The state of Haryana is yet again hogging the limelight for all the wrong reason. A procession of sexual assaults unleashed on women has rocked the state which already has a dubious record of crimes and atrocities against women. As many as 8 rapes were recorded in a span of mere 6 days, most notably a 3 and a half year old child being raped by a minor boy of 15 years in Hissar. As a reflection of the times we live in, one of the top cops of Haryana, R C Mishra, additional director general of police, Ambala had outrageously remarked that rapes were “a part of society”. The Chief Minister of Haryana, M L Khattar firstly said “ I am hurt” (by the rape incidents) and later accused the media for falsely sensitizing the rape incidents in the state.
In Haryana, women remain underrepresented in every walks of life and “ghoongat pratha” continues to be hailed as a matter of pride. The khap panchayats flout every rule in the law book day in and day out. As if by mounting crimes against women, the male dominated society affirms and reaffirms a message to women that the baton of everything lies with men only. The present Chief Minister of Haryana’s infamous and insensitive comment linking rapes with women’s attire was a natural outcome of the same patriarchal mindset. The backwardness of society coupled with the lack of political will and intent have failed the state. If we closely look the social fabric of the society in the so called Hindi-belt of northern India and especially Haryana, the answers are far from encouraging when we visualize 21st century India. Patriarchy, sexual perversion, casteism, xenophobia and misogyny form the bedrock of social strata. The primitive character is in some way related to the unhealthy obsession with religion, never-ending rituals, traditions, customs and superstitions.
Bharatiya Janta Party, masters at dishing out catchphrases at will, coined the slogan “ Beti Bahao Beti Padhao”, for the proclaimed government initiative to safeguard and protect the fundamental rights of girl child. Crores of money was spent on advertising the catch phase. But alike almost all other PR initiatives of the Modi regime, this one also seems to be biting the dust, more so in the state of Haryana.
According to National Crime Record Bureau data, one gang rape is perpetuated every two days in Haryana and the rate (gang rape per one lakh population) is 1.5%, which is the highest amongst all states in India, against the national average rate of 0.3%. The rape rate in Haryana is 9.4% compared to the national figure of 6.1%. A case can be argued that if girl children and women are not protected and allowed to live free without any fear and intimidation, then how you can empower them with education. However a few days back, the Haryana government revealed a data with great fanfare claiming that the state has registered the highest sex ration in recent time of 914 girls against 1000 boys in 2017 against 900 in 2016 and 876 in 2015. But this data remains a tiny fertile spot in otherwise a big dry desert.
The propagandists of nationalism keep glorifying the greatness of ancient Indian civilization to stimulate our adrenaline and to fill our hearts with sense of pride. The State backed by official rabble rouser nationalist TV channels is successful in laying a blanket cover on the darker facets of Indian traditions. Hindu vs. Muslim and Pakistan issues have been made crucial to divert our attention from the non-negotiable question of India’s inclusive growth as a nation. The question remains; are we anywhere close to being among the most socially, economically and politically advanced nations of the world?
Demands of resignation of the Chief Minister of Haryana are not adequate. Questions must also be asked to what measures had the political class of Haryana (be it Khattar government or the previous governments) took over the years to evolve the state into a modern society by dumping regressive legacies. This question is equally pertinent for the other states of Hindi heart land. This is little doubt that M L Khattar has to go, not only because he is an incompetent Chief Minister who has time again failed to control the law and order in the state, also because he is unable to take a primitive society with regressive practices forward. Herein lays the greatest danger to a failing society. If Hooda’s answer was Khattar, then what will precede Khattar? The political alternative is desolate. Who will attempt to wipe out social dogmas, fatalistic outlook, caste divisions and gender discrimination? Without eradicating these, women will not be safe and continue to remain an easy target. It will be a mistake to look at the recent series of gang rapes or other atrocities on women at large only through either social or political prism. Both paradigms are wretchedly entwined together. Social values are constantly on a downward trend and political apathy in the echelons of power does not intent to offer holistic rectification. This is very disturbing in our pursuit to become a mature society.