India No.1: Violence against women

Several factors have been blamed for the rise in crimes against women in India. Some say it’s connected to the skewed sex ratio that has resulted from families selectively aborting female foetuses. This, and India’s “cultural prohibition against dating”, means that there are a multitude of sexually repressed young men roaming around, many of whom, as the writer Rajni George recently put it, “don’t know how to get close to a woman without assaulting her”.

Another factor is India’s governing party, the Hindu nationalist BJP, whose arrogant leaders have failed to address the problem seriously and to “set a moral tone”. On the contrary, they’ve often shown contempt for the law, have condoned violence, or refused to act. especially when co-religionists are involved and accused of assaults and rape.

More horrific still is a case that recently came to light in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It involves an eight-year-old girl, who, while out grazing her family’s horses in January, was kidnapped, drugged and locked inside a Hindu temple. Over the next several days, she was raped repeatedly by at least four Hindu men before being murdered. Police say the perpetrators wanted to terrorise the girl’s ethnic group, Muslim Bakarwal nomads, into leaving the area. The “sheer evil” of the crime is bad enough. But what makes it even worse is that locals have rallied around the suspected killers. A crowd of Hindu lawyers tried to stop the police from filing charges, claiming the suspects were being discriminated against because of their faith. Two state BJP ministers joined the protest. How appalling that the bigotry of these people could blind them to the suffering of an innocent child. India has a rape problem all right. But this murder also shows “just what a hate-filled communal cauldron” the country has become. (Amrit Dhillon, The Sydney Morning Herald.)

We get so little news from India and other non-US and non-European countries that we tend to myopic about the rest of the world. But India has a massive population and some outstandingly good technical people of all disciplines. It is quite probable that India will be a great power by the end of the century. Its problem is extreme poverty, an uncontrolled increase in population, an obscene attitude among some towards women – and competing, pre- historic religions. That crowds of Hindus spend their time beating others up about cows tells you why it will be tough to compete with China.

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