An inhuman system
Headlines in newspapers and television channels screamed of the plight of a young woman, mother of five children, in Charthawal town of Muzaffarnagar in western Uttar Pradesh, who was asked by the Ansari local panchayat to marry her rapist father-in-law. The place is not too far from the national capital. Her husband is spineless, and the woman has nowhere to go. She was raped by her father-in-law, when her husband had gone out for work.
The police dillydallied with the arrest of the rapist, maybe because he is a Muslim. The community which in normal circumstances should have protected the poor lady, has become her tormentor. Imrana married to a richshaw puller, Noor Elahi, narrated first her tale of horror to her husband. To her dismay, the husband preferred to remain silent because he was scared of his father. Unable to bear the suffering anymore, she left for her brother'splace.
When the incident came to the notice of the Ansari community panchayat, it branded the husband and wife as son and mother and asked Imrana to stay out of her husband'shouse for seven months and ten days so that she earns pakeeziat (purity).
What about the punishment under the Indian Penal Code for rape? Should we allow the rapist to go scot-free with the woman suffering the old tormentor as the new husband and accepting the shame before the eyes of her own children, because of Islamic obstinacy?
The bizarre side of the episode is that the panchayat is partial to the rapist, Muhammad, and cruel to the victim. She will not get justice. The decision was reached in the presence of Imam of madrasa Ashram-ul-uloom and that of Bhorewaali masjid Maulana, Shamim Ahmad. The clerics, according to reports, said that Shariat (Islamic law) stipulates that the husband and the victim would become son and mother as the latter was forced to have relationship with the former'sfather. What a crude sense of justice, that is! ?Since the provision of talaq is automatic, Imrana is free to marry anybody except her former husband,? they decreed. Though the lady is willing to go back to her husband, the panchayat declined her request, citing the Shariat.
This is a classic instance of religious fundamentalism stifling individual freedom and protecting the culprit of inhuman lust. This is the kind of a justice system that the Muslim Personal Law Board and Milli panchayat and other such bodies want to impose on modern Indian Muslims.
Muslim appeasement and vote-bank politics will stop leaders from speaking out, the State won'tintervene and the society is allowed to be pushed into the social ghetto of the medieval religious law. Even Islamic countries have modernised their legal system. Should India allow the backward march of the largest minority in the country to Dark Age jurisprudence in the name of secularism? If the religion does not protect the women of a particular community, then what is the IPC for?
Firing on farmers
Firing on farmers seems to have become an annual ritual in Rajasthan. The Rajasthan Chief Minister, Smt. Vasundhara Raje has done the right thing by taking action against the local District Collector, Superintendent of Police and other officials concerned. She was also alert to visit the site, announce compensation to the victims and ensure proper rehabilitation of the affected families.
But this is not enough. That farmers in India have to fight for water, power and mandi is strange. Even after fifty-eight years of Independence, we are not able to provide these basic requirements to a community that feeds the nation, a community which constitutes the major chunk of the country'seconomic activity, is a matter of shame. Of late, every effort is being made, in the name of liberalisation and reform to sideline the Indian farmer. He gets a raw deal in all planning proposals.
In the latest firing, five farmers were killed in Tonk district. Last year in October, it was Ganganagar, were six farmers had to give up life for the same reason. Rajasthan, like many other parts of the country, faces perennial water scarcity. This problem will further increase if the current policy of the Central Government to privatise water resources is taken forward. All studies point to a major water crisis in the coming decades.
The administration has to be more sensitive in dealing with farmers? problems, for they are our annadata (food earners). It is heartening that the BJP Chief Minister, who had returned from abroad and was staying back in Delhi, rushed to the Sohela village to meet the families of the deceased before going to Jaipur. She met the injured in the hospital, but the compensation is not sufficient. She has expressed her disapproval of the way the farmers? agitation was ham-handedly dealt with by the concerned authorities. She has conveyed the message that they should be more sympathetic to public problems.
Firing on farmers agitating for water is an unpardonable crime. There are many other ways of dealing with the situation with more vigil and accommodation. Let'shope the state government will rise to the occasion and find a lasting solution to the water problem in the state.