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Caste bias query for India Gate

- From protests against rape to crackdown in the name of terror, uncomfortable questions

New Delhi, Feb. 26: A Congress member of Parliament today accused the urban middle class of dividing sexual assault “on caste lines”, saying the recent rape and murder of three minor Dalit sisters in Maharashtra had barely attracted public attention.

In contrast, Bhalchandra Mungekar said, the brutal violation of a trainee paramedic — who died in a Singapore hospital on December 29, about a fortnight after being tormented in a moving bus — had united the entire middle class.

“Where is the conscience of the entire middle class which, during (the Delhi) case, thronged India Gate and Parliament? Are you dividing rape on caste lines?” Mungekar said in the Rajya Sabha during a discussion on the rape and murder of the three siblings, all below 11, in Maharashtra’s Bhandara district a week ago.

Mungekar appeared to echo what Nobel laureate Amartya Sen had said recently.

Delivering a lecture on “Human Development in the Post-2015 Era”, Sen rued that the long history of violence against Dalit women in India had hardly attracted public attention unlike the protests that followed the December 16 gang rape in Delhi.

“I am absolutely delighted that the issue of violence against women is receiving the kind of attention it needed,” Sen had said. “But I would have been more delighted if it was recognised that Dalit women have been undergoing violence over a long time, with hardly any protest and any organisation behind them.”

The three minor girls had been missing since February 14. Their bodies were found in a well two days later.

Mungekar, a former Planning Commission member and an academic, said mostly people from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes were still vulnerable to attacks.

The MP demanded a probe by the CBI, saying he had no faith in Maharashtra police as the culprits were yet to be arrested.

The Shiv Sena’s Bharatkumar Raut, who raised the issue during zero hour, alleged that the police were not taking action against the accused.

BJP MP Najma Heptulla said women were not safe in the country. She also touched upon problems like selective abortion of female foetuses, malnutrition and other types of harassment.

Former BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu demanded that the government find out the details of the Bhandara case and make a statement in the House.

Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla said he would speak to the home minister and added that the government would report to the House.