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Bulandshahr rape: How Azam Khan's loose tongue could cost Akhilesh Yadav an election

Somi Das | Updated on: 2 August 2016, 16:18 IST

"This is a political conspiracy." A statement used so easily by our politicians and political parties to defend themselves whenever left defenseless.

The subject of this conspiracy could be anything - student protests, Dalit agitation, an innocuous remark by an actor about the general state of affairs in the country. Or, it could be just about anything that doesn't suit the narrative of a ruling political party when it finds itself battling a major crisis.

Senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan calling the Bulandshahr rape a political conspiracy is symptomatic of the same political language that hinges on denial and insensitivity, an unwillingness to engage with the victim and the aggrieved and an intention to cover up instead of looking for the truth.

Khan has a history of outrageous actions and comments. From deploying the state machinery to look for his buffaloes to holding usage of mobiles responsible for the rape of a toddler - he has done it all. So while his comments might have invited a major social media backlash, it will not result in any kind of action against him.

This is what happened on 30 July in Uttar Pradesh and how it affected the victims

On the night of 29 July, a 39-year-old Ola cab driver left his residence in Noida with his family members in a white Hyundai Xcent.

He was on his way to Shahjahanpur accompanied by his brother's family as well. At 1:30 am, his cab was waylaid by a bunch of dacoits on the Delhi-Kanpur highway. After robbing the family of all their belongings, the dacoits raped his wife and 14-year-old daughter while the male members of the family were tied to the car.

As if the trauma of the incident wasn't grave enough, the family, fearing social boycott is not able to go back to their residence. They are temporarily living at a friend's place. The friend's wife has refused to accommodate them any further after the incident was taken up by the media. With no place to go, the father is planning to permanently change their residence.

The daughter, as reported the Indian Express, is not ready to change her school. The wife hasn't eaten or spoken anything after the incident. The daughter, trained in karate, is still haunted by the faces who threatened her that if she protested they would kill her father.

Now the family has given a three-month deadline to the government to get the culprits behind bars or else, they will commit suicide.

Unlike what Khan wants us to believe, nowhere in this sequence of events does it look like a political conspiracy.

The story has many dimensions. The further victimisation of the family due to societal taboos is one of them. But the most important aspect of the story and a fiercely political one is the state of law and order in the state.

Not a political conspiracy but a political issue that might cost Akhilesh the elections

A case of robbery followed by the rape of a woman and a minor, only cements the perception of gunda raj in Akhilesh Yadav's state, who has been carpet bombing radio stations with ads showcasing Uttar Pradesh as the ultimate destination of development.

When you promise development, when you promise women's safety and protection from crime and yet fail to deliver, it is bound to erupt into a political issue. The opposition will certainly use it for its own electoral benefit. The noise will be far more before the elections than during mid-term. The BJP has left no stone unturned to hold the Akhilesh Yadav government accountable for the incident.

BJP has demanded that the case be probed by the CBI. In fact, it took political pressure for the administration to arrest three people in connection to the case. In a damage control mode, late Sunday evening, the police arrested three persons. They have a proven criminal record. Why were they still not behind bars? Later more people were arrested.

However, Azam Khan has undone any leads the Akhilesh government acquired in their 'face-saving' exercise. Rarely do issues catch the attention of politicians. And when it does, it is only when elections are around. So when an issue does become political, it is not due to a conspiracy by the opposition. It is because the opposition just woke up to amplify the common man's pain.

By calling the Bulandshahr incident a "political conspiracy", Azam Khan has not only in one stroke dismissed the pain of a family that has been a victim of his government's ineptness, but also created a poll plank for the opposition.

Women's safety and the poor law and order situation is already a huge concern for the people of the state. Azam Khan's comment only goes on to show that the state isn't serious about tackling crimes against women. If Akhilesh Yadav fails to take on Khan for his brazen comment, all the feel good ads running on television and radio will yield nothing.

First published: 2 August 2016, 16:18 IST
Somi Das @Somi_Das

Somi brings with her the diverse experience of working in a hard news environment with ample exposure to long-form journalism to Catch. She has worked with Yahoo! News, India Legal and Newslaundry. As the Assistant Editor of Catch Live, she intends to bring quality, speed and accuracy to the table. She has a PGD in Print and TV journalism from YMCA, New Delhi, and is a lifelong student of Political Science.