Join LPP
Donate LPP
Justice For Rape, Rape For Justice

Related Articles

By Farooq Sulehria

The case of Mukhtar Mai, a Pakistani rape victim, made headlines in Swedish media recently as she moved Supreme Court, country's highest court, for justice. Raped by a group of six men in line with a ruling given by Panchiat (village council), Mukhtar Mai has become a symbol of resistance in Pakistan. (for details of sitting silent, she decided to move court to seek justice. A District court sentenced the rapists either to death or life term. The culprits appealed to the High Court against district court's decision. The Lahore High Court (highest court in province), however, acquitted all but one rapist. The decision shook Pakistan and led to a big outrage especially when court decision coincided with a travel ban imposed by General Musharraf on Mukhtar Mai.

An organisation of American-Asians (mainly Pakistanis) had invited Mukhtar Mai to address a seminar in the USA. Musharraf regime, thinking that her travel abroad may tarnish regime's image as she got a lot of media coverage in USA, put a travel ban. Human rights and women rights groups strongly reacted to the ban. Musharraf on an official visit to New Zealand at the moment, confessed to journalists at a press briefing that he himself ordered the ban to save Pakistan's image. The issue became so intense that Condoleeza Rice had to intervene. A call from Rice prompted Musharraf government to return Mukhtar Mai's passport and lift the ban. While the circus was going on in Pakistan, a rape case, also involving Panchiat, shook India. In case of Pakistan, it was rape on Panchiat orders to dispense 'justice'. In case of India, it was
'jutice' handed down to a rape victim.

Sweden's civilised media, hungry for any bizarre happening involving Asians/Muslims, simply missed it since it were too busy with Mukhtar Mai until London bombings put all other foreign news off the Utrikes pages.

Let's go to Charthawal village of India: Imrana, a Muslim woman, married to Noor Elahi, had five children. As often is the case, the family lived with Noor Elahi's family. This is what they call joint family in Indian subcontinent. In the first week of June, her father-in-law, Ali Mohammed, raped her while she was asleep in her small room. Weeping bitter, she immediately went to her mother-in-law in the next room and lodged the complaint. The mother-in-law begged her to stay silent and promised her that she would teach her husband a lesson. Noor Elahi was away from home since he works on a brick-kiln. Three days later, Imrana's brother's wife came to visit her and was told of the incident. When she told her husband and brothers-in-law, they came to Charthawal and beat Ali Mohammad up. It was then that others in the village came to know of the incident and a 'Panchiat' of their caste was held. While the Panchiat found Ali Mohammad guilty of rape and said that the courts should punish him, they also decided that Imrana could no longer live with her husband since she was now like his 'mother'.

Few women groups came forward to help Imrana when the incident was reported in a newspaper. Some women activists brought her to hospital and lodged the case with police This gave Imrana and her husband the confidence to defy the Panchiat's edict and live together in her maternal home.
On the 25th of June, however, one maulana of the Darul Uloom Deoband, one of the two most prestigious religious schools for Sunni Muslims in Indiana Subcontinent, passed a fatwa (religious edict) that according to Shariat law, Imrana could not continue to stay with her husband who should leave her immediately. Darul Uloom wields considerable influence in the area and when word of this got around Ali Mohammad was forced to leave his wife and children. Both he and Imrana were told repeatedly that it was their religious duty to obey this interpretation.

This incident has generated a tremendous amount of controversy. Several Islamic scholars prominent Muslims have denounced this 'fatwa' as being unIslamic, unjust and totally unacceptable. Of course, many others have supported it. The controversy is going on waiting on a Swedish journalist from mainstream media to pick it up and show how bad Indian/Muslims treat their women or perhaps to show how nice Swedish women have it in Sweden.

One aspect will, however, remain unmasked in case Imrana's case is picked up by mainstream Swedish or Western media: the utter failure of capitalist system in Indian subcontinent where state has not been able to establish its writ over the land it is supposed to govern.

It is not the Panchiat system that constitutes the similarity in Imrana's and Mukhtar Mai's case. It is, in fact, the backwardness of their remote villages where states, getting even weak at the hands of neo-liberalism, do not exist.

The Charthawal village, where Imrana was living until recently, lies in Muzaffarnagar District of Uttar Pradesh state. The state in general, and this district in particular, has the reputation of being the crime centre. Not only does Muzaffarnagar top the crime graph in Uttar Parsed, one of the poorest Indian staes, but it has a tradition of caste Panchiats since police and courts hardly exist or are hardly functional in this area. These caste Panchiats have been passing the most horrific and barbaric edicts with impunity. As a result, there have been lynching, forced marriages, vicious and violent attacks - mostly on women, low caste and poor people. Neither the district administration nor the State government has made the slightest effort to intervene and put an end to this endless tale of community-inflicted violence and injustice. With increased reliance being placed on communal and caste mobilisation for votes and power by the major major political parties the situation has only worsened. Here lies the actual problem!

Note: This article was published in "The News", Pakistan

Up Email Print Articles Home  
© Pakistan Labor Party
All rights reserved, any content provided on this site is sole property of the website