The Land of ‘Jilted Lovers’: Rohtak Gang Rape

Amid alarming rise in the cases of crimes against women, a shocking case of gang rape in Rohtak emerged after a mutilated body of a 20-year-old woman was found. Reports said stray dogs had bitten away the rape victim’s face and lower portion of her body which was spotted by a passerby in the urban estate area of Rohtak on 11 May.

“Two persons, Sumit and Vikas, have been arrested in this connection,” sub-inspector of Sonipat, Ajay Malik told PTI. Sumit was an acquaintance of the victim, he further added. The Haryana police also came under a cloud, with relatives of the victim alleging that they had ignored a complaint lodged against the main suspect about three months ago.

In reference to the brutal incident a headline in one of the largest English-language daily in India said: “Jilted lover rapes woman with friend, beats her to death with bricks in Rohtak”. This was with reference to the unimaginably terrifying, Nirbhaya-like tale of stalking, rape, murder and maiming of a woman, and yet the chief accused was being described in a strangely familial fashion: “jilted lover”.

There lies the irony. Barely days after the judgement came from the top court in the country, upholding death penalty for the four adult convicts in the gruesome Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case, comes the rape and grisly murder of a young woman who only had the temerity to expressly say no to a stalker.

On May 5, the Supreme Court decreed that Mukesh Singh and other co-accused in the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape would be hanged to death. Almost everyone celebrated the verdict, stating that such “monsters” deserved to die and that finally Nirbhaya had been avenged. In light of the sentence, there has been no change in the romanticization of ghastly gendered crimes.

How can there be a relationship between the victim and the accused while both, the police and the victim’s mother have gone on record to say that she did not want to be associated with the perpetrator?

It is mind-boggling as to how crime reportage and the procedural exigencies of criminal investigation continue to be couched in a language that’s not just ridiculously sexist, but in fact, becomes an extension of the criminal assault on women’s minds, bodies, liberties and fundamental rights.

The description “jilted lover” not only turns a deranged act of unthinkable and the most depraved form of criminality into a “crime of passion”, it, in fact, finds legitimization of the crime committed in the hazy interpersonal equations and societal biases that indulge in disgusting victim-shaming in such situations.

The sheer brutality of the crime in the Rohtak rape is reminiscent of the Nirbhaya incident in Delhi, which triggered nation-wide outrage. Many of the worst aspects of 2012 were found to have been repeated.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB),  the number of rape cases have only risen despite the Nirbhaya Act. Laws have been enacted for women’s safety. Modern technology has been used to bolster the safety of women and apps have been specially created for the purpose. A powerful, assertive government is in power with majority, one that promises to crack down mercilessly on those that break the law. But from Nirbhaya to Rohtak, nothing has really changed on the ground.

There is another thing that happened after Nirbhaya, which was a little insidious — sexual violence and rape became normalized. Somewhere along the line, despite all the talk about rape culture and crime against women, India became desensitized to the news of violence against women and it literally stopped caring, especially about rape.

After the Rohtak case, the general public has been largely apathetic.

Where are the guttural cries for safety and people brought together by the common concern for their girls? Where is the spontaneous call for a movement? We must ask ourselves why we find ourselves shrugging and moving beyond this piece of news like it’s an everyday phenomenon.

Or is it simply because we don’t know what to do, especially when “justice”, more so our collective idea of justice isn’t a deterrent for this violence?

How gory will a crime have to be before we finally register and jump into action? And what does real action imply anyway?

The need of the hour is to make women safe in India again. The government and law enforcement agencies should accept their failure, introspect about their shortcomings, plug loopholes and make India safe for women because only then will there be proof that this government is different from governments of the past, which it claims to be.

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