As the 2024 general elections approach, large sections of Indian women are secretly nursing a grouse against the leader of our country. Modi-ji, who waxes eloquent about topics as varied as agriculture, farmers’ rights, India’s moon mission and PUB-G, is deemed to be wanting in adequately addressing the horrific violence in Manipur in general and violence against women in that state in particular.
This summer, we all saw the mind-numbing visuals from Manipur of women being paraded naked and then being sexually-assaulted in front of the camera in those atrocious videos which went viral across India and even abroad.
Tellingly, our PM Modi-ji has made only generic comments about this incident. Are women in the north-east, in general and those in Manipur, in particular, not worthy of a proper response by the chief elected leader of the nation? If such an incident had taken place in Delhi, Mumbai or the other metro cities, would the PM still have chosen the same course of action?
What could be the rationale behind the studied terseness of someone who religiously addresses the nation at length, come high wind or water, in his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme?
This response or lack thereof, could further, justifiably, fan the flames of dissent among the people of the north-east. Women, in particular, can hardly be blamed if they take the hitherto laconic reaction of the authorities personally and as an affront to their dignity and physical safety.
Just imagine what would have happened if an incident in which women are paraded stark naked, mocked verbally and then assaulted sexually, in full view of a jeering mass made up predominantly of lascivious, violent men, had taken place anywhere else except the north-east…!?
This is mere conjecture but based on past trends — at the very least, the state government concerned would have collapsed under the weight of public pressure and censure in a matter of days and then, the political reputation of the concerned ruling party would have been sullied forever.
Unlike in this case from Manipur, accountability would have come quickly and decisively.
Meanwhile, the opposition has rightly latched onto the deliberate brevity of PM Modi’s reaction to the Manipur sexual assault case.
In a tweet, Congress general secretary for communications, Jairam Ramesh said, “After more than 1800 hours of an incomprehensible and unforgivable silence, the Prime Minister finally spoke on Manipur for a sum total of 30 seconds. After which, the PM tried to divert attention from the colossal governance failures and the humanitarian tragedy in Manipur by equating crimes against women in other states, especially those governed by the Opposition, while ignoring atrocities on women in states like MP, UP and Gujarat.”
The above tweet by Ramesh came in late July but is still relevant because there has been no further movement to bring the culprits to justice. Ramesh also accused the PM of completely sidestepping the issue of the ongoing ethnic conflict. PM Modi did not ask the CM of Manipur to step down; he made no appeal for peace.
Ramesh went on to state, “The PM tried to equate systemic and ongoing violence in Manipur with cases of crimes against women in other states. The perpetrators of these crimes have been arrested in Congress-governed states within 24 hours. In Manipur, it took 15 days to register an FIR against unknown persons…there has been a complete and total collapse of law & order and administration in Manipur.”
Several harrowing months have now passed since the deplorable incident came to light and the authorities’ tawdry response to it. If the Manipur incident is taken as a yardstick, it would appear that ensuring the safety and dignity of women ranks very low on the list of priorities of PM Modi and his administration.
And that is a realisation that makes women of our country — as a whole — despondent. May be they will now respond in the only way that seems to be effective — through the ballot…