dealt with. The Unnao and Kathua rape cases show that the ruling party has place for rapists and condones rapists. This will have to change,” she said.
Activist Deepak Kabir, who led the protest in Lucknow, said: “A rapist can be a Hindu, Muslim, Dalit or Christian but we need to understand that he is a rapist. The fight is against patriarchy and we need to push it harder.”
Former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University and social activist, Prof Roop Rekha Verma said, “It is a political matter where accused are being supported by top politicians of the country.”
The protesters demanded that the ruling party take responsibility for the growing atrocities against women and take strict measures.
“Communal politics is making criminals out of ordinary people. It would not be an exaggeration if we say that the government is promoting rapists with communal agenda,” said Deepak Kabir.
Amitabha Pande, a retired IAS officer, read out an open letter signed by a group of retired civil servants asking the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reach out to the families of the victims in Unnao and Kathua and seek their forgiveness on behalf of all of us.
“….the unspeakable horror of the Kathua and the Unnao incidents shows that the government has failed in performing the most basic of the responsibilities given to it by the people,” Pande quoted from the letter.
“People are afraid of sending their daughters out,” said Shashi Verma, a student who attended the protest.
The opposition Congress party has been attacking the ruling BJP over the incidents, demanding action. Led by party president Rahul Gandhi, the Congress held a midnight candlelight vigil at India Gate in New Delhi late on Thursday night, the site where thousands of people protested in 2012 against a brutal gang rape of a paramedic on December 16 in the capital.
Prime Minister Modi on Friday addressed the issue as anger grew, saying such crimes will not go unpunished and assured that culprits will not be spared. Modi’s assurance came a day after Gandhi attacked him for his silence.
Violent crimes against women have been on the rise despite tough laws enacted in 2013.
The outrage over the December 16 attack spurred quick action on legislation, doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalising voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. Lawmakers also voted to lower to 16 from 18 the age at which a person can be tried as an adult for heinous crimes.
About 40,000 rape cases were registered in 2016, up from 25,000 in 2012, government data shows. (Courtesy: HT)