The past few days have seen a miasma of rape stories fill our newspapers and television screens -- first the Saudi diplomat booked for the gang rape and sodomising of two Nepali women and then the glorious khap panchayat that allegedly ordered that two young women be raped in Baghpat, UP for their brother's "crime" of eloping with a girl of a higher-caste community.
While the khap incident has generated intense media scrutiny and garnered worldwide attention, including from Amnesty International, I think governments of both countries -- India and Saudi Arabia -- are probably looking to bury the Nepali rape incident as soon as they possibly can.
Although the nature of the crimes in both cases is very different -- in the sense that one has occurred and the other has been threatened -- I cannot help but conclude that the end result will be the same, i.e. no parties will be charged and the women will be left to fend for themselves. I know I sound pessimistic but bear with me.
"In the end, the guilty parties in both these cases are many but no one will be tried or punished. Their actions will be forgotten and their crimes dissolved."
Take the case of the Saudi diplomat -- in a country where rape victims are often punished for the crime, it is unlikely his government will take a strong stand with him for this incident. Also, as far as India's position is concerned, diplomatic immunity has all but guaranteed his freedom. So even while Nepal might take offense with India's stand, we stand to lose a lot more by pressing this matter further with Saudi Arabia (think oil).
Meanwhile in Baghpat, the details of the case are so complex with multiple layers, that it is almost impossible for one person or a group of persons to be held liable for issuing the rape diktat. First of all, there is little proof that such an order was even issued. Despite the girls' Supreme Court petition, the Jat community in the village insists no such khap meeting or diktat too place. Within the village, there is silence on the matter and no one else is willing to give up any information for possible fear of retribution from the higher caste.
So while the existence of such an order is debated, the truth of the matter is that the girls' lives are well on the path to ruin. Fear of rape will ensure they never return to their village, which in turn means they cannot continue their studies. The real problem of this case is two people of different castes falling in love, but the real sufferers are two girls who have absolutely nothing to do with it.
I am not discounting what Ravi (the Dalit male who fell in love with a Jat girl and is now in jail on what is most likely a bogus narcotics charge) and his lover (who now claims she was raped and that she never loved him) are enduring. Anyone who has grown up in a strict Indian household knows the comments we make under pressure, which is most probably what is happening with the girl here. While neither of the lovers deserve what they are suffering, my heart goes out to the two girls who tried to do everything right, knowing their status and their gender in a male dominated village and still ended up in the line of fire.
In the end, the guilty parties in both these cases are many but no one will be tried or punished. Their actions will be forgotten and their crimes dissolved. Another news story will catch our attention and the women from the Saudi case and the girls from the khap case will be erased from our memory. But those victims, whose lives are uprooted and futures obliterated, will never forget what transpired in their lives. Honest, meaningful lives will once again be destroyed and we will have very little recourse for them.
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