Appalling to find police and lawyers defending men calling for rape

Women are hugely disappointed to find UP Police and senior lawyers defending in the Supreme Court 'men of god' calling for rape. The Supreme Court hopefully would pull them up


Sujata Anandan

Ever as little girls, I and my friends nursed a deep suspicion of charlatans posing as saints in saffron. Personal experience and stories shared between girl-buddies fostered in us all the feeling that they were not saints but Satans. Over the years, every suspicion turned out to be true but now with one of them having called for digging up bodies of Muslim women from their graves and then raping them and another threatening to rape all living sisters of Muslim men, I feel these men are not just unholy of mind but might actually be sick – suffering from necrophilia or satyriasis.

As a woman, I certainly cannot look upon people like these as revered religious leaders of society. Dead or alive, young or old, rape is the worst kind of violation of a human body and I am stunned that some of the best legal minds in the country should believe that any one who calls for the rape of a woman, any woman, should be regarded as revered and a leader of society.

But I should not really be surprised. Writing in his book, Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History, Savarkar had labelled the great Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as an absolute fool for having returned the daughter-in-law of the Muslim governor of Kalyan, captured by his troops, unscathed and unsoiled, to her family. He then issued a decree that was strictly followed by his soldiers- henceforth, during wars and raids in enemy country, women and children on no account should even be touched. It was a feat not even achieved by Lord Wellington who commanded the British forces during the Napoleonic wars, despite repeated appeals to British soldiers to refrain from pillage and plunder.

Shivaji had been reared largely by his mother and respect for women was ingrained in his DNA. It was not just the Muslim women he had been compassionate about. When his son fell in love and kidnapped a girl from her wedding mandap, against her wishes and that of her parents, Shivaji publicly reprimanded him, openly apologised for his son’s transgression and returned the bride safely to her family.

Now the BJP misinterprets Shivaji's Hindvi Swaraj as Hindu rule when all that Shivaji meant by it was self-rule by locals, not migrants or invaders, of which there were plenty in his time, including the early British, Dutch, French and Portuguese. In fact, he had identified Moghuls, not Muslims, as the common enemy of both his Swaraj and the Islamic dynasties of the Deccan with whom he joined forces to defeat the Moghuls. His bodyguards and trusted generals were Muslims, his very costume was borrowed from the Islamic dynasties of India.

Emperor Aurangzeb was more interested in crushing those Islamic dynasties of the south rather than Shivaji who, according to noted historian Sir Jadunath Sircar , was merely a minor irritant in Aurangzeb's larger quest of conquering the whole of India. He had hoped he could turn Shivaji to pay obeisance to the Moghul kings the way those of Rajputana were doing at the time but Shivaji, scorned for being non-upper caste by Maharashtra's Brahmins, was fiercely independent and would not cede. His friends in this struggle against the Moghuls were the Jats of Madhya Pradesh, all the southern kingdoms barring the Nizam of Hyderabad, who was viceroy to the Moghuls, the small sultanates in Bengal and Orissa (there is a Maratha Ditch Lane in Calcutta put up by the East India Company to prevent raids by Maratha warriors) and Shivaji thought little of raiding the Hindu diamond merchants of Surat to finance his wars with the Moghuls. When the British formally put down roots in India, the then Governor-general Charles Metcalfe had said that every bit of territory ceded to the British, including as far off as Peshawar, had been then governed by the Marathas.

With this background, Savarkar believed Shivaji to have been a fool not to have allowed the rape of Muslim women across the territory he conquered and described that as a legitimate weapon of war - not just to rape them but also get them with child in order to dilute the Muslim blood in the country. But Shivaji and his descendants conquered all territory without quite that.

I wonder if those legal eagles defending calls to rape Muslim women are quite aware of what their defence could lead to. As a woman brought up by strong women - mother and grandmother who was a freedom fighter - I, like Mohammad Zubair, will call out such bigotry and evil every time and bar my home, my work space and my social interactions to all men who consider rape a legitimate way of dealing with people they do not like. Because if we legitimise such calls, then there is no knowing where it will stop. A neighbour can rape a neighbour, a friend can rape a friend merely to prove a point and there will be only one class/community that will be forever put to misery and live in fear always - that of women. Of all religions, castes and creeds.

I continue to be disturbed by evidence of legal and judicial bigotry and scant respect for women in the country after the fact that the nation has had one woman prime minister, a woman president and soon a second woman President to follow. Whither empowerment? But it is not men alone who indulge in sexist bigotry – there was the case of Justice Pushpa Ganediwala of the Bombay High Court who, presiding at the Nagpur Bench, had ruled that there could be no sexual molestation until there was skin-to-skin contact between a man and a woman. I wondered how she sailed through life because every girl and woman I know has faced non-skin-to-skin molestation at one point or the other in her life. Thankfully, the Supreme Court collegium decided not to make her a permanent judge in view of that controversial judgment of hers and she was compelled to resign before her term was up.

I am hoping the honourable judges of the Supreme Court will once again see the travesty in lawyers defending men calling for rape and pull them up so as not to disappoint one half of the human population.

( The writer is Consulting Editor, National Herald, Mumbai. Views are personal)

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Published: 11 Jul 2022, 3:30 PM