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Now that “dented and painted women” have protested in the cities, let us migrate to a happy pastoral life in the countryside. No less a worthy than RSS sarsanghchalak Mohanrao Bhagwat has assured us that crimes such as rape “hardly take place in Bharat, but occur frequently in India. You go to villages and forests and there will be no such incidents.... Indian ethos and attitude towards women should be revisited in the context of ancient Indian values”. One man truly well-versed in such values is Madhya Pradesh’s powerful industry minister, Kailash Vijayvargiya, who quotes from the Ramayana to warn women of the terrible fate that awaits them if they cross the lakshmanrekha—“Ravana will be waiting”. He also advocates dupattas and ghunghats and presumably eyes demurely downcast. If that still does not deter Ravana, young women can perhaps heed influential godman Asaram Bapu’s advice and plead with their tormentor—brother, don’t do this....
There is something so outrageous in these remarks that one can only shake one’s head in disbelief. Forget about that crude, simplistic binary—‘India’ vs ‘Bharat’. The reality gives us an unyielding homogeneity of cruelty. Urban rape now gets attention, but rape has been visited upon the women of the countryside for centuries now. It has been part and parcel of upper-caste landlordism. In say Bihar, it’s only after post-Mandal politics changed the landscape not so long ago that this reality changed—a bit. The unspoken, fatalistic acceptance is now going. But rape still happens routinely in villages, kasbas, forests, small towns. Men prey on women almost casually.
We bring you stories that tell you one thing all Indians should already know. That rape is worse and more rampant in rural stretches, away from the urban media glare. In West Bengal, the furore might have been over the Park Street rape case, with politicians tying themselves up in knots. But little has been heard of the North 24 Parganas stretch where almost 80 women were raped in six years till one man stood up to fight for them. And he is now dead. We look at the frightening statistics for rape in Madhya Pradesh. And ten minor tribal schoolgirls subjected to this horrible fate in in Chhattisgarh, the state where the government’s fight against “India’s gravest internal security threat” has itself often wrought all manner of violence on the citizenry. In Kerala, the cases take on a particularly horrific edge. They all tell us another, persistent truth: rape has nothing to do with the way a woman dresses or behaves. It has nothing to do with ‘modernity’. It is certainly not an urban malaise. It happens because men can, and do mostly, get away with it.