The Modi government's abject failure to safeguard women's rights

Enough of lip service, Mr Prime Minister! It is high time that you walk the talk. CW: Discussion of sexual violence.

Welcome to New India, where women's safety is proclaimed the government's utmost concern, yet little action is taken to protect it.

Shortly after assuming the Prime Minister's position in 2014, Narendra Modi assured the parents of the woman gang-raped on a moving bus in 2012, leading to widespread outrage, that his government would prioritise women's safety and security.

However, his words do not match his actions, and countless examples support that.

Last year, his government approved the premature release of eleven men convicted of gang-raping a pregnant Muslim woman and murdering several family members during the deadly 2002 Gujarat riots. Modi was then the state's Chief Minister and was criticized for allowing violence to rage unchecked.

The government's decision negated hard-fought justice for the survivor and her family, who pursued the case for nearly two decades.

In another incident in 2020, in Hathras town, Uttar Pradesh, also ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and notorious for crimes against women, dominant upper-caste men brutally gang-raped a Dalit woman. She later died of her injuries, after which police and local administration officials hijacked her mortal remains and hastily cremated her in the dead of night. Her family was denied the right to bid her a proper farewell, ostensibly to avoid law and order problems.

And there is more.

In January 2023, prominent Indian wrestlers, including two Olympic medalists and an Asia Games champion, launched a protest against a powerful BJP politician and member of parliament, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. They accused him of subjecting them to sexual harassment for years during his tenure as president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). They demanded an investigation and his arrest.

Despite the seriousness of the allegations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not offer public support to the women wrestlers or assure them of justice.

Not only did the PM fail to safeguard women, but he and his party also failed to ensure peace and justice in the ongoing ethnic conflict raging in Manipur, a northeastern state of India since May, ruled by the BJP.

Contrary to the expectation that he would intervene and rectify the situation, he maintained a steadfast silence, puzzling and worrying citizens and activists.

Fearing the violent ethnic conflict might fade from public attention, over 100 editors and journalists from various media houses and news agencies across India united to issue an urgent appeal to fellow editors and journalists to ensure that Manipur remains in the news.

"After more than two months of unprecedented civic strife and violence, events in this state have gone off the front pages. The incidents of violence were barbaric, with gross violations of human rights becoming routine," read the statement. 

The people of Manipur paid a steep price for the Prime Minister's stubborn silence.

On May 4, a mob stripped and paraded three women from the Kuki community and allegedly gang-raped one of them in a village in Manipur.

Clashes had broken out a day before between two ethnic groups - the predominantly Hindu Meitei, whose people reside in the Imphal Valley, and the largely Christian tribal community, including the Kuki people who live in the surrounding hills. 

The video of the incident recently came to light, prompting widespread outrage.

More reports of rape incidents emerged following the video's circulation. In one incident, an 18-year-old woman was allegedly gang-raped after being handed over to four armed men by a group of women known as "Mothers of Manipur."

Concerned about the unabated violence following the video's release online, the Supreme Court of India threatened to step in.

The Chief Justice of India chided the government for its inaction and said the court would intervene if it failed to take immediate action.

The viral spread of the distressing video, followed by severe outrage, forced Modi to finally make a statement on the state's situation.

Over 150 people died by that time, and more than 50,000 were rendered homeless.

In his statement, Modi condemned the alleged sexual assault of women in Manipur state as "shameful" and promised strict action.

Too little too late.

From the beginning of his nine-year prime ministership, Narendra Modi and his right-wing government showed clear bias against religious minorities. And with time, it has become abundantly clear that they are equally indifferent to women's rights.

The treatment of women under the BJP-ruled Indian government is deeply concerning and conflicts with the rhetoric of promoting women's rights and welfare, especially for minority communities.

It is worth noting that while the Congress government was in power, Modi frequently criticized former PM Manmohan Singh for his silence on various matters. The current situation raises questions about Modi's silence now.

Not just democracy but human rights, including women's rights, have been repeatedly violated under the BJP government's watch. Despite the prime minister's many speeches promoting women's rights, the government has shown a complete lack of empathy and justice toward women. 

The lack of action speaks louder than words, and it is clear that the government is not interested in ensuring women's safety and rights.