Alok Nath in MeToo film, Muzaffarpur testimonies, gang of serial rapists jailed

The 4 March edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

Guntupalli Caves in Andhra Pradesh were the site of a brutal rape and murder last month. The police have now arrested a ‘gang’ of four men, believed to be responsible for at least 32 rapes. Photo: Vedaradha (CC by SA 3.0)

The murder of a college student while she and her boyfriend were visiting Guntupalli Caves in Andhra Pradesh made news in February, rife with media speculation about suspects and motives. The police now say a gang of four serial rapists/killers committed the crime. What grabbed most headlines over the past few days, however, was the revelation that actor Alok Nath, who was accused of rape and sexual misconduct in the #MeToo movement, has been cast as a judge in a film called #MainBhi (Hindi for #MeToo).

Editor’s pick

The term “victim” does not necessarily need to be replaced with “survivor” for those who have lived through sexual assault, says eminent victimologist Dr Beulah Shekhar. In an interview with NewsTracker’s Harikesh P, she also discusses victims’ rights as well as how media representation can affect crime reporting rates.

Across India: news since Thursday

Four men have been arrested in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari District for raping and killing a college student and seriously wounding her boyfriend. The police have said that the “gang” had sexually assaulted as many as 32 women and killed four people since 2017, reported the Times of India. The gang’s preferred modus operandi was to target couples who visited secluded areas to spend time together. Prior to the conclusion of the investigation, the media coverage featured plenty of speculation, ranging from “honour killing” as a motive to the woman’s boyfriend orchestrating the attack.

The trial in the Muzaffarpur shelter home case, involving the systematic sexual abuse of more than 30 girls in a Bihar facility, continues to be tracked closely by the media. On Saturday, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told the Delhi Court that the main suspect Brajesh Thakur would be charged with “rape, kidnapping and causing hurt” based on the testimonies of 33 victims. The court, however, said that the charges could not be clubbed together and each offence would have to be listed separately.

#MeToo

A Mumbai Mirror report on actor Alok Nath’s role as a judge “who takes a strong stand against sexual harassment” in a film about #MeToo has been picked up by most publications. Nath, who was accused of rape by TV writer Vinta Nanda and of sexual misconduct by several others, has said that he shot for the film “a while ago”. The Quint has described Nath’s role in #MainBhi (#MeToo) as a “mega irony” and Nanda has been quoted as saying that she is “speechless” at the “ironical casting”. Another film about #MeToo is also in the offing. Actress Tanushree Dutta, who kickstarted the movement in Bollywood, is making a short film called Inspiration that she says will feature stories from Mumbai’s film industry.

Fimmaker Rajkumar Hirani will reportedly be part of the FICCI Frames media conclave “despite #MeToo allegation”, reported Mid-Day. Hirani, who has had his name dropped from the credits of a movie after the accusation, says he is innocent and continues to garner support in Bollywood and beyond because of his “clean image”.

Journalists Rituparna Chatterjee and Sandhya Menon have been named by Forbes India as being among the “#MeToo crusaders” who have brought “sexual harassment conversations in the public domain”. With reportage on #MeToo dwindling over the past few months, the challenge for them now is to “keep the issue relevant”, says the piece.

Death penalty

Amid reports that the death row convicts in the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case may file a “curative petition against the death penalty”, the chairperson for the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), Swati Maliwal, has written to the President of India, asking that the four men be “hanged at the earliest”. She also wrote that there should be “guarantee of justice” within six months in rape cases.

The government of Maharashtra has argued that the death penalty for rape in the case of repeat offenders is justified since it is a “graver offence than murder”, reported DNA. Advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni also said, “What happens across the world cannot be accepted in India”.

Assault of minors

In Madhya Pradesh, a man has been arrested for the rape and murder of his 10-year-old niece. The story was reported widely (unlike several others involving children), with most reports emphasising that he abandoned the victim’s body in a biogas tank.

In Palghar, Maharashtra, a 12-year-old boy has been booked for allegedly raping a 10-year-old neighbour for several months. The victim revealed the crime after it was discovered that she was pregnant.

Rape culture

An in-depth report in Scroll has detailed how 16 schoolgirls in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, “were denied justice” after they accused Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel of sexually assaulting them during a Raksha Bandhan function at a school. While the victims were eventually offered “compensation” (which some refused to accept) by the district administration, a botched investigation led to the accused men “walking free” in January, says the report.

In Indore, Madhya Pradesh, a rape-accused who was out on bail has been accused of barging into the house of a 19-year-old girl and molesting her.

Read more

This roundup is curated from the RSS feeds of more than 30 English news publications from across India.

See a fuller list of rape and sexual violence cases reported today, and earlier this week.

Use our case filter to read reports on specific cases: #MeToo, #KeralaPriest, #RapeOfMinors, #Muzaffarapur, #PoliticsOfRape (use the dropdown menu in column A).

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