Sex as politics during India’s general election

A Congress spokesperson shows a photograph featuring Indian MP Prajwal Revanna (in red circle) who was summoned for an alleged sexual abuse case, along with his family members and Prime Minister Narendra Modi (standing, second from left), at a press conference in Bengaluru on May 1.

It happens in high places and in the best of families. Therefore, sexual acts, up to and including rape, do not ruffle feathers too much in India. Political and caste leaders are assured of mass amnesia the day after they make the front page of national newspapers.

No one was really surprised when the head of the Indian Wrestling Federation, who is also a senior politician of the ruling party, was accused of molesting women athletes. The charge was led by no less than some of the most iconic Olympians in the country, who launched a very public protest in the national capital.

But the police were tardy in registering a case against the powerful man and his henchmen. The government was unconcerned; its women ministers and members of parliament were as unmoved as their male counterparts.

The police eventually recorded a watered-down complaint. As expected, in “due course,” the Supreme Court of India agreed there was no cause to indict the man.

The man is not up for election as a measure of ample caution. The ruling party has kindly agreed to give the ticket to his son to retain for them the pocket borough that is their caste stronghold in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.

About 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) away, in Hassan town in the southern state of Karnataka, the family of a former prime minister finds itself trapped in a rape case the likes of which have not been seen in a country otherwise known for its vicious crimes against women, especially those of the helpless “Dalit” and tribal groups.

Karnataka, India’s original “Silicon Valley,”  is home to IT giants such as Narayana Murthy’s Infosys, which employs tens of thousands of engineers and services a large chunk of American software and hardware systems. Hassan town boasts of India’s earlier satellite communication stations.

H D Deve Gowda, a former chief minister of the state, became one of the several “accidental” prime ministers in office for very short periods after the 1996 general election in which the Congress was summarily defeated.

He took over as prime minister on June 1, 1996, and continued until April 21, 1997. But, as a leader of the Vokkaliga caste, not ranked very high in the status hierarchy, he was politically significant as the one counterweight to the powerful Lingayat community.

He remained politically relevant and founded a dynasty that gave the state another chief minister and several members of the legislature and parliament from amongst his descendants. This time, he aligned himself with Narendra Modi to present what many thought was an alliance that could not be defeated.

This was till a “thumb drive” emerged on the eve of the second round of voting in Karnataka, leaked from persons close to him and possibly also to Modi’s party. On the drive were some 3,000 clips, showing Deve Gowda’s grandson, Prajwal Revanna, the current MP and the alliance’s candidate from the Hassan constituency, having sex with various women ranging from aspiring politicians in their thirties to the family’s domestic servant and a woman in her sixties who is seen crying and begging for mercy.

The police are not saying whether the man in all the clips was Prajwal Revanna, who has fled the country and is said to be in Germany. His father, H D Revanna, a state legislator and the elder son of the former prime minister, has been arrested for being complicit in the crimes.

So far, three complaints have been made, the first by a 47-year-old woman from Hassan who alleged the father-son duo had sexually assaulted her and her daughter between 2019 and 2022. Another complaint by a former village government member said the duo raped her at gunpoint after threatening to kill her husband, who once worked as their assistant.

Like the common citizens of the state, what Dr. Nagalakshmi Chaudhary, the chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Women, found especially shocking was that the politician did not hesitate to record these “selfies while having sex with the women.”

“What kind of a man is he?” she asked.

Since the news broke, the sex tapes have been viral on prurient social media, and the women victims have fled the town. Many are now reluctant to testify before the special investigations team set up by the state’s Congress government.

Modi has maintained silence on the issue, though all too many embarrassing videos of his fulsome praise for the Deve Gowda clan and for the two men accused of the rapes at election rallies, before the allegations surfaced, are doing the rounds.

Modi is trying hard for a third term as prime minister, and victories in the southern state are crucial to his ambition. His election team sees the release of the tapes as a conspiracy by the Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi.

The Indian Penal Code looks askance at molestation or attempted rape. Rape, especially when aggravated or when multiple women are victims in a serial crime, invites the death penalty, and many men have been hanged in the two decades of this century. Those were cases that caught public attention, moved the middle classes, and were taken up by 24×7 television news channels in their competitive pursuit of viewers’ eyeballs.

Rape, especially of poor and marginalized women, has been all but normalized in the country, seldom creating the sort of anger one would expect in a country that claims the female sex as a reflection of the divine, or “Devi.”

The National Crime Records Bureau’s “Crime in India 2022” report released in December last year, showed a general rise in crimes against women in that year.

Dr. Roop Rekha, a crusading human rights activist and a former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University, who had organized a campaign for the immediate arrest of Prajwal Revanna, said the Modi government “is known to give its tacit support to alleged rapists.”

She said the wrestling federation chief Brij Bhushan Singh’s case is just one of them. “There was another shocking case [of a] woman student from the prestigious Benares Hindu University [in Modi’s parliamentary constituency Varanasi] who was stripped and raped last November. The rapists’ video-recorded it. No rapist has yet been punished,” she said.

Swati Maliwal, MP and a former chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women, was quoted by the News Minute news portal saying that such crimes are becoming more common. “The intensity of the crimes, the frequency of the crimes, and the brutality of the crimes have gone up,” she said.

Karnataka, incidentally, is also said to be the headquarters of an organized racket in pornographic videos. The multi-million-dollar business allegedly has links with several politicians, businesspeople, and Bollywood.

The moot question is, will this scandal impact the four remaining phases of the general election, or will it any way mar Modi’s Teflon image among his followers?

source : uca news 

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