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A month ahead of his UK visit, British groups ask Modi: Why have you failed to condemn gender violence?

By Our Representative
One month ahead of his maiden visit to England, South Asian, black and minority ethnic women’s groups and feminists in scathing a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi have said that he has failed to “condemn the rapists or launch an investigation into the Hindutva organisations which support them”, and his own pronouncements on violence against women have been “remarkably few”.
The letter, written by 34 UK-based scholars and activists, says that his government has “done nothing to change the laws which directly contribute to gender violence, despite popular campaigns”. The letter adds, the laws in question “include the notorious Armed forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) under which the police and armed forces personnel continue to perpetrate the most horrific sexual violence (effectively with impunity) in Kashmir and the North East.”
The letter wonders if the AFSPA and other laws – including the one which “permits marital rape”, and “the homophobic section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises LGBT people” – have not been changed because the “RSS and its affiliated organisations would not approve of them”.
Telling him that they express their “deep disquiet” over his government’s “approach” to gender violence, the signatories say, “You have also maintained a remarkable tolerance of the so-called ’moral policing’ of couples which has frequently led to attacks, in some cases murderous, on couples who cross religious and caste boundaries, by the RSS’s sister organisations in Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra, and most recently by the police in Mumbai.”
Modi, who will be in UK in November, is planning a major reception for him at the iconic Wembley Stadium in London. Over 70,000 people are expected to turn out at the invitation-only event being organised by the Europe India Forum (EIF) at one of Europe's largest football stadiums on November 13.
Pointing out that his “actions (and inaction)” suggest that his “government is not only indifferent to the increasing violence against women and rigid patriarchal control of their lives but often endorses and reinforces it”, the letter seeks clarification from Modi whether he endorses RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s view “women should be housewives” or that rape “happens only to westernised women”.
Asking Modi to “condemn” the Hindutva ideology “which asserts that Hindu men must prove their masculinity by raping non-Hindu women, who are seen as ‘symbols’ of the ‘enemy culture’”, as asserted by “VD Savarkar, who said that rape by Hindu men as an act of nationalism in his book, 'The Six Golden Epochs of Indian History', p.71”.
“The public condemnation of this aspect of RSS ideology by you is, we feel, particularly important, because it was under your watch as Chief Minister of Gujarat, that this was put into practice in 2002, with countless Muslim women raped, mutilated and murdered”, the letter says.
“Equally worrying”, the letter says, “is the fact that your own cabinet includes a number of ministers against whom criminal cases, including rape, are pending in various courts of the country – they include Sanjeev Baliyan a rape-accused from UP.” Asking Modi to Baliyan “should be dismissed from his post”, the letter says, “Your reaction to the brutal rape and murder of two young oppressed caste women in Badaun was that ’honouring women and protecting them should be the top-most priority of the government’.”
“We find this disturbing since concepts of ’honour’ and ’protection’ are routinely used to justify violence against women. Also, following this horrifying event you did not condemn a culture where such rapes and murders of oppressed caste people are commonplace”, the letter comments.
Those who have signed the letter include activists Zlakha Ahmed, Director, Apna Haq, Rotherham; Ila Patel, Director, Asha Projects, London; Shaminder Ubhi, Director, Ashiana Network, London; Sarbjit Ganger, Director, Asian Women’s Resource Centre, London; Mwenya Chimba , Director, Black Association of Women Step Out, Cardiff, and others.
Among academics who have signed the letter include Prof Shirin Rai, University of Warwick, University of Bedfordshire; Dr Camilla Bassi, Sheffield Hallam University; Prof Gargi Bhattacharyya, University of East London; Dr Rubina Jasani, University of Manchester; Dr Nisha Kapoor, University of York; Dr Sneha Krishnan, University of Oxford; Dr Sumi Madhok, Dr Kalpana Wilson, and Dr Marsha Henry, London School of Economics, among others.

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