Naming, shaming and newsrooms, Odisha minister quits, ‘political rape’

The 7 January edition of Note This — our round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault

Pradeep Maharathy has resigned as the agriculture minister of Odisha after his remarks on the acquittal of the suspects in a 2011 rape case caused a political controversy. Photo: Jnanaranjan Sahu (CC BY — SA 4.0)

The intersection of politics and rape culture has come into focus in three widely covered news stories: the resignation of an Odisha minister after he publicly supported the controversial acquittal of two men accused in the Pipli sexual assault case, the ‘rehabilitation’ by the Congress party of a Chhattisgarh police officer who has been accused of human rights violations and rape, and the allegedly politically motivated gang-rape of a BJP worker’s wife in West Bengal.

Editor’s pick

Why do Indian men, particularly those who are underprivileged, prefer to stay ‘off the record’ when talking to the media about sexual violence? asks NewsTracker’s Anunanya Rajhans in ‘The silence of men’. According to him, part of the problem is how “men are shamed for not being part of the discourse around rape even as they have been systemically excluded because of their class position”.

Across India: news since Thursday

The Pipli gang-rape case of 2011 has resulted in the resignation of a Biju Janata Dal minister in Odisha— for the second time. Pradeep Maharathy resigned as the agriculture minister of Odisha after he was condemned by political parties for supporting the controversial acquittal of two men in the gangrape and death case. His resignation came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticised the state government for not taking the matter “seriously”. Maharathy had also resigned as agriculture minister in 2012 after there was a “statewide hue and cry” over his alleged sheltering of the suspects; he was reinstated in 2014. The victim’s family has said the minister’s resignation “will not deliver justice” and are pushing for a CBI probe.

The recently elected Congress government in Chhattisgarh has been criticised in the media for its “rehabilitation” of Shiv Ram Prasad Kalluri, a senior officer of the Indian Police Service who has been accused of a series of human rights violations, ranging from fake encounters and murders to rape. According to Scroll, the Congress is “edging towards the wrong side of history” for appointing the former Bastar police chief as the head of the state’s anti-corruption bureau and economic offences wing. The volte face by the current Chief Minister Bhupesh Bhagel, who had earlier condemned the BJP government for not dealing more harshly with Kalluri, has not been missed. Baghel, among other things, had called Kalluri a “rapist … [whose] place is behind bars”. The Wire, in a report that details the gang-rape allegations against the cop, called Kalluri “one of the most controversial figures in the country’s recent police history”, pointing out how he “threatened and deported activists, lawyers and journalists whom he believed were detrimental to his scheme of anti-Naxal operations.

In West Bengal, a BJP worker has claimed that his wife was gang-raped by four men for political reasons. The Times of India reported that in his FIR the man said the alleged attacker “threatened her with harm if I dared to continue [as a BJP leader].” Stopping shy of blaming the Trinamool Congress directly, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha told Times Now that “there is not even one rapist and goon in West Bengal, who is not being shielded” by the party in power in the state.

Media and #MeToo

A number of editors have said that it is “time to move beyond naming and shaming” in the #MeToo movement, reported the Indian Express. At a panel discussion on ‘#MeToo in the Newsroom: What editors can and should do’ in New Delhi, there was general consensus that the focus should now be on “policy changes” , greater gender inclusivity in media houses and for “due process” to be put in place.

In other #MeToo developments, Suhel Seth, who was accused by several women of misconduct, recently enjoyed a “Christmas wedding” in the company of several leading lights in Delhi. The news was reported widely with a passing mention of the allegations, causing Leher Kala in the Indian Express to write that “#MeToo infamy has no social consequences”.

In Mumbai, actor Alok Nath, who has been accused of rape along with other sexual offences has been granted anticipatory bail, leading him to break his silence. He has thanked his wife for letting “my truth [be] her truth”.

Rape culture

In Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, a girl studying in class 11 was expelled from her school after she complained that she was molested by another student. The principal of the school told a news agency that “such girls… tarnish the image of the school”. However, a case has been registered by the police and Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya has said, “The girl will get justice”.

In Bhiwani, Haryana, a man and his mother have been arrested for allegedly “buying” a young woman for Odisha and forcing her into marriage. According to the Hindustan Times, the matter came to light when the girl attempted to escape by jumping fro the second floor of the house. She had said she was sexually assaulted for the past two months. In Haryana, which is infamous for its skewed sex ratio, it is a common practice to “buy” brides from other states.

In Ahmedabad, a a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) has been booked for allegedly sodomising and thus “abetting the suicide” of a trainee sub-inspector. The Quint spoke to family members of the deceased policeman who said he tried to maintain a front of normalcy and made his wife promise that she wouldn’t tell anyone about the sexual harassment.

In its ‘My Report’ series of citizen journalism, the Quint has published a harrowing account of how a group of women were attacked and molested during New Year’s Eve celebrations in a Delhi neighbourhood “as others cheered” and took videos.

In the courts

A sessions court in Mumbai has sentenced a “casting director” to life in prison for raping and blackmailing a 23-year-old aspiring actress and then sending intimate photographs of her to her husband and employer.

The Gujarat High Court has refused to “quash” an FIR against a man who was accused of raping his minor daughter, despite him claiming that he had reached an out-of-court “compromise” with her. The court has said that since the survivor is a minor, she cannot give consent to “quashing” the FIR, reported DNA.

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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