The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Vanishing act blow to rape politics

Bhopal, Oct. 22: A rape victim at the centre of an uproar after she was paraded at the Prime Minister’s rally here on Sunday has gone underground.

Her disappearance deals a blow to the Congress and the BJP, which had been hoping to use her for their political ends.

Uma Bharti had called Jamnibai onto the dais on Sunday. The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate was trying to nail the Digvijay Singh regime over the increasing crimes against women in the state, saying there have been 128,000 rapes during the 10 years Digvijay has been in power.

Jamnibai’s disappearance is a blow for the BJP for it was seeking to portray her as symbolising “all the ills” of the Digvijay regime. Bharti had hailed the victim, saying she was “as respected as Ayodhya” and a symbol of women power.

Jamnibai’s vanishing act is a setback for the Congress as well for the Digvijay regime was hoping to reap political benefits by getting her to speak about the prompt justice and compensation she had received from the government.

The party had threatened to move the Supreme Court and the National Human Rights Commission against Sunday’s parade of the rape victim.

But, unable to handle the pressure and the media glare after being catapulted into the public eye, Jamnibai has gone underground.

In backward and conservative Madhya Pradesh, women are raped and/or paraded naked to settle family feuds and petty disputes like cattle straying into farmland from an adjoining field.

Far away from the political minefield of Bhopal, news came in today of Afsana, 20, being paraded naked at Bara village in Sagar district. Her “crime” was that she had sought to file an FIR against Azad and Ramzaan Khan for using abusive language during a property dispute.

Police registered a case only after two days when the village defence committee submitted a memorandum to the local superintendent of police.

Afsana’s hands were bound with rope and her clothes torn off in front of everyone, including her father and husband, who were also beaten up. Her ordeal lasted from 9 am to 4 pm.

Bharti today rubbished the Congress and the All-India Democratic Women’s Association general secretary, Brinda Karat, for raising a “needless hue and cry” over Jamnibai’s parade.

She said she was not aware that the victim had been raped in 1993 in Digvijay’s home district Raghogarh. “All that I had said was that she (Jamnibai) was stripped naked and paraded after her husband was killed,” Bharti added. She said she was not looking to make political capital out of the rape. Nevertheless, Jamnibai’s case figures