After rapes, the apathy
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The claims of the Haryana government — that there has been a decrease in the number of rapes in the state, or that more incidents are now reported because of growing awareness levels and increased access to the media — may be debatable. But the attitude of both the khaps and the government towards cases of violent assault on women in the state is a matter of serious concern.
At 877 per 1,000 males, Haryana has one of the country's worst sex ratios. Thousands of young men in the state are unable to find a bride, and there is a full-scale business of arranging brides from distant states despite differences in language and culture.
And yet, neither the powerful khaps, known to issue diktats at the drop of a hat, nor governments over the years have done anything to change social attitudes towards women. Despite frequent reports of atrocities against women, children and members of disadvantaged sections, the government resisted constituting a state human rights commission, saying there is no need for one — until the high court intervened. And Haryana's state commission for women has been silent as well.
Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda's attitude has been smug — confident that the "law would take its own course". His attitude has percolated down the system, with even his DGP blaming the media for sensationalising the issue. None of the senior politicians or officers, not to talk of the chief minister or the DGP, have visited even one of the rape victims' families to lend their support and to send a strong signal that the government would take the harshest action possible against the accused.
Vipin is Editor, Chandigarh, firstname.lastname@example.org