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Shocking abdication

Opinion |

When the Central government invoked the “state subject” alibi to disown its duty on cow vigilantism, few would have imagined the same protective cover would extend to politically-patronised goons who deem young women “fair game”.

Yet Chandigarh is a Union Territory directly under North Block, so calling for a report on the stalking and attempted abduction of a young woman professional was a less-than-token effort: particularly since the prime accused is the son of the president of the Haryana unit of the BJP.

Rajnath Singh and Kiren Rejiju will never live-down the infamy resulting from a shameful abdication of responsibility towards women. Where there ought to have been immediate and ringing condemnation to show they are different, there was nary a word from them, and it was left to unrelenting public pressure to force the Chandigarh police into abandoning a patent cover-up exercise.

Sure, eventually, the law appears to be taking its course but the home ministry can claim little credit for that, even if it now attempts to project a positive image: it would be too little, too late.

Claims of the police that they were under no pressure rings hollow, had there not been such huge outrage in society the “missing” video evidence would never have re-surfaced, nor more substantive sections of the law added to the case against Vikas Barala and his co-accused.

There will be need to sustain that pressure: cases against political entities are frequently diluted once the matter fades from the front pages.

There will also be need to ensure that the victim’s father, an IAS officer who resisted the politicians and stood by his daughter, is not subsequently “fixed”.

Politicians have long, vicious, memories. In popular perception the BJP leadership in New Delhi tried to connive with its strongmen in Haryana to protect one of their own. Legal technicalities and criminal jurisprudence apart, there is a moral dimension to the affair, and the party leadership has done nothing to convince the public that it has taken the Barala-clan to task.

On the contrary, some BJP activists, including a junior minister in Narendra Modi’s council, have proceeded to not only underplay the stalking but join in the attempt at assassinating the young victim’s character. Or to ask why non-BJP politicians were not so vocal after other sick incidents?

Maybe the party’s national president was pre-occupied with Gujarat, surely others could have admonished the Haryana leaders.

Sushma Swaraj, who hails from the state, has portrayed herself a heroine to afflicted-women in Pakistan ~ a little domestic action would have been appreciated.

How the case against Barala proceeds is a legal issue, yet in the political sphere there would now be reason to believe that BJP workers would be in danger of choking on their words if they dared utter beti bachao…