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'Dismayed by NCW's poor response': Karnataka sexual violence case

Counterview Desk 

Responding to a petition initiated by the All-India Feminist Alliance (ALIFA) and the Women for Democracy (WFD), 700 plus concerned citizens from across India, including feminists from women’s groups, social and human rights activists, trade unionists, academics, scientists, lawyers, former bureaucrats, film makers, students and others have written to the National Commission for Women (NCW), calling for strong legal action against Prajwal Revanna (MP) and HD Revanna (MLA), from Karnataka, including swift inquiry and arrest, for the alleged offences of sexual violence faced by numerous women and video recording of the same.
The petition conveyed their deep dismay at the lack of prompt and strict action by the NCW (beyond issuing a notice to the State DGP), not just in this instance, but in a series of cases of women’s rights violations, especially where members of the ruling party or its affiliates have been involved, thus weakening the authority, independence and legal mandate of the Commission.

Text:

We, the undersigned signatories from the All-India Feminist Alliance (ALIFA), Women for Democracy (WFD), other women’s rights, democratic collectives and concerned citizens across India are writing to you, deeply dismayed at the lack of prompt and strict action by the NCW in the Prajwal Revanna and HD Revanna case, in which numerous women have faced sexual violence and sexual assault. We strongly condemn the impunity with which Prajwal Revanna and HD Revanna have abused their positions as MP and (former) Karnataka Minister respectively and call for their immediate arrest.
The deep sense of outrage is not just to the survivors of the crimes perpetrated here, but to all citizens of India, and all custodian institutions that are supposed to uphold women’s constitutional rights in this country. An open, unconditional and immediate apology is owed to each of the women subjected to the horrendous violence here. The Prime Minister himself should apologize in this case and ensure stringent action, even though it is not surprising to see his silence yet again after Manipur and many other incidents.
In the past decade, there have been many ‘high-profile’ cases in which members of the ruling party BJP and its other allies in NDA were accused of sexual violence and the consistent inaction / weak action of the NCW in many of these cases has been telling! The current case seems to be yet another shameful addition to the list and is shocking, both in terms of the scale of abuse and the impunity of the perpetrators. This erodes public confidence in the NCW, and the trust of women of the country in such bodies, meant for redressal and for systemic or structural changes in our institutions and society.
It has come to light that close to 2,976 videos of sexual abuse and violence against numerous women, at the hands of Prajwal Revanna have been circulating via hundreds of pen drives and social media handles. An FIR has also been filed, based on the complaint of a domestic worker, alleging Prajwal Revanna [MP of JD(S) from Hassan, which is an ally of ruling BJP], and his father HD Revanna (MLA of Holenarasipura) of sexually violating her and her daughter.
We are aware that acting upon complaints of women’s rights groups in Karnataka and the letter from the Chairperson of the State Women's Commission, the Chief Minister of Karnataka has announced the constitution of an SIT to investigate into this matter and issued summons to both Prajwal Revanna and his father HD Revanna, currently an MLA and a former minister in the state government. The SIT has also filed an FIR against the two accused, including charges of abduction. Public protests have been reported from different places by outraged women’s groups and citizens. After a major public uproar, NCW had to write to the State DGP, seeking a report within 3 days. However, this action alone is insufficient.
By campaigning for a sexual abuser, what message are the Prime Minister and the Home Minister conveying to the women of India?
As feminist, women’s rights activists and deeply concerned citizens, we demand answers to the following questions:
  • Why has the response of the custodian of women’s rights in the country (NCW) remained so minimal, when no less than a Member of Parliament and a sitting MLA face grave charges of sexual abuse and violence against multiple women, that too in an unprecedented manner?
  • How was Prajwal Revanna allowed to flee the country on a ‘diplomatic passport’, without having to face the consequences for his atrocious and criminal unlawful actions, and who all in positions of power, facilitated the same?
  • Why was Prajwal Revanna allowed to contest the Hassan Lok Sabha seat from the NDA, even after his actions of wide-spread sexual abuse were known and even communicated through a letter dated 8th Dec, 2023 by Mr. Devaraje Gowda, a BJP MLA candidate to no less than the Home Minister, Mr. Amit Shah?
  • By campaigning for a serial sexual abuser like Mr. Prajwal Revanna and allowing him to contest on an MP seat, what message are the Prime Minister and the Home Minister conveying to the women of India?
  • If only the NCW had taken timely and stringent action in many previous cases, such incidents would not have happened. We do not hesitate in saying that the NCW has failed the women of this country, by allowing the institution to become an agency for political vendetta and agendas of the ruling party at the Centre. The lack of swift action in numerous cases of violations of women’s rights only establishes that the Commission is no longer keen on upholding women’s rights as per its mandate in the NCW Act of 1990. We hope that at least now, NCW will live up to its mandate and do the needful.
In the light of the above, we call upon the NCW to immediately:
  • Ensure the immediate arrest of Prajwal Revanna and HD Revanna based on the FIRs filed against them, as well as arrest of all those involved in concealing or facilitating the offences by Prajwal Revanna and HD Revanna.
  • Issue summons to Prajwal Revanna and HD Revanna, to initiate a swift inquiry and proceed to recommend appropriate legal and criminal action against them as per the powers vested in the NCW.
  • Recommend cancellation of Prajwal Revanna’s diplomatic passport and ensure his return to India immediately.
  • Ensure protection of identities of survivors as well as adequate safety and security to all the women who have faced sexual abuse, who have complained, are likely to complain and are potential witnesses in the case, as per the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018.
  • Ensure necessary psychological, medical, financial and legal support to all the survivors of the sexual assault, as well as rehabilitation in terms of NALSA’s compensation scheme for Women Survivors of Sexual Assault, 2018.
  • Recommend the disqualification of HD Revanna as an MLA and that Prajwal Revanna should not be allowed to assume charge as MP, even if he is declared a winner, until the charges against him are judicially settled and he is held fully accountable for all offences committed.
  • Issue summons to the BJP President to inquire into information available to the ruling party about the criminal activities of Mr. Prajwal Revanna since December 2023 and why no action was taken by it in this regard, when BJP decided to allow the accused to contest as an MP from BJP-led Alliance of NDA, with the Prime Minister himself campaigning for him.
  • Direct all online platforms and digital search engines to de-index and take down the videos and images immediately, to protect the safety and dignity of the survivors. Circulation and distribution of this content online and offline must be strictly forbidden and stern legal action must be taken against those who circulate the videos or images of the women survivors.
We hope and trust that the Commission will ensure effective action on all the above counts and rigorously pursue the case until, all the perpetrators of the offences are brought to justice and all the survivors are fully supported.
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Click here for signatories

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