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Politics over Belagavi atrocity is shameful

The entire state of Karnataka has felt shocked by the atrocity committed in a village near Belagavi on a Dalit woman who was thrashed, tied to a pole, and stripped naked in public. The woman was rescued by the police and at least 13 persons who assaulted her have been arrested. One police personnel has been suspended for dereliction of duty. The incident has created outrage across the state as it is not used to such acts of depravity. The Karnataka High Court has taken suo moto notice of the incident and strongly criticised the state police over it. The state government has handed over the case to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police. 

Unfortunately, ugly politics has taken over and, instead of feeling shame and introspecting on where they have collectively failed, politicians are busy trading charges and counter-charges over it. Union ministers have issued statements criticising the state government, and BJP president J P Nadda has deputed a committee of women MPs to visit the village and report on the incident. The human and social dimensions of the incident, which are the real issues to be addressed, are in danger of being lost in the excess of politics. Punishment of, and assaults on, women in the most degrading ways are increasing in the country. Two women were stripped, sexually abused, and paraded naked in Manipur earlier this year; a woman was tonsured and paraded in Delhi; and a tribal woman of Dewas in Madhya Pradesh was tortured and paraded by a mob. Similar incidents have taken place in other states also. 

Women, Dalits and other weaker sections of society often become victims of such assaults. Men are also paraded naked, garlanded with shoes, spat at, even urinated on. The reasons range from matters relating to false honour to caste pride to property disputes. Such punishments are part of the culture of lawlessness and instant punishment that is taking hold of the country and are signs of social regression. Society should turn its gaze inward and ponder why it is degrading and brutalising itself, insulting and humiliating the weakest in its fold, and abandoning its best cultural and civilisational values. Governments should ensure that such incidents are investigated speedily, culprits punished, and justice done to the victims. Partisan political posturing does not help. It is not that the atrocities happen only in your rival party’s terrain. Every such incident marks a failure of society and a return to barbarity. The Belagavi atrocity should provide a cathartic moment for Karnataka. It should live down the horror, move beyond it, and ensure that it is not marred by such an incident again. 

(Published 18 December 2023, 22:28 IST)

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