Why Meerut Gangrape and Forced Conversion Case Must Ring Alarm bells in India

The victim in green being accosted by well-wishers

The victim in green being accosted by well-wishers

Several rape cases have happened in India, and law and order certainly is an issue that needs an urgent look-into, but why do we need to closely monitor the Meerut gangrape and forced conversion case? Let us first see what this case is about; a young girl goes to a madrassa to teach children at a salary of just Rs. 1500, all in good-faith on the advice of her Muslim friend, the madrassa officials kidnap her and rape her continuously while keeping her drugged in a solitary confinement. Her fallopian Tube is removed so that she does not get pregnant and sexually serves them long enough, and at the time of this abhorring sexual torture she was also being brainwashed to embrace a religion that she had neither shown inclination for, nor was willing to embrace. While in the captivity she finds 40 more girls there and hears that some of them would be supplied to Saudi Arabia. Now, coming back to the response her plight has created. Most people, ably led by Indian media, are busy calling this as a one-off incident that need not be given too much importance for the sake of keeping public outrage under control. But think about the other side; this girl could have become an icon of Hindu-Muslim unity. She could have become the face of a modern India that does not degrade anyone on the basis of religion as a Hindu girl was proudly teaching in a Muslim religious institution despite severe objections from her own family. Right from the beginning to the time till she escaped and came to seek help in an unwilling and unsympathetic police station, she showed enough grit. But no one is feeling anything for her own strong conviction in the idea of ‘India;’ her supporters call it her one ‘big mistake’ while the accusers feel that she ‘asked for it.’

What both sides forget is that the Meerut gangrape and forced conversion case is shockingly similar to the horrid stories that have emerged from neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, where Hindu, Christian, Sikh and Buddhist girls are often targeted by abduction, confinement in madrassas, rape and conversions. Sexual grooming awoke Europe when young women and even little girls were being targeted by Islamists. This is actually a plague that is spreading everywhere, and we can no longer play blind to an imposing monster anymore. The first Meerut like case, that actually caught the world’s attention emerged from Pakistan’s Sindh, was of a teenage girl Rinkle Kumari who despite severe pressure from Hindu community and even United States still continues to languish with a ‘husband’ who was her abductor. A similar case was reported from Bangladesh where a 16-year old Sagorika Haldar was first raped and brutally murdered by the rapists as she continued to resist them. These are not isolated cases, as per a report (and these are conservative numbers from Pakistan i.e. the cases that actually get reported) Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan, close to 1000 minority girls get tagged and later targeted by Islamists and forcefully converted year after year. The numbers of Bangladesh are even more alarming but there is a common thread between the Islamists in both the countries and that is the growing influence of those who clearly target minority women with rape as a tool and when they are met with resistance, they embark on teaching them a lesson by first gangraping them and later marrying them to the abductor/rapist, stifling the woman to a life-long torture of rapes and other forms of harassment. This is what has been happening in these two countries and anyone can draw parallels to this case, that has come to light now, with several thousand cases reported year after year from these countries. The modus operandi is also the same; first finalize and tag a woman and entice her with sweet talks or friendship, then try and brainwash her with ‘false religion’ stuff and if she still does not agree, then rapes, tortures and conversion, post which they are married off to old men or worse shoved into flesh trade. It is for this very reason why Meerut should ring alarm bells now. In fact, we should have been alert from the moment people rioted in Azad Maidan and targeted Amar Jawan Memorial but we turned a blind eye, and now we have Gurudwara attacked in Saharanpur, ISIS flags and supporters in Kashmir and Kerala, Amarnath Yatra stalled, pages and posts in favor of ISIS and anti-Shia posts on Facebook and Twitter and we even have youngsters wearing ISIS T-Shirts. It is a known fact that radicalization is present in today’s India or else how can anyone ever explain the reasons of young and affluent Indian Muslims joining in the global Jihad and travelling to Syria and Iraq? In fact, to assume that these are isolated incidents and not part of a global Jihadi network, is nothing but foolhardy as ISIS has clear intentions of taking over the world with horrendous and radical means and it is under this context that Meerut gangrape case needs to be seen.

The madrassas have now emerged as a cause of concern as they do not confine themselves to just imparting the ‘knowledge’ anymore and we really cannot blame them either because the funding comes from abroad and so does the dictation. The madrassas will have to abide by the ideology of the donors or else they risk losing out on money therefore, regulating madrassas is important for national security and communal harmony while dealing with the errant radicals with iron hands is very important at this stage or else India could turn into another battle ground sooner or later. Infiltration by radical Bangladeshis and LeT (Lashkar-e-Toiba) agents is a known fact and the lack of protests by Deoband and Muslim organizations in such cases point to a dangerous path that lies ahead.

Also, for media and political parties who have shown virtually no concern for either the victim or the situation that India is in and have remained mum to serve their brand of ‘selective secularism,’ we must remind them collectively, that they are doing a great disservice to India’s secular fabric that has allowed us longevity and also a liberal view that has kept this multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-linguistic country together. Meerut gang rape and forced conversion case must be an eye-opener; brushing aside such cases won’t take them away but yes, careful handling could help contain radical and terrorist elements who wish to destabilize this country.

