The 22nd Congress of the CPI(M) expresses its horror and anguish at the unending spate of rapes and murders, especially of children, that have been taking place in the last few months.

A report released on the 18th April, 2018, by CRY, an NGO working on child rights, states that a sexual offence is committed against a child in India every 15 minutes.

Two recent cases have stirred the conscience of millions. The first is the rape in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, of a 17 year old who has named a BJP MLA as the perpetrator, and the subsequent killing of her father. The second case is the unimaginably brutal rape and murder of an 8-year old child in Kathua, Jammu.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest. Senior retired members of the Indian Police Service and Indian Administrative Service have written an open letter to the Prime Minister to express their “rage over the agenda of division and hate your party and its innumerable . . . offshoots . . . have insidiously introduced into the grammar of our politics, our social and cultural life and even our daily discourse. It is that which provides the social sanction and legitimacy for the incidents in Kathua and Unnao.”

In Unnao the victim accused the powerful BJP MLA, Sengar, of raping her on 4th June 2017.  Her accusations could not be recorded on June 4th.  She tried to immolate herself in front of the Chief Minister’s residence.  On 5th April her father was arrested on false charged lodged by the MLA.  He was beaten by police and MLA’s brother and died four days later.  At this point the High Court intervened saying that law and order in the state has collapsed.  Subsequently it ordered the BJP MLA’s arrest. This case is a clear example of the way in which a BJP Government protects its leader accused of rape of a minor.

The rape and murder of an innocent child in Kathua, Jammu is not only a horrific act of violence, but also a case with the potential to wreak havoc in the very sensitive State of Jammu and Kashmir and to tear apart the social fabric, already under so much stress, of the entire country. The victim belongs to a nomadic community of Muslim Bakerwals, who travel with their herds to forest lands around Jammu in winter. While they have been claiming title deeds to this land under the provisions of the Forest Dwellers Act, powerful, vested interests are involved in grabbing and encroaching on this same land. The presence of a BJP-PDP Government in the State has, course, given a license to majoritarian, communal elements to initiate a campaign aimed at the forcible removal of different Muslim communities, including the Bakerwals, from the area.

Sanji Ram, planned and executed the attack against the victim who was abducted on January 10th.  She was drugged and repeatedly gang raped.  Two policemen also raped her.  The motive for this cruel act was forcing the exodus of the girl’s community by creating terror among them.  It was aimed at ethnic cleansing.

While the crime was being worked out, Sangh Parivar members, including two BJP State Ministers, raised communal feelings to a hysterical pitch. One of the Ministers, Lal Singh, a former Congressman, is himself accused of grabbing forest land and, therefore, opposing the Bakerwals demands for title deeds.

Things came to a head when a mob of lawyers led by the President of the Bar Association (formerly the election agent of a Congress leader) prevented the police from filing the chargesheet in the court. It was then that the Supreme Court intervened and ensured that the chargesheet was filed and the accused arrested.

The Kathua case is a serious warning to all the citizens of our country. While we have seen instance after instance of the law being subverted, with members of the Muslim minority and people of the Scheduled Castes being the worst sufferers, the crime of happened in Kathua is unparalleled. The cold-blooded abduction, gang rape, and brutal murder of a child, huge mobilisation in support of the criminals involving members of the legal profession, Ministers and other supporters of the Sangh Parivar and other political parties, mobilizations that threatened to paralyse the justice system itself, are portents of a collapse of the secular and democratic framework of our polity.

The 22nd Congress of the CPI(M) demands that

• the SC oversee an enquiry into the behaviour of a large numbers of lawyers in Kathua who prevented the police from filing a chargesheet and that those found guilty be barred from practicing law;

• the families of the victim and her lawyer who has complained of threats and harassment, be given protection by the State of Jammu and Kashmir;

• all cases of gang rape and murder and rapes of minors be tried in fast track courts and that the guilty be given the maximum punishment permissible;

• Supreme Court rulings in respect of the provision of compensation and rehabilitation measures to rape victims be implemented by all the States; and

• All officers of the administration and police found to be shielding perpetrators of rape and sexual assault be punished and be removed from their posts.