Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rita Bahuguna Joshi must be sacked

There is something wrong somewhere with the Congress party. How else do we explain the fact that the president of the party’s Uttar Pradesh unit, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, saying what she said about rape? And more than that, how else do we explain the reaction of the party high command to all that had happened involving Rita Joshi? And all this at a time when the Congress party appeared to have shown signs of a revival in Uttar Pradesh after having been treading on a course of decline in the past two decades certainly shows that the party lacks a coherent organizational philosophy.

Rita Joshi’s comment – that she was prepared to shell out a crore of rupees if Mayawati was willing to go through the trauma – was certainly not one that was made in isolation. The Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief said this, expressing her resentment against a provision in the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The point she made was that rape victims from among the Scheduled Castes were paid a higher compensation than women from other castes.

It is indeed condemnable that Ms. Joshi made this point. While it is a fact that rape is indeed an odious act of oppression against the women, it is as much a fact that rape is most prevalent against the women from among the oppressed castes. It is also a fact that in the event of a carnage, whether against the members of the minority community or against the oppressed castes, the perpetrators of the carnage use rape as a weapon to subdue and humiliate the victims.

The context in which the Scheduled Castes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was brought in cannot be explained any better than by pointing to the fact that Article 17 of the Constitution, that expressly lists the abolition of caste based atrocities and oppression, including untouchability, as among the Fundamental Rights, was not achieved even four decades after independence and as many years after the Constitution was adopted on November 26, 1949. The SC/ST Act, as it is now known, was enacted in that context.

And the harsh reality is that the rate of prosecution under the provisions of that act is far too low. Offences under the sections of this act, in fact, are non-bailable as a rule. In other words, bail in these cases are not a matter of right and is left to the discretion of the prosecution and the judges on a case by case basis. The reality, however, is that offenders charged under this act have been obtaining bail and even anticipatory bail with such ease that there is hardly any protection to those SC/ST victims who register complaints. This was revealed in a recent study conducted in parts of Tamil Nadu.

The point is that the SC/ST Act came into place only after it was evident that oppression against the members of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes were carried out as a matter of course by the Caste hindus and the ordinary criminal law was insufficient to deal with such acts given the social background of the men in the law enforcing agencies. And even this law, it now emerges, is not all that effective in curbing the menace of caste based oppression.

Rita Joshi, whose Congress party’s strength, in the good old days, came from its commitment to build an egalitarian society in both the social and the economic sense of the term, does not seem to care for that. The other strange aspect is that her father, Hemavati Nandan Bahuguna, was among those leaders who was committed to that political agenda. Recall the fact that as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1974, Bahuguna had re-invented the Congress party among the Scheduled Castes.

Well. It is also a fact that one of the important reasons behind the party losing its political relevance in Uttar Pradesh, in the past couple of decades, was the dwindling of its commitment to the cause of social equality. Rita Joshi’s remark, on the other hand, reflects the new thinking that deluded the Congress in the past two decades that the party can build itself in Uttar Pradesh as representing the Upper castes alone rather than re-inventing itself as a party of the Dalits, the minorities and the other oppressed sections of society.

The UPCC chief may have her own agenda. On the face of it, she must have looked at the possibility of building herself as the leader of the Brahmin community, numerous in their own way, in Allahabad. In other words, Rita Joshi is looking for a Lok Sabha constituency to herself. But then, the party high command and the supreme leader, Rahul Gandhi cannot afford to let the private agenda of Rita Joshi shroud that of the party in Uttar Pradesh.

And more important than that, the Congress party, now heading the ruling coalition in Delhi, cannot persist with the idea of having someone like Rita Joshi as the chief of its Uttar Pradesh unit. The case against letting Rita Bahuguna Joshi continue as UPCC chief is plain and simple: The SC/ST act and its provisions are based on constitutional imperatives that guarantee the right to equality and life to the members of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. And someone who spits venom against such provisions cannot be entertained in positions of political importance.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sir, i feel that Rita Joshi must be given the sack, but feel that she should have been prosecuted for abetting rape in a way.. It was more a anti women statement than against SC/St's. Such statements showcase the ugly face of Indian politics, where politicians could go to any extent to garner votes. Rita must be sacked with immediate effect and the congress must order an internal probe into the incident...

2:34 AM  

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