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Surat rape: Public anger spills onto the streets even as Modi & Shah remain silent

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 16 April 2018, 18:41 IST

The horror of Kathua rape and murder has found an echo in Surat where a body of an 11-year-old girl who was raped and tortured was discovered with no less than 86 wounds. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) national president Amit Shah are yet to speak on this horror that has come to light in their own backyard of Gujarat even as the masses protest on the gruesome rape episodes of Kathua, Unnao and now Surat.

The stoic silence of Modi and Shah is nothing new to their home state where they have kept quiet or only come out with murmurs on some of the most horrifying cases that have been reported.

The body of the Surat victim had been found in Pandesara area of the city on April 6. She had been dumped close to the national highway Reports say that the post-mortem has confirmed that she had been raped, tortured at length and strangled to death. There were severe injuries in her private parts reportedly caused by a blunt object. Her identity is yet to be ascertained although various theories continue to do the rounds including one that suggests that she was probably killed elsewhere and dumped in Surat.

There is palpable anger among the masses and politics is hotting up over the issue. The police are also mulling action against those indulging in rumour-mongering on social media.

Rapes are nothing new to India and so are arrests, convictions in some cases and acquittals in some. But the anger that has spilled on the roads after the Kathua and Unnao cases have more to do with the conduct of the BJP functionaries, whether it was at the time of trying to stop the Police from doing its job in Kathua or Yogi Adityanath's government drawing a flak from the Uttar Pradesh High Court that eventually saw a BJP MLA being arrested by the CBI.

The anger is also over the delayed and 'mild' words coming from the otherwise twitter-happy Modi. People expect more sensitivity from the prime minister in times like these.

It is in the latter context that one needs to revisit the Naliya rape case of Kutch district in Gujarat. Here the accused in the gang rape of the 34-year-old victim included some of the BJP leaders and office bearers. The police had booked ten persons in the matter. The victim was allegedly forced into a sex racket after the accused raped her for more than a year from August 2015 onwards. She had reportedly filed a complaint in January 2017 alleging that the accused recorded a video of the act and had blackmailed her.

“She had alleged that there were no less than 65 accused supplying 35 women to various people including political bosses. The uproar had forced the BJP government in the state to set up a commission of inquiry in March last year,” says social activist Meenakshi Joshi of Forum of Concerned Citizens that has been pursuing the matter. While announcing the Commission under Justice (Retired) AL Dave the minister of state for home Pradipsinh Jadeja had said that the panel would submit its report within three months of its first sitting.

Joshi says that the irony is that the Commission started functioning after 11 months and three days of its constitution which speaks a lot about the seriousness of the government. The Commission has now advertised twice for people to come forward and depose but no one has submitted an application for deposition till now.

“ Do you think people will have faith if there is such a delay in the functioning of the Commission. As it is the people fear for their safety. We are now once again trying to persuade the people to come forward and depose,” Joshi told Catch. The Commission has received three extensions till now.
The ten accused booked by the Naliya Police included Shanti Lal Solanki who was convener of the OBC cell in the BJP’s Abdasa taluka unit, Govind Parumalani who was a secretary in the BJP’s Gandhidham unit, Vasant Bhanushali and Ajit Ramwani who were BJP councillors in Gandhidham municipality.

All the ten were arrested and the BJP was compelled to suspend four leaders. However, there was no noise coming from Modi, Shah or any other senior BJP leader in this case.

Then who can forget the Patan 'marks for sex' scandal that had come to light in 2008? Here a Dalit girl student had alleged that she had been sexually abused repeatedly by none other than her six teachers at the Primary Teachers' Training College College in Patan, the constituency then represented by former chief minister Anandiben Patel, who at that time was Gujarat's education minister.

The College was the theatre of protests as many more girls had accused the teachers of molesting them for giving them higher internal assessment marks. The government was compelled to set up a fast-track court and eventually the guilty were convicted. The six accused are: Manish Parmar, Mahendra Prajapati, Ashwin Parmar, Suresh Patel, Atul Patel and Kiran Patel. While five of them are serving a life term, the sixth one is reportedly serving a ten year sentence.

Modi was the chief minister at that time and had remained silent over the entire episode except for one occasion where he had reportedly called the incident as the most 'shameful act' and promised all necessary steps for protection of girl students.

Like other states Gujarat has also witnessed some of the most horrifying rapes that have gone under-reported. These include the gruesome rape of a two and a half year old Nepali girl in Halol at the time when protests in Nirbhaya rape case were at its peak and the Bijal Joshi rape and murder case.

The noise in the Surat rape case is not expected to die down soon. Gujarat has started witnessing loud protests since Sunday. They are only going to increase.

First published: 16 April 2018, 18:41 IST