Monday, April 16, 2018

These Hindu nationalists are every bit as bad as Muslim extremists

What really shocks, though, is not just the thought of an eight-year old Muslim girl (her name was Asifa, and she was an illiterate nomadic shepherd) being repeatedly raped, mutilated and ultimately killed by a group of eight Hindu men over a period of days. What really shocks is the reports of the Hindu lawyers who tried to impede the arrest of the suspects and to stop the case being brought to trial, and of the right-wing Hindu nationalists (including two ministers from Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party) who protested and rioted over the arrests. And then the accused have the audacity to plead "not guilty", which has led to a boiling over of righteous public anger over the case.
And, yes, I note the religion of these people advisedly. The crime took place in a Muslim-majority region of a Hindu-majority country, and religion is very much at issue in this case. One of the eight suspects is a Hindu priest, and the girl was dragged to a temple in the woods, where the atrocities were carried out. In case you still associate Hinduism with peace-loving hippies, levitating sadhus, cool blue avatars, and wacky multiple-handed elephant-headed gods, this is the modern face of Hindu nationalism, and it is neither cool nor pretty.
I find it quite literally impossible to imagine what can have been going though theses men's minds as they were committing this heinous crime, which was, remember, premeditated and protracted, not a spur-of-the-moment crime passionel. Were they thinking, "Well, this is a good time!"? Were they thinking, "Oh, this is so wrong on so many different levels, but if I don't join in, what will my buddies think?" And how can it possibly be socially, let alone legally, acceptable in this day and age for anyone to support and protect such people.
The thought that groups of people can so bury their decency and humanity as to commit (or condone) horrific crimes of this nature, and all in the name of a so-called religion, just strains credulity. And please note that it is not Muslims, not ISIS or Al-Qaeda, committing the barbarity here. But the common link is - go figure! - religion.

This particular crime seems to have incensed middle-class Indians more than any of the many other similar occurrences, leading to candle-lit vigils and a #JusticeForAsifa hashtag. Finally, even the government has seen fit to take some action: India's Cabinet has approved the use of the death penalty for child rapists, puting it in the same category as a number of other serious crimes that already carry the death penalty in India.
But this is not really what most people are asking for. The death penalty has its own drawbacks, of course. What is needed is for child rapes - which appears to be increasingly common in the country (54 children EACH DAY are raped) - to be taken seriously and prosecuted, along with other rapes and sexual assaults in general. What is needed is to change the whole culture in India, particularly in rural India, that allows such crimes to take place in the first place. How the crimes are actually punished, once prosecuted, is a secondary matter.

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