by Sakshi Shrivastava, Member, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus
Sadhana is raising funds for the victims of the gruesome rapes in Kathua and Unnao in India. We have partnered with CrowdNewsing, the community that is officially fundraising in India. The money will go towards the legal fees for the court cases and to the families of the victims. We can not undo the horror, but we can help ease their pain. Please consider donating here.
We are devastated. We are ashamed. We are outraged.
Last week, two news stories of gruesome rapes broke over the media and shook us to our core. The first one came to light on April 8th, when a minor girl tried to commit suicide in front of the home of the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, India. On June 4th, 2017, she was raped in Unnao, UP, by Kuldeep Sengar, a lawmaker belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and his brothers. The second case was reported by the mainstream media on April 12th. An eight year-old girl, Asifa, was raped in Kathua, Kashmir, by six men. They kept her in captivity in a Hindu temple, sedated her, tied her up, and raped her repeatedly for five days. Then they bludgeoned the little child to death.
Violence against women is a global problem, but the perpetrators in both these cases were agents of Hindutva--divisive, patriarchal, extreme right-wing Hindu nationalism. In the first instance, the accused, Kuldeep Singh, belonged to the BJP, the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hindutva chief minister "Yogi" Adityanath. After the minor girl was raped, the local police repeatedly refused to file the complaint. When her family filed a case in the court, the authorities worked in league with the ministers and erased all medical reports and evidence. The family’s pleas for justice were ignored. These rapists had the entire government and law enforcement working to protect them. The victim’s father was arrested under false pretenses and beaten mercilessly, leading to his death. Imagine how far one has to be driven to be willing to set fire to oneself in order to be heard. Is this what it takes for a woman to be heard in India?
The incident in Kathua was a vulgar and blatant conspiracy led by a retired revenue official, Sanji Ram, and seven other men to instill fear in the hearts of the Muslim Bakherwal community living in the village. The rape was not just about their disgusting lust, it was about asserting power over a minority community by turning the body a Muslim girl child into a war-zone. They invited a friend over from another city to come and “satisfy” himself, and they postponed that poor child’s death so that one of the rapists could rape her one last time. As soon as the accused were identified, a local BJP leader formed an organization called Hindu Ekta Manch: "Hindu Unity Platform." Around 4,000 people marched under their banner -- in defense of the rapists. As Hindus, it is a matter of utter shame and disgust to us that rather than jumping to the defense of these victims, they marched in solidarity with the rapists.
Prime Minister Modi only spoke after pressure started building from the opposition and the media, both national and international. Ever so conscious of this image, Modi gave a noncommittal assurance that the accused will be punished and unintelligently addressed India’s rape crisis by asking parents to be aware of their son’s whereabouts.
When the Hindu nationalist government of India uses the word ekta (oneness or unity) to create a platform to defend rapists, it becomes imperative to assert the progressiveness, beauty, and humanity of true ekta and Hinduism. What is currently happening in India in the name of Hinduism is inhumane and shameful. Sadhana, our coalition of progressive (religious, cultural, secular, atheist and various other kinds of) Hindus is coming together to take action against injustice and serve our fellow beings. We at Sadhana celebrate a Hinduism that transcends and celebrates differences as a force of love and justice. We consider ourselves responsible citizens of the world, and so we must call attention to the saffronization of India, forced upon by the ruling party. We must come forward and reject this terror that is Hindutva. We must demolish patriarchy in all the ways it manifests in our societies. Enough has been done in our name, and enough violence has been done to our girls.
Join us in our rally, “United for Justice” on Monday, April 16 at 6 P.M at the Gandhi Statue in Union Square. We’re taking concrete action in support of the victims of these two horrific rape cases by raising funds for their cause and building a united movement towards justice. Let’s use our grief and anger and channel it towards actionable solutions. Fundraising is just the beginning.