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The Unnao rape case has shaken the nation, but it’s not the first time an MLA has been accused of sexual assault. A quick refresher here.
In June of 2017, a minor girl from Unnao district in Uttar Pradesh alleged that she had been raped by BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, his brother and other people. However, the case came into the limelight only when she attempted to kill herself outside Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence on April 8 2018. Justice has still not been served though there are protests going on in support of her case.
So many MLAs have been accused of sexual harassment or rape just in the past few years. What does one do when the people who are supposed to be our representatives and work for our well-being turn against us like this? It is important to at least keep calling these sexual predators out and reminding ourselves of who they are.
In that spirit, here’s a non-exhaustive list of the MLAs who have been accused of sexual harassment or rape in the past few years.
Like in the Unnao rape case, a then 51-year-old woman attempted suicide before Kerala Congress MLA M Vincent who was charged and arrested for stalking and sexually harassing her (in 2017). It seems like victims of sexual harassment and rape have to attempt suicide before being taken seriously. It is a sad state of affairs indeed.
In 2017, Jolly, a BJP MLA in Delhi, has been accused by another party activist of sedating and raping her. Subsequently, he was booked for rape, poisoning and criminal intimidation. Prior to coming to power, when the 2012 assault and murder of Jyoti Singh happened, the BJP tried to take the moral high ground against other parties, but they are certainly not innocent. They are just hypocritical, like many of us.
In November 2016, a woman filed a complaint accusing the Congress MLA from Mann-Khatav (Maharashtra), Jaykumar Gore of sending her lewd messages on WhatsApp and seeking sexual favours. She said that he used his position of power to abuse her. He finally surrendered before the Satara district police in 2017. It was about time too.
The image of sexual assault as something that strangers do to you in dark alleys is not very representative of the truth, which is that the ones closest to us are far more likely to be guilty. Amanatullah Khan, an MLA belonging to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was accused of sexual assault and harassment by his sister-in-law. The Delhi Police arrested him but he was bailed out a day later. Justice was hardly served.
Sarfaraz Alam, a Rashtriya Janata Dal MLA in Jokihat, Araria was allegedly involved in an altercation over a lower berth while travelling by train. According to Indrapal Singh Bedi, the complainant, both Sarfaraz Alam and his body guard were drunk and involved his wife in the argument, sexually harassing her in the process. This was back in 2016 and he was suspended from his party then. But he joined it again in February 2018 and shockingly, won an election held in March!
Sexist remarks often slip under the radar but they are a part of sexual harassment too. This is why we must always confront people who make sexist statements. And that’s what MLA ES Bijimol did in 2015 when she registered a case against Kerala Congress MLA MA Vaheed. We can all learn from her.
Back in 2015, yet another BJP MLA – a Gurugram one – Umesh Agarwal was accused of drugging and raping a woman who had lodged a complaint a police station in West Delhi. This happened in January. Curiously, in October of the same year, the woman stated that she had not been raped. There is clearly something fishy here – we know that rape is a crime of power, thus, it is not surprising that power is used to turn things in favour of the guilty and get complainants to retract statements. We must challenge this systematic oppression of the marginalised by the powerful.
The above list does not even cover all of the MLAs accused of rape or sexual harassment, let alone all the other kinds of politicians out there. And there are cases of sexual assault by people who are not politicians but hold some sort of power over their victims, not just in India but all over the world.
Rape and sexual harassment of any sort are huge problems at the local, national, and global levels and must be addressed. The first thing to do is to question power – the power of men over women, the power of people of upper caste and class over people of Dalits, Bahujans and Adivasis, as well as over those who are economically weak; the power of politicians over common citizens, the power of adults over children, etc.
The reason is that all these factors come into play in every case of sexual assault – it’s never just about two people, it’s about generations of oppression and not just a moment of lust.
Top image is of accused MLA Jaykumar Gore via Youtube