News footage and Kathua case, ‘malicious and fake’, victim purification
The 18 June edition of Note This — our weekly round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault
‘False accusations’ of sexual assault have become a hot topic due to two high-profile cases, involving India’s ‘poster children’ of #MeToo and #MenToo respectively. In addition, the Kathua verdict has continued to be the subject of media scrutiny.
In the ‘The rapes on Page 9’, NewsTracker’s Saumya Agarwal takes a closer look at the news reports of sexual offences that never make it to the front page and which are rarely, if ever, followed up by the media.
Across India: news since last Tuesday
The acquittal last week of one of the accused in the Kathua case on the basis of news channel footage has raised some questions.
In ‘Zee News footage that got Kathua suspect acquitted will now drive J&K govt’s appeal’, the Print explains how “the same piece of evidence that got him absolved” could spell bad news for Vishal Jangotra. He is the son of Sanjhi Ram who is believed to have masterminded the rape and murder of the eight-year-old victim. The prosecution claims that the news channel’s footage,which showed Jangotra at another location at the time of the crime, had not been forensically analysed.
Other reports have noted that the court gave precedence to the TV footage and “disregarded eyewitness accounts [of Jangotra’s presence in Kathua] presented by the prosecution”.
By and large, however, media coverage of the verdict has been laudatory. In ‘Healing a wound’ , the Indian Express says it is “reassurance that the criminal justice system can hold its own in a politically-fraught moment”, while in ‘A welcome verdict’, the Hindu says the case “represents a triumph of justice over communal propaganda”.
Others have dug deeper into the sociopolitical contexts of the crime.
In ‘Most now see disease, but symptoms of communal strife were always there in Jammu and Kashmir’, Sameer Yasir in Firstpost writes about the “mindset” of the prime accused.
In ‘It’s the criminal, not his religious identity, stupid!’ Namita Bhandare writes in The Hindustan Times that “when the religion of the perpetrators becomes more important than the crime itself, you know that you are witnessing a civilisational breakdown”.
#MeToo and #MenToo
Two high-profile cases in Bollywood have received extensive media coverage over the past few days.
In the first, the sexual harassment complaint of Tanushree Dutta against actor Nana Patekar (which triggered India’s #MeToo movement) was dismissed by the police as “malicious and fake”. Dutta has since accused the police of being in cahoots with Patekar. According to a detailed report in the Indian Express, eyewitnesses contested Dutta’s description of events.
In the second case, a woman who accused TV star Karan Oberoi (described as the face of #MenToo in India) of rape was arrested for ‘staging’ an attack on herself in order to implicate him. In an in-depth interview with the Times of India, Oberoi describes the month he spent in jail and why he thinks #MenToo “complements” #MeToo.
In ‘What the staged attack in Karan Oberoi’s case means for #MeToo’, Pankhuri Shukla in the Quint teases out problematic aspects of the discourse on “women misusing the law”.
In Madhya Pradesh, a village panchayat has allegedly declared that a 16-year-old sexual assault survivor must be “purified” via a community feast and religious ceremony since the rapist belongs to a lower caste. The survivor’s father has said he cannot afford to meet these demands and is being ostracised by villagers, reported NDTV.
In Uttar Pradesh, a 24-year-old woman allegedly hanged herself because of the police’s delay in filing an FIR against the three men who she said raped her. Her body was found by the police hours after the FIR was finally registered. A station house officer (SHO) has been suspended for negligence, reported the Indian Express.
Crime and punishment
Last week, a POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) court in Rajasthan sentenced a man to death for the rape and murder of a five-year-old girl. However, the impact of increasingly harsh sentences remains a matter of debate, especially in the absence of recent official statistics.
In ‘Is law failing our children?’ Roshan Kishore in the Hindustan Times points out that the conviction rate remains low and that there has been an increase in the number of suspects being bailed while on trial for POCSO cases. He also draws attention to “the lack of sensitivity of the police, courts, and other arms of the government” in sexual assault cases.
In ‘Justice that heals’ , G S Bajpai, chairperson of the Centre for Criminology and Victimology at the National Law University in Delhi, argues that “restorative justice” should be deployed in POCSO cases. He writes, “A restorative justice approach would require the POCSO Act to concentrate on the victims’ needs — material, financial, emotional and social”.
This roundup is curated from the RSS feeds of more than 30 English news publications from across India.
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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