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The Daily Fix: Why do reports of mass rape of Adivasi women by the police fail to elicit outrage?

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The Big Story: Subjects not citizens

State violence against India’s Adivasis is a tale as old as the Indian state. Yet, even by this standard, reports of the alleged mass sexual assault of Adivasi women in Chhattisgarh is shocking. On the weekend, the National Human Rights Commission said there was prima facie evidence to prove that at least 16 Adivasi women had been raped by security forces in Chhattisgarh. It said that it was able to examine only 14 of 34 women who are alleged to have been sexually assaulted by the police. The sexual violence was accompanied by looting of property.

Yet, so disconnected are India’s urban residents from the plight of their Adivasis fellow citizens that this act – almost like that of an invading army – has failed to elicit outrage. In fact, the National Human Rights Commission itself has taken a rather mild view of the situation, recommending only a monetary fine on the Chhattisgarh state. It said nothing about criminal prosecutions of the rapists and their superivising officers.

The incident shines a spotlight on the Indian state’s treatment of Adivasis. The region suffers from debilitating poverty and neglect. Starvation and disease that most of the world has moved on from still affect India’s Adivasis. In 2016, for instance, 93 severely malnourished children died from encephalitis in Odisha’s Malkangiri. It seems the only time the Indian state takes an interest in these regions is when it wants to tap its minerals. Recently, the Modi government has even sanctioned air strikes on India’s Adivasi belt, copying the Pakistani government in Baluchistan.

It isn’t only the Indian state that displays a medieval level of callousness towards its own citizens. India’s influential city dwellers – who have the power to get the state to act – are also quite unconcerned with the shocking levels of depredation in their midst. The story of sexual molestation in Bengaluru appeared at about the same time as the National Human Rights Commission issued its order about the Chhattisgarh mass rape. Yet, only one story went viral in the English-language media. The double standard could hardly be starker.

The Big Scroll

Chhattisgarh must identify and prosecute policemen who raped 16 women, reports Raksha Kumar.

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Punditry

  1. It is one thing to insist on secularism in elections; it’s another thing for the Supreme Court to effectively allow appeals to the majority religion but not to minority religions, argues Noah Feldman in Mint.
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For what? To whom?

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