NEW DELHI - Indian right-wing Hindu party Shiv Sena said Saturday filing sexual assault charges has ‘become a fashion’ in an article backing a police officer accused of rape.
The hardline Hindu nationalist outfit, based in western Maharashtra state and a key ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, threw its support behind a senior state police officer accused of rape by a model and questioned the complainant’s intentions. ‘Cases of charging men with molestation and rape in (high society) to create hype is on a rise now. It has almost become a fashion,’ the Shiv Sena wrote in its party mouthpiece, ‘Saamana’ (To Confront).
‘After he has served for so many years in the police force, one model now charges DIG (deputy inspector general) Sunil Paraskar with rape and in one night he becomes a villain. ‘Such accusations have become good weapons to seek personal revenge.’ It added the Indian judicial system needed to ‘open its eyes’ and protect the innocent because ‘all the laws in the country favour women so anyone can slap any charge against anyone’.
India toughened sex assault laws following the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012 which sparked nationwide protests, but the move has done little to stem sex attacks against women. The model who filed the rape complaint, and who cannot be named for legal reasons, hit out at the Shiv Sena article later Saturday. ‘This matter is in court, no-one should be commenting in sensitive matters like this without knowing all the facts,’ the woman told national news agency Press Trust of India.
Last month, the alleged rape of a six-year-old girl in a school triggered a series of street protests by angry parents and political activists over the lack of safety for women and children in the country. A 16-year-old girl in Dehi was also gang-raped at gunpoint in June while a seven-year-old girl was found hanging from a tree in a village in West Bengal state. Locals suspect she was raped.
In May, two girls in Uttar Pradesh state found hanging from a tree had been gang-raped in a case that sparked waves of public revulsion.
Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party promised a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to violence against women after it swept to power in May elections. However two state BJP ministers appeared to trivialise rape in June when one said the attacks happened ‘accidentally’ and another said they were ‘sometimes right, sometimes wrong’.
Uttar Pradesh’s Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh was also the target of public anger in April when he told an election rally he opposed a recently introduced death penalty for gang-rapists, saying, ‘Boys make mistakes’. The Shiv Sena, which has a history of inciting violence, came under fire earlier this month after some of its MPs tried to force-feed a chapati - an Indian flatbread - to a Muslim restaurant manager fasting for Ramadan because they were unhappy about food at a government canteen.