‘Little Nirbhaya’, political furore over Punjab gang-rape, Tripura waist-gate

The 14 February edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

A slum along railway tracks in Delhi. It was at a similar location in 2015 that a 4-year-old girl was raped and left for dead. The story of ‘Chhoti Nirbhaya’ continues to be told by the Quint. Photo: Vibhijain (CC BY-S.A 3.0)

Three years ago, a 4-year-old girl was sexually assaulted, mutilated, and left for dead near a slum in northwest Delhi. She survived the attack. Nicknamed ‘Chhoti (Little) Nirbhaya’ by the media, her story has been followed up ever since by the Quint (which has also won an award for a video on the case). This week, the struggles and triumphs of Chhoti Nirbhaya and her family were depicted in an unusual format: an illustrated story.

In the news pages, the gang-rape of a woman in Ludhiana, Punjab, has featured prominently due to a political debate arising over it. Politics is also the common ingredient in two other widely reported stories this week: the controversy over the Karnataka Assembly Speaker comparing himself to a rape victim, and the alleged “groping” of a Tripura woman minister’s waist by another minister.

Editor’s pick

“If the victim doesn’t know the accused, it is considered more relevant” as a news story — so said a national newspaper editor (who chose to remain anonymous) in an interview with Tasmin Kurien on how journalists report rape and what makes some stories get higher priority than others.

Across India: news since Monday

Last Saturday, a 21-year-old woman in Ludhiana was dragged out from a car in which she was travelling with a friend and sexually assaulted by as many as 10 men; medical reports have reportedly “confirmed gang-rape”. The case, however, made national headlines only after the issue was was raised in the Punjab Assembly on Wednesday, with the Opposition alleging that law and order has deteriorated in the state under the Congress government. In response, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has said that he will approach the state’s high court to fast-track cases of sexual assault. Three suspects have been arrested and a policeman suspended for not taking timely action upon receiving the complaint. The police have also released “sketches” of some suspects.

Incidentally, a case with startling similarities to the Ludhiana gang-rape has been reported from Jharkhand, but has received minimal news coverage. In this case, a 20-year-old woman who was travelling with a friend on his bike was reportedly intercepted by eight men who beat her companion and then sexually assaulted her. Two suspects have been arrested.

Politicians in trouble

Karnataka Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar has been “facing the heat” for saying that he felt like a “rape victim” because of the many questions he was being made to answer regarding allegations made against him by the Chief Minister. He has since apologised for his remarks, but has blamed the media for blowing the matter out of proportion in a quest for “masala” news. Firstpost, meanwhile, compiled a handy list of offensive quotes made about rape by various politicians.

Manoj Kanti Deb, a minister in the Tripura government has received flak after a video of him “groping” the waist of another minister,Santana Chakma, reportedly went “viral”. Opposition leaders have accused him of violating the “modesty, sanctity and dignity of the lone woman minister of Tripura” and have demanded that he be sacked and arrested for sexual harassment. However, Chakma, who in the video is seen removing Deb’s hand from her waist, has said that the video is “fabricated” and that “nothing vulgar” had taken place.

#MeToo/sexual harassment

Following #MeToo allegations against him, filmmaker Vikas Bahl will not be credited as the director of the film Super 30 until his name is cleared. While Bahl’s accuser dropped her case against him, she signed an affidavit stating that she was standing by her story.

Students of applied arts in Jamia Millia Islamia have been protesting against their head of department, Hafeez Ahmed, since January 30, reported the Quint. They have accused him of making “sexually coloured remarks” and subjecting those who responded negatively to his “wrath”.

A woman journalist with an English daily has said that she has been facing “political pressure to withdraw” her sexual harassment complaint against fellow scribe Rashpal Singh Bhardwaj. According to a report in the Hindu (which, interestingly, is the only major newspaper to carry this story), the woman has accused Bhardwaj of misbehaving with her several times and of trying to “defame” her on social media.

In Goa, a Navy commander has been booked for allegedly molesting a domestic worker at his house while his family was away. According to the Times of India, “naval sources” have said that the Navy will conduct a “thorough investigation” in the matter.

In the courts

The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted a rape accused and said that the victim’s testimony alone was not sufficient for a conviction.

A Madhya Pradesh schoolteacher who was sentenced to die for the rape of a four-year-old girl has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. Mahendra Singh Gond, whose execution has been scheduled for March 2 by a trial court, will be hanged only once he has exhausted all legal remedies.

Assault of minors

An imam (Muslim cleric) has been booked by the Kerala police for the alleged sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl. The victim, reportedly, pleaded with witnesses to not inform the police of the assault.

In Jalandhar, three out of four men men have been arrested for the gang-rape of a teenage girl. The survivor reportedly fractured her leg while attempting to escape from the attackers.

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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