Look Back In Anger – But Also in Hope

Written by Kavita Krishnan | Published on: December 17, 2015
the godman, Asaram – the same man who had said that the December 16,  2012 victim was responsible for her own rape and could have escaped had she called the assailants ‘brother.’ Following her complaint, other women too came forward with complaints of having been assaulted by Asaram and his son.
More than two years later, the complainant fears for her life: her brother was threatened, a witness stabbed, another witness killed, and not surprisingly, another witness turned hostile.[16]
 
At the same time, Asaram’s supporters have launched an aggressive propaganda war against the complainants. Several times a month, hashtags supporting Asaram and branding the complainants as liars and conspirators trend on twitter – coalescing with misogynist campaigns
against ‘misuse’ of rape laws and other laws against gender violence. Asaram’s supporters gather in thousands at Jantar Mantar, distributing literature warning that these laws against gender violence must be scrapped to make sure ‘our social structure is not broken’ (hamara samaajik dhaancha na toote). This literature quotes various powerful people ranging from BJP leader Subramanian Swamy to the late VHP leader Ashok Singhal, in Asaram’s defence. In spite of the series of witnesses being bumped off in the case, Asaram’s defenders shrilly claim that his being denied bail is a miscarriage of justice. 
 
But it is not just people of a particular political persuasion that smear every complainant of rape as a political conspirator and a ‘false complainant.’ The FIR in the Tejpal case was filed by the Goa Government suo motu in November 2013. The chargesheet was filed in February 2014. The trial has been stalled (amended CRPC notwithstanding). On what grounds? The Supreme Court granted a stay on the trial on grounds that the accused had demanded but not been given cloned copies of laptops, phones etc – in spite of the fact that the forensic laboratory clarified that cloning facilities do not exist in India! Meanwhile the footage of the outside of the fateful lift is being liberally shown to all and sundry by the accused – to underscore how the victim appears ‘normal.’ The identity of the complainant – spiced liberally with real and imagined details of her personal life – is an open secret, leading to prurient probing and speculations wherever she goes, whatever she does.  

More importantly – where do boys and teenage men learn rape and impunity? Every time we fail to punish an adult offender (as cited in all the cases named in the previous section, for instance) are we not giving them lessons in getting away with rape?
 
A woman employee of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) filed a case of sexual harassment against R K Pachauri in February 2015.  Charges are yet to be filed in this case, too, even as the complainant has been forced to resign, because TERI continued to back Pachauri and rehabilitate him in spite of an internal complaints committee finding him guilty of sexual harassment. [17]
 
The complainant in the St. Stephens sexual harassment case watches helplessly as she is accused of lying by the college Principal, even after she submitted evidence of bullying and pressure by the same Principal to take back her case. [18] Her laboratory research,  her PhD, her career are all in jeopardy – and neither the University nor the police has come forward to support her.   
 
In cases in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), where teachers have been found guilty of sexual harassment of students by the internal complaints committee (GSCASH), the Administration has been notoriously reluctant to act, delaying or diluting recommendations – and acting to protect the perpetrators rather than the student complainants.     
 
The socially and economically more vulnerable women face a rough time. But even women who seem more privileged do not necessarily have any easier access to justice when they complain against the powerful or the popular. Such women are asked ‘Why make such a big deal of sexually inappropriate behavior? Why harm the reputation and family of such a good/great man?’ As one such complainant put it to me, “When men of our class ignore consent, we’re told it’s ‘just