Shakespeare, in ‘Julius Caesar’ wrote, ‘The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins remorse from power.’ Little would Shakespeare have thought that Indian politicians would give his words their true import.

The recent reports of rapes in Uttar Pradesh have brought out the worst in our politicians. Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Babulal Gaur’s statement, that rape may sometimes be right and sometimes wrong, was appalling, to say the least. He went further on to defend Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav, saying that rapes happened everywhere and there was little that the two could do to prevent them. His statements, brutal as they are, reflect the abysmal state of politics in India and its inhuman vanguard.

The UP rapes have shocked the nation just as much as they have frightened millions of women in that state. Such news, disturbing as it can be, is worsened by the insensitive, callous and remorseless statements of politicians. To the distinguished denizens of the ruling party in UP, however, goes the distinction of making some of the most callous remarks.

Challenging the proposal of awarding capital punishments to perpetrators of rape, the Samajwadi Party supremo, Mulayam Singh Yadav, said that boys sometimes commit mistakes, but they cannot be hanged for them. It was bizarre of him to take the ‘boys will be boys’ tack to address a serious law and order issue. As if that was not enough, his son, CM Akhilesh Yadav commented that rapes took place all over the country and the media was unjustifiably focussing on Uttar Pradesh. Another senior Samajwadi Party leader, Abu Azmi, had made the  condemnable statement that even women should be punished if they are raped. He said that only such a law could be the solution to such frivolous complaints being filed.

When a journalist covering the Badaun incident questioned Akhilesh Yadav on the law and order situation in UP, he responded by asking if she had faced any danger. Thereby implying that the fact that the journalist did not face any danger or threat showed that the law and order situation in the state was fine. So, does he believe that the situation is bad only when every woman walks around terrified of what may befall her?

Another SP leader, Ramgopal Yadav’s comment was that when relations soured, accusations of rape were made.

In the aftermath of the December 16, 2012 gang rape of the 23-year-old paramedic student too, politicians made bizarre and disgusting statements. The RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, said that western culture had led to the increased number of rapes in the country. Kailash Vijayvargiya of the BJP, cited the Ramayana, touching upon the abduction of Sita by Ravana, and said that if women crossed limits, they ought to be punished. There have been many more statements made by politicians across all parties and states that have been downright disgusting.

It is only natural to feel sorry for the victims and hang our heads in shame each time a Nirbhaya is violated. The inevitability of being pained upon witnessing suffering, wherever it may be – in whatever form, is only human. Indian politicians seem to defy human nature. Young, innocent, helpless girls being violated is a crime which must deeply affect even the most patriarchal of souls.

To say that politicians, who make such crass comments, are but prisoners of their patriarchal thoughts and minds is being charitable to them. Such thoughts border on psychopathy. Patriarchy cannot create such a firewall that it keeps off that most fundamental of human emotions – empathy.

Perhaps, empathy flows from some sense of fear of being a possible victim, of the possibility of being in the place of the person who has suffered. Politicians, cocooned in their safe, secure lives, insulated from the fears a common man faces, can never relate to the agony of a girl abducted, raped and finally deprived of her life – without consent.

The ghastly Badaun incident has left the country shocked. It is an incident that reminds the country of its failings – of the blight of gender differentiation, the imbalance in the exploitative caste system and the helplessness of the justice system. The incident has, in fact, mobilised the otherwise urban-oriented media to take cognisance of such horrendous occurences in rural areas too. Rape is no longer solely a feminine issue – it is an issue that affects all. While civil society is making concerted efforts to address it, politicians remain unaffected, unmoved and completely inhuman in their responses.

Do we ask for too much if we expect our leaders to be considerate of the feelings of the very people that elected them? The tall promises of development and inclusive growth are antithetical to the rampant incidents of rape and the callous attitude of the politicians. The maintenance of law and order are non-derogable duties of politicians and every single incident of crime is a failure in the discharge of this obligation. Instead of covering their failings by making outrageous, insensitive and obnoxious statements devoid of remorse or regret, politicians will do much good to their reputation by responding humanely.  This is our fervent appeal to the leaders that we supposedly elected.

(The writer is a lawyer at the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, New Delhi.

He may be reached at ankur.khandelwal@outlook.com)

Ankur Khandelwal

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