Even though the ruling TRS has 4 women MLAs, a male minister, Thummala Nageswara Rao, is in charge of the women and child welfare department.

Poor response to crimes against women in Telangana Govts gender insensitivity to blameImage for representation
news Gender crimes Tuesday, August 07, 2018 - 17:39

As the government sponsored Bonalu festival was being celebrated merrily last week, a couple of sex rackets rattled civil society in Telangana. In one, 11 minor girls, injected with hormones to trigger early maturity, were saved from the flesh trade in the temple town of Yadadri. In the next, the son of Rajya Sabha member D Srinivas of the ruling TRS was implicated in a sexual harassment case involving students of a nursing college he runs in his native Nizamabad district.

But the gravity of the two cases, with which one can rate the performance of the 4-year-rule of K Chandrasekhar Rao of the newly carved Telangana state from the gender perspective, glaringly failed to receive due attention in the fervour surrounding Bonalu. Ironically, the festival is celebrated in reverence of the prowess of women.

Telangana, from much before it attained separate statehood, has been infamous for women and child trafficking, girl child adoption rackets and the evil practice of Basivini or Jogini system, all of which push women into sub-human conditions. In the Basivini or Jogini system, parents marry off their daughters to the village deity before they attain puberty and these girls later become a source of sexual gratification for the local males.

These evil practices are as old as the lores of great women like Chakali Ilamma who valiantly fought for the liberation of Telangana from the clutches of razakars patronised by the then Nizam rulers through a bloody armed conflict.

But, has Telangana, after it found itself on the Indian map as the 29th state, helped improve the status of women in any way in the last four years under the regime of the TRS which led the region toward separate statehood? This is the question that is being intensely debated by folks who waged a spirited and sustained battle that lasted for nearly six decades for the noble cause of separate statehood.

No women in the cabinet

TRS President K Chandrasekhar Rao took oath as the first CM of Telangana state with a council of ministers sans a woman member. It happened in spite of the fact that the TRS has four women MLAs. Amusingly, a male minister, Thummala Nageswara Rao, is handling the women and child welfare department. This apparent lack of gender sensitivity in the TRS government seems to be the reason for its poor response in the twin sex racket cases.

According to Achuta Rao, a child rights activist, the government must take some confidence building measures immediately after the rescue of victims in case of minors in trafficking cases. These include counselling for survivors and instant payment of Rs 1 lakh each to the victims under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. But none of this has happened in the Yadadri sex racket case, he deplored.

According to data published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the incidence of rape has witnessed a year-on-year-rise in Telangana since the new state was formed. As per NCRB statistics released in 2017, 979 rape cases were recorded in 2014 with the number going up to 1,105 in 2015 and 1,278 in 2016, with Hyderabad as the capital of gender crimes.

Gade Jhansi, president of the Progressive Organisation for Women (POW) who took an active part in the separate Telangana movement, told TNM: “We succeeded in getting a state with geographical boundaries only. We need to go a long way to do away with the patriarchal mindset which continues to dominate the political sphere even after achievement of the separate state.”

She further adds, “That is the reason why the political will is missing, resulting in poor response mechanism from official agencies in gender crimes.”

Internal power struggle in the TRS?

There is a considered view in local circles that the sexual harassment case in the nursing school run by MP D Srinivas’ son Sanjay would not have come to light had there not been a power battle between Srinivas and local MP Kavitha Kalvakuntla, who is also the daughter of TRS chief KCR.

Although the nursing students kept enduring harassment meted out by Sanjay for a long time, their plight suddenly hit the headlines in the wake of an in-house power struggle in the TRS between the father of the accused and Kavitha.

Kavitha, who went to the Lok Sabha from Nizamabad in 2014, has of late seen a potential threat from Srinivas' younger son Aravind who had reportedly joined the BJP with his father’s blessing. Srinivas is accused of mobilising local TRS cadres and using his popularity to ensure his son’s victory in the upcoming elections at the expense of KCR’s daughter. Kavitha, known as a firebrand MP, seems to be preparing to show Srinivas the door, and the sexual harassment case in his son's nursing school surfaced just in this backdrop.

Also read: Andhra medical student who accused professors of sexual harassment takes her own life