The Unnao rape case should have set an example for the Bharatiya Janata Party-run government in Uttar Pradesh on what not to do when it comes to crimes against women allegedly committed by the organisation’s own leaders. In Unnao, the authorities dragged their feet for months before taking action against influential BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, even as the party continued to support him – some senior leaders even visited him in jail. It was not until the Supreme Court picked up the matter following genuine threats to the lives of the woman and her family and transferred it to a court in Delhi that the BJP finally expelled Sengar.
Now, a similar script seems to be playing out with Chinmayanand, a former Union minister of state and three-time BJP Member of Parliament, who was accused of rape by a 23-year-old woman. As it stands, Chinamayanand has been booked under watered-down charges of sexual assault, not rape. He is currently in hospital rather than in jail, though doctors reportedly say his health is fine.
Instead, the woman who accused the Hindu monk of sexually exploiting her has been arrested and sent to jail after Chinmayanand filed a complaint accusing her of attempting to extort money from him. The police claims it has evidence against her, prompting a court to send her to judicial custody and deny her bail.
This seems to be the perfect encapsulation of what happens when BJP leaders are accused of crimes against women: the police treat the politician with kid gloves, while the woman is dragged out of her home and thrown into jail.
In an ideal world, both complaints should be investigated separately and evaluated as such. Yet, it seems clear to most people that the Uttar Pradesh authorities will side with Chinmayanand, and that the police’s efforts in the extortion case will be used to nullify the sexual assault case. None of the actions of the Uttar Pradesh authorities so far provide any confidence that they will treat the matter fairly.
Perhaps this is to be expected from a party that has the highest number of Union and state lawmakers charged with crimes against womenand leaders who routinely dismiss rape charges as being the fault of the women. Yet it also stands at odds with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to protect women from social harm, such as the “beti bachao, beti padhao” campaign against female foeticide and the BJP’s actions against triple talaq, “instant divorce” for Muslim women.
In the Unnao case, the Supreme Court finally stepped in after a lorry rammed into a car carrying the teenager, nearly killing her, one of a series of incidents that have left her family fearing for their lives. The Union government and the Supreme Court must pay close attention to the way Uttar Pradesh handles the Chinmayanand case as well. If not, the same series of tragic and outrageous developments from the Unnao case will repeat themselves.