POLITICS
02/07/2018 10:53 AM IST | Updated 02/07/2018 11:42 AM IST

Mandsaur Gang Rape: Right Wing Trolls Communalize Sexual Violence Against Children

False equivalence.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Muslim women take part in a protest against the rapes in Mandsaur and Kathua in Bhopal on July 1.

It is hard to imagine that the rape of an eight-year-old would evoke emotions other than profound sadness at the degeneration of Indian society, and anger at the state for failing to protect women and children from sexual violence.

But in the climate of religious polarisation, which is thriving under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), even the rape and brutalisation of children is slathered with communal colours.

In the recent case of the eight-year-old, who was kidnapped from her school in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, raped and had a rod inserted into her, there are sections of civil society who appear to be reveling in the fact that the two accused are Muslim. If left unchecked, focusing on religious identities in rape cases, in order to practice one-upmanship, will come to be accepted as just another facet of the toxicity pervading social media.

False equivalence

Earlier this year, the rape and murder of another eight-year-old girl, near the city of Kathua in Jammu, was also projected as a showdown between Hindus and Muslims by right-wing groups.

Even though it is clearly a false equivalence, right wing activists and trolls on Twitter set about comparing the Kathua and Mandsaur rape cases, while targeting "liberals," "seculars," and "feminists' for being less outraged when the accused happens to be Muslim.


While there was a outpouring of outrage at the gruesome rape and murder in Kathua, no one ever branded the Hindu community as rapists.

This attempt to add communal colour to the rape in Mandsaur, and allege a double standard, is shocking given the seriousness of the situation - the horrifying circumstances of this case - and how routine sexual violence is in general. It also makes no sense in light of the differences in the Mandsaur and Kathua cases.

There is a difference in not just the role of the police, but also in how the communities of the alleged rapists reacted.

In the current case, after the girl was kidnapped and raped on Tuesday afternoon, the MP police arrested the first suspect on Wednesday evening and the second one on Friday. The Muslim community, meanwhile, came forward to unequivocally condemn the attack. Local Muslim leaders in Mandsaur said that the rapists should get the death penalty and they vowed not to make any land available for them to be buried.

In the Kathua rape case, Hindu villagers had denied a piece of land for the girl to be buried.

The Hindu Ekta Manch, a right-wing organisation, had organised protests and rallies in support of and calling for the release of one of the seven accused, who was also a police officer.

In fact, the seven accused included four members of law enforcement. The family of the girl, who hailed from the nomadic Muslim community called Bakarwals, said the police had done little to find her. The chargesheet of the Jammu and Kashmir police said that the girl was gangraped in order to drive out the Bakarwal community from Hiranagar tehsil.

A group of lawyers tried to stop the police from filing a chargesheet against seven accused men. The the Jammu Bar Association called for a bandh, alleging the targeting of the "minority" Dogra community.

In the Mandsaur case, local lawyers have refused to defend the accused.

In the Kathua case, BJP officials, lawmakers and even ministers attended rallies organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch. In Mandsaur, a BJP lawmaker wanted the minor's family to thank him for visiting them. Another BJP leader announced that if the courts failed to hand out the death penalty, he would give ₹5 lakh to anybody who beheads the accused.

And still:

Meanwhile, thousands, both Hindus and Muslims, have joined protests to condemn the gangrape in Mandsaur and call for speedy justice.

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