NEW YORK – India Shining is in a quandary, with growing unemployment, unease in businesses over the implementation of GST, fallout over demonetization. But India did tower high and mighty for momentous judicial verdicts this month, made citizens proud; cut a path for further cleansing of injustice in society, restoration of rights for women and minorities.
The Supreme Court banned the abominable practice of triple talaq, where a Muslim man can divorce his wife within seconds uttering three words, spoken in a monotone, or disdain. It can even be contemptuously sent via social media, through a WhatsApp or text message.
The highest court in India didn’t stop there: it also made India perk up as a modern, progressive society, notching its verdict on privacy, granting gays and lesbians equal rights in society, hinting at reprieve from an earlier High Court verdict which had criminalized homosexuality. The Supreme Court will, in all likelihood, reverse that decision soon, after it condemned the lower court’s order.
As liberal, sensible India swelled in pride over these orders to give back respect to women and minorities, make them feel human again, not feel guilty for not committing sin, comes a powerful verdict from a court in Panchkula, convicting the self-acclaimed guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, leader of the religious group Dera Sacha Sauda, of raping women followers in his ashram.
More than 30 people have died in subsequent violence that continues to rage in parts of north India, hundreds more are injured; hundreds of crores of Rupees worth property vandalized. When it’s done and dusted, the earlier Jat stir may pale in comparison.
Singh is arguably the most powerful religious leader in India. He’s boasted of 60 million followers around the world.
What India should take pride in is that despite Singh’s affluence and political influence, the law enforcement, government and judiciary in India came together to investigate him, persevered with their efforts, after an anonymous letter disclosed the horrendous atrocities being committed by him in his 1,000 acre ashram at Sirsa, in Haryana. The authorities stayed adamant in their course for justice.
If India has to ever attain a developed nation status, the judiciary in India will have to stay strong like it has done this month; the political establishment strive, equally, to implement rules fully.
The hallmark of every developed nation is as near impeccable law enforcement and judiciary one can hope for, that people can trust and vouch for. The strength lies also in uniformity, having the same level of competency and professionalism through the length and breadth of a country. Speed of action by local law enforcement, justice, must be on par, whether it’s an urban or rural area, densely populated or remote terrain.
There are several other antiquated and evil practices in India that need to be banned, made into criminal offenses, or with more severe punishment, for deterrence. Like dowry, for example.
If India can give equal rights and respect to women, irrespective of caste or religion, bring the crime rate graph against women and girls down, then it’s on its way towards achieving its goal of not only becoming the richest nation on Earth by 2047 – as some studies have shown – but also towards achieving a developed nation status.
While the backlog of pending legal cases and long drawn out suits in India is a gargantuan problem that continues to bog the country’s image overseas, drain its resources domestically, the local courts should continue to make high profile examples, which could shape the thinking of ordinary citizens in India, force state governments to implement rules to help the legal system, and law enforcement.
One such glaring case that begs for investigation and action is a riveting report by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ellen Barry, who perhaps in her last report before she left India for her new job as Bureau Chief in Europe, for The New York Times, detailed the murder of a young wife and mother, bludgeoned to death in the open by her husband, in Peepli Khera, a village in Uttar Pradesh.
Headlined ‘How to get away with murder in small-town India’, published on Aug. 19, 2017, Barry details the murder through several people she interviews, including the mother of the victim, a laborer, who was coerced to withdraw her complaint. The report also exposes the ugly nexus between local politicians, mafia and the police, what money should not be able to buy, why a man can boast about covering up murder, rape. Why a man can kill a woman, not be punished for it, but instead be allowed to remarry again.
The courts in India should, like they did with the anonymous letter sent about the rapes being committed by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, follow up with an order to investigate the murder that Barry wrote about.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)