Have religious affiliations become the yardstick for classifying crimes?

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Have religious affiliations become the yardstick for classifying crimes Credit: AFP
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Equality before the law is one of the basic principles of liberalism. The law must guarantee that neither individual nor group of individuals should be privileged or discriminated against by the government. Does these principles of equality hold true in our system? Let’s analyse 2 scenarios given below and understand whether the custodians of law expedite justice equally to all.

Scenario 1: On an alleged murder of a Temple Manager, Sri Jayendra Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of Kanchi was arrested in the wee hours of the morning. A.Shankaraman, the manager of Sri Varadaraja Swamy temple was murdered on September 3, 2004 and Tamil Nadu police claiming to have found evidence of conspiring the murder within a couple weeks of investigation, traveled all the way to Mahabubnagar  in Andhra Pradesh(now Telangana) and  arrested Sri Jayendra Saraswati on November 11, 2004. Asaram Bapu, a spiritual guru was arrested within a week of receiving a complaint of raping a teen in his Ashram in September 2013.

Scenario 2: In June 2018 a nun accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Jalandhar diocese of rape and a complaint was filed with the  Kerala Police under Section 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC, India). The nun in Kerala alleged that she was raped by Bishop Mulakkal 13 times between 2014 and 2016 during his visits to a convent in Kottayam district in Kerala. Three more women have accused the bishop in recent days of sexual misconduct against them. Despite the victim naming the accused and a case registered under 164 CrPC, Police refused to arrest the accused claiming to be in the process of collecting evidence. Meantime Kerala police went to Jalandhar a couple of times to interrogate and arrest the Bishop, however came back empty handed. Many people including a group of nuns despite receiving flak from a section of the Church and the political fraternity, protested for not nabbing the Bishop. With no other option remaining the police was forced to arrest the Bishop after almost 3 months of registering the case. Incidentally, the ex Bishop Franco felt heartache immediately after the police arrested him, perhaps, seeking a comparatively comfortable hospital stay during the initial trial.

The scenario 1 and 2 clearly shows the different approach taken by the system in India to expedite law on people accused of crime. The accused in the scenario 1 were arrested within a week or couple of weeks of registering a case. The second scenario saw police purposefully delaying the arrest despite the victim directly naming the accused. Why this difference of approach is the question that looms in one’s mind quite often these days. Is it the beliefs of the accused that matter for the law to act? There is no iota of doubt that every culprit must be taken to task. But why is the law and system more lenient to some people and rigid to others? This is a serious question to ponder in a secular democracy.

Similarly, the approach to such cases by the media and the left leaning liberals too has been seen in the past of carrying contrasting principles. Top journos Barkha Dutt and Sagarika Ghose who were vocal on Asaram Bapu preferred to be silent on Bishop Franco. The ultra left leader and CPI(ML) polit bureau member Kavita Krishnan who tweeted multiple times on Asaram Bapu and conducting candle light marches, could only come up with a halfhearted hashtag on Bishop Franco. Seeing Kavita Krishna’s lack of interest, a tweeple asked her thus –

“Where is your candle march ! Where is your agitation! Where is your symposiums! Since the rape victim is a nun and rapist is not Hindu no outrage candle march by feminist brigade and CPM lionesses…”

Derek O’ Brien, the Trinamool Congress MP who shared few photographs of the arrested Godman Ram Rahim in Twitter hasn’t spoken a word yet on Bishop Franco case.

When media and left liberals kept mum on Franco case, some leftist leaders blatantly supported the accused. The nuns who sat in protest demanding the arrest of Franco in front of Kerala High Court, were accused by the  CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, of dancing to tune of BJP-and RSS. Kodiyeri also alleged that the agitation of the nuns demanding the arrest of Bishop was dubious in nature. It is obvious that the statements he made on the nun rape case were inadvertently to exonerate the Bishop of his crimes. When a woman claimed to have cut off the private organ of Gangeshananda Theerthapada, a Swami of Panmana Ashram in Thiruvananthapuram falsely alleging rape, Kodiyeri attacked the Swami and demanded an immediate arrest. His party man and chief Minister of the State Pinarayi Vijayan went one step ahead and called the woman “courageous”. Later the so called “victim” took a U-turn and said that there was no rape. In a letter to the swami’s defence lawyer, the woman wrote, “There has been no form of sexual harassment by the swamiji towards me. Neither when I was a minor nor when I turned 18. The accusation of swamiji sexually harassing me at 16 and 17 years is false and an addition made among the other additions by police people.”

The left liberals, the left leaning media and the so called cultural leaders have been seen vocal and aggressive whenever a Hindu spiritual guru or a sadhu is mired in a controversy and the same set of people go dormant when it comes to people from other religion getting into a criminal tangle.

Image Credit: AFP

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