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Mainstream, VOL L, No 49, November 24, 2012

An Anatomy of the Rapes in Haryana

Saturday 1 December 2012, by Ranbir Singh

Haryana these days is in the news for the wrong reasons. There have taken place many incidents of rape of women of weaker sections in the State during the past one month. The media has been projecting it as a failure of governance. But the Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, has been asserting that those who have committed these crimes shall not be spared. While the Opposition parties of all hues have been using these unfortunate events to tarnish the image of the ruling party, the President of Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee, Phool Chand Mullana, has denounced the fact that these heinous acts are being sensationalised by them for giving a bad name to the State Government. On the one hand, P.L. Punia, the Chairman of National Commission for the Scheduled Castes, has not hesitated to declare Haryana as a ‘Rape State’; on the other hand, the AICC Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, has observed that such incidents are happening in other States as well. However, she has not only consoled the family of the rape victim from Narwana (Jind) who had committed suicide but also expressed the hope that the guilty shall be punished. (The Tribune, Chandigarh, November 9 and 10, 2012) But nobody has cared to trace the root causes for this tragic development or to suggest concrete ways and means to combat it. An attempt is being made in this write-up to fill up a part of that gap.

In fact, these sordid events merit a deeper probe for a better understanding of the objective situation that accounts for the rise of this ugly phenomenon. In this context, it may be submitted, in the first instance, that these are the logical result of the paradox of economic development and social decay in the State. While successive political dispensations have focused on economic development, they have virtually neglected social development. The present regime did take a few initiatives in this direction, such as promotion of the education of girls and schemes for the welfare of the weaker sections but these have so far not been able to have the desired effects due to their bureaucratic implementation and non-involvement of institutions of decentralised rural governance in this task.

Secondly, the problem will have to perceived, to borrow the words of the well-known social historian, Prem Chaudhary, as the ‘crises of masculinity’ due to the creation of a large cadre of unmarried rural youth because of the persistence of adverse sex-ratio of women in the State. This cadre has been gripped by the feelings of inferiority complex since marriage is deemed as a status symbol in the rural society of Haryana. The desperate among them have gone to the extent of raping soft targets to overcome these feelings.

Thirdly, the malady has to be seen as a psychological problem caused by widespread unemployment among the educated rural youth. They find it difficult to compete with their urban counterparts due to their poor educational background resulting from the poor quality of teaching in the rural schools. And they do not have the resources for getting higher education and technical/professional education in private institutions. Unfortunately, they wrongly blame the reservations for the Scheduled Castes and the backward classes for their unemployment. This frustration leads some of them to such brutal acts as rape on the helpless females from the weaker sections.

Fourthly, the problem will have to be looked at from the angle of ‘crises of identity’ which has overtaken the youth from the peasant castes that are very proud of their zamindar (land ownership) identity. The shrinking size of land holdings, the unviability of agriculture, mounting indebtedness, acquisition of land by the government and its voluntary selling by some of them due to lucrative prices offered by the builders is creating an apprehension among them that they will sooner or later join the ranks of the landless artisans from the backward castes and the agricultural labourers from the Scheduled Castes. This makes the perverted among them to indulge in such acts as the rape of women from the weaker sections to assert their zamindar identity.

Fifthly, the problem could also be seen as a fall-out of the breakdown of the Jajmani system (patron-client relationship) in the rural society after the Green Revolution of the 1970s. The artisan and Scheduled Castes are no longer dependent upon the dominant castes and hence they have not only begun to act independently while voting in the elections but have also begun to defy the peasant castes. The problem has been compounded by the emergence of an affluent class among the backward classes and the Scheduled Castes due to the benefit of reservations. This class has adopted the lifestyle of the dominant castes which has become unpalatable for the criminal elements among the dominant castes. They sometimes retaliate by such sordid actions as rapes to assert their power.

Lastly, this dangerous trend will also have to seen as a logical result of the gradual criminalisation of the rural society of Haryana over the years. It started with the criminalisation of politics in the 1980s. It was aggravated by the introduction of Complete Prohibition in Haryana in 1996 which made the unemployed rural youth to take to bootlegging. After it was lifted in 1998 and the vocation remained no longer lucrative, they began to indulge in other crimes. The criminalisation of the rural society has been further magnified by the spillover effect of the crime in the National Capital Territory of Delhi due to the location of Haryana at its threshold.

THIS brings us to the question: what can be done to check the menace? For this, in the first instance, there is an urgent need for promoting healthy police-public interface. The community policing also needs to be introduced for this purpose. While the police will have to be made more sensitive and efficient, the public too needs to be sensitised so that it develops a zero tolerance to crime against women.
Secondly, the Panchayati Raj Institutions should be actively associated in checking female feoticide and in the implementation of the programmes for social development in general and those for the empowerment of the women and weaker sections in particular. Their leadership will also have to be persuaded to change the PRIs’ agenda from kharanja-paranja (construction of streets and drains) to fight against such social evils as alcoholism, drug addiction and crime against women and weaker sections.

Thirdly, the civil society, media, youth organisations, women organisations, Sakshar Mahila Samoohs (groups of literate women) and Self-Help Groups of the poor women and other Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) should be activated for fighting this dangerous trend.

Fourthly, the government should also take effective measures for resolving the crises in agriculture by ushering in the Second Green Revolution through the use of bio-technology and by installing food, fruit and milk processing plants and setting up a chain of cold storages and by creating subsidiary and alternative avenues of earning for those engaged in agriculture.

Lastly, the government should also take immediate steps for tackling the problem of unemployment among the rural youth. It should not only strengthen the rural education system but also set up institutes for developing their communication skills. They should also be imparted vocational education. Besides, earnest efforts are needed for making higher and technical education affordable for them so that they are able to enter the modern vocations.

It may be added by way of a footnote that the knave suggestion of the Khap Panchayats to reduce the age of marriage of a girls and boys to 16 years from 18 and 21 years respectively for checking rapes, which has been endorsed by the Indian National Lok Dal leader, O.P. Chautala, is highly retrograde in character. It shall not only hamper physiological, psychological, academic and professional growth of boys and girls but will also retard the progress of the rural society in the State. And, it should be rejected outrightly. Instead, the suggestions that have been made by us in this context need serious consideration of policy-makers.

Prof Ranbir Singh is a former Dean, Social Sciences, Kurukshetra University, Kurkshetra.

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