P.S.: While discussing this case with a Pakistani Hindu activist he agreed that Pakistan’s one big mistake was to turn a blind eye to rapes and forced conversions that are now rampant there. As a result, he said, today Pakistan is battling terrorism on its own home ground, because the first thing that it (radicalization) demolished was the idea that Muslims can co-exist with Hindus or other non-Muslims. This feeling that Muslims cannot co-exist with non-Muslims is now leading to bloodshed and more bloodshed, as more and more communities, even Barelvis, Shias, Ahmadiyas and Christians are being targeted by the radicals as they believe this would make them superior to others. Now the big question, are we staring at a similar situation in India?

Why inviting SAARC leaders is a great move by Modi

Image

Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony would be remembered for long for the masterstroke by BJP even when it was not officially in the dock. Modi’s invitation to SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and Mauritius would be cherished for the one of the first honest attempts by India to bridge the chasm that has marred this region for long. It is an important move by the PM-designate because a stable and prosperous South Asia would not have winced at the departure of US troops from Afghanistan, as it is currently doing now, and nor would it have held itself hostage to the problems of the past that seem to rub on each and every person coming from this area. But unfortunately, instead of seeing this move as a way to build bridges, people are busy trivializing and demonizing some South Asian countries particularly Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and even Maldives.

Let’s look at some of them below:

 While it is understandable that Pakistan-India relations are not ‘rosy,’ yet, shutting doors on diplomatic channels is the last thing that India must do. Yes, we have Kashmir issue that needs to be resolved, Hindu massacre and forced conversions (Rinkle Kumari and Pooja Gupta are just some of them) that is going on there needs to stop, and so does the export of terrorism to India, but since neither party wants a full-fledged war hence, coming on the diplomatic channels is the best way forward. In any case, it is not bilateral talks; just normal courtesy that will put India’s stamp on South Asia. It also goes to the credit of Narendra Modi that he showed resolve in reviving SAARC and the same could be said of PM Nawaz Sharif for not letting his soon to-be-Indian counterpart down despite domestic pressures from terrorists like Hafiz Saeed who hold much sway on the domestic politics in his home state Punjab. By taking Modi’s hand in friendship, Sharif has shown his resolve against ISI, Army and terrorists combine, and the release of 151 Indian fishermen should be seen in a positive light.

Bangladesh is also in the news for the wrong reasons. The rapes, land grabbing cases, destruction of the temples, abductions and murders of its Hindu citizens has started an exodus of Hindus who sneak out of the country and crossover to India for a safer life. While their case is just, yet India needs to ensure that Hindus get equal rights in their homeland. Even Muslims citizenry is crossing over due to rise of fundamentalist forces and uncontrollable poverty; of course they do not face any religious persecution and hence, could be guided back to Bangladesh humanely. This meeting thus should be seen as the opening of a new channel for communication in which an assertive India should demand rights for Bangladeshi Hindus.

 Similar is the case of Sri Lanka and by inviting President Rajapaksa, Modi has started a raging political storm in Tamil Nadu that refuses to subside. Tamil leaders feel betrayed, but their criticism should reflect not shrillness but quality response because at this moment they indeed are on the wrong footing. First, they were busy deriding and lampooning Sri Lankan President over Tamil fishermen who were languishing in the custody, but, matching Modi step-to-step Rajapaksa outwitted them by ordering the release of ‘ALL’ detained Indian fishermen clearly underlining his desire to work on issues with India. What is most important is that, by inviting him to India, Modi has de-freezed the communication channels that could later be employed to bring about justice for Tamil Hindus as well. It is extremely important to not act like big-brother and instead use soft diplomacy to bring on justice, which has to be the primary goal in all respects but the mode should be the diplomacy of handshakes.

Even Afghanistan is already anxious due to ongoing polls and also because of withdrawal of US and allied troops. While Afghans do see India as a brotherly country that offered them material help and hope after the fall of the Taliban, yet India should avoid getting embroiled in the internal affairs by sending military help or selling arms. Saudi Arabia-Pakistan-Taliban nexus is getting stronger and sooner or later situation may turn alarming hence, it is better to offer all assistance to Afghans but from a distance. Also, aspirations of Pashtoons for their separate homeland should not be snubbed by India; it is not India’s job to police around after all, and this meeting, in an apolitical environment could trigger some major developments as well.

The last is the curious case of Maldives, which critics want India to snub because of the totalitarian regime of President Abdulla Yameen, clearly forgetting that it was the dumping of GMR which had become a thorn in the flesh of Indo-Maldives relations. The unfortunate events that led to a silent coup (in which India chose to look away and the world reluctantly followed, is perhaps the biggest blunder ever in India’s foreign policy) which finally put an end to ex-President Mohamed Nasheed’s first elected government should also be a cause of concern for India and rest of the world because of the strangulating hold of radical Islamists on this beautiful Island nation. (Read here: http://tinyurl.com/q93tmwj)

With the coming over of Abdulla Yameen, it would be curious to see how Modi tackles dictator Gayoom-backed-Abdulla, who has shown a protectionist attitude with regards to domestic policies.

Even Nepal and Bhutan had a thorny run with India for some time, but now the acrimony has diminished and we expect smoother ties with these countries.

SAARC has the potential to function in the best interest of all hence, its revival needs to be pursued seriously and India should work with the rest on a common minimum program that will help South Asia alleviate itself from the mess of extremism, poverty and shadow wars that seem to plague it until now. We have an example of EU to emulate and it would be interesting to see how Modi government achieves it. But for now, all eyes are on the upcoming coronation ceremony and on PM Modi’s next move.