Do women in Haryana need a different planet?

By Preeti Panwar | Last Updated: Oct 20, 2012, 23:58 PM IST

Haryana, a northern Indian state with historical significance where the epic battle of Mahabharata was fought at Kurukshetra; and one of the wealthiest states of the country with the third highest per capita income, could have emerged as a role model of development for other states.

But ironically, with at least nineteen rape cases – most of them involving teenage girls – being reported in just over a month this year, 367 in the first six months of 2012, and around 733 in 2011 (an average of 60 rapes a month, according to the National Crime Records Bureau), the pocket-sized Haryana has become a shame.

Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government is under fire and is scrambling to take control of the grim situation. Let’s glance through the harrowing stories of rape victims to understand the situation better.

While some lustful men in Haryana did not spare an innocent 13 year old girl, a 6th class girl was raped by a 60-year old fruit vendor in Panipat (ironically, the victim was expelled by school after the incident came to light) and a five-month pregnant woman was raped at gunpoint in her house. In the infamous gangrape case of a 16 year old girl in Jind district, the victim even committed suicide by immolating herself. A widow was raped in Ambala, a six -year-old girl was raped by three men in Gurgaon, the list continues. In Hisar district’s Dabra village, the father of a 16-year old girl who was gangraped by eight men committed suicide after police refused to file an FIR. A mentally challenged Dalit girl was also reported to have been raped in Rohtak, hometown of the present CM. Each and every case involves a heart-rending story, but the poor victims have sadly no shoulder to cry on except their flustered families.

Moreover, in most of the cases, the cowards who committed the heinous crime were daring enough to record the video of the incident and threatened the victim with dire consequences if the she tried to report the incident to anyone.

Ironically, this is the same state that boasts of a national champion women’s hockey team.

The pertinent question that strikes my mind is - what is the reason behind these incessant and grotesque rape cases? Is it the skewed sex ratio in the male dominated state that drives the men to commit this heinous crime?

On the other hand, instead of coming up with a concrete solution to tackle the growing cases of rapes, government authorities seem to be least bothered.

Recently, Haryana’s former chief minister and INLD leader Om Prakash Chautala stunned the nation when he backed the ridiculous idea of so-called Rohtak-based Khap panchayat that advocated ‘reducing the marriageable age of girls and boys from 18 years to 16 years to avoid rapes’. But if a 10-year old girl is raped how can one say that by reducing the marriageable age to 9, the problem will be solved!! And then, there are plenty of cases where married women are also raped?

In an unexpected move, a Mahapanchayat attended by several Khaps in Sonepat district refuted the idea that marriageable age of girls should be brought down to 16 years, saying the suggestion was "individual in nature" and should not be seen as stand of the body. This only confuses matters, as they didn’t endorse the legal ages of 18 and 21 either.

The former CM next day showed his real trait of being a politician when he took a U-turn in order to shield his public image. Are politicians any less than chameleons when it comes to changing colours?

Just two days after Chautala made the controversial remarks, a local Congress leader, Dharamvir Goyat came up with bizarre conclusion, “If we go into the details of rape cases and abductions, it is found that victims and accused in 90% of cases are runaway couples. So the cases are consensual.”

And then the next day, Congress MLA Sampat Singh gave an entirely new dimension to the rape horror by saying, “The society has witnessed new dimensions of growth, but the intellectual growth has not yet taken place resulting in such incidents in the society.”

Nothing can be more unfortunate than the families of rape victims being made to hear such ludicrous excuses.

If this was not enough, a khap panchayat leader of Haryana`s Jind district said, "To my understanding, consumption of fast food contributes to such incidents. Chowmein leads to hormonal imbalance evoking an urge to indulge in such acts. You also know the impact of chowmein, which is a spicy food, on our body.”

Can one imagine how chowmein (noodles) would lead to a rise in number of rape cases!!! Had this ‘out of mind’ man made this statement on some health-related issue, then it could have been digested… didn’t he even think twice before making such brainless remarks? Maybe he was trying to gain publicity but went horribly wrong in his explanation.

Haryana’s skewed sex-ratio, i.e. 830 girls to 1,000 boys, as per the 2011 Census, and maximum number of female feoticide cases and dishonour killings, have already made this state vulnerable for the fairer sex.

After drawing censure over a series of rapes, CM Hooda shifted to fire-fighting mode and announced a slew of measures, including enhanced patrolling and supervision by senior officers, to effectively check crimes against women.

Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde also gave a rather political statement by saying, "The Centre is in touch with the state government on the issue ... It is a serious matter particularly concerning Dalit people. This has been done (with Dalit girls) - so we are very serious on this.”

In order to punish the culprits, suitable legislations need to be made in our country and all rapists should be given death sentence or life imprisonment till death to teach them and others a lesson. Police need to spread more awareness on rape issues and maintain law and order, while politicians should rise above partisan interests to maintain dignity of girls and women in our country. Also, they should think twice before making amateurish remarks on such sensitive issues.

And importantly, rape victims should be handled with care - emotionally and psychologically - rather than traumatizing and ripping the soul of the victims by raising questions about their character. The authorities have to buck up to give a fitting answer to a patriarchal society.

A piece of advice to Khaps: before issuing Taliban-like diktats and putting forth absurd ideas, please come up with something concrete and logical solutions to curb the menace of rape; also, the solutions should be in sync with the present times. Instead of oppressing women, have the guts to take on criminals.

Whether it is Haryana or any other state, the zero political willpower should be replaced with zero tolerance policy towards such crimes. It is indeed a long battle ahead for the fairer sex to live without fear in this male-dominated society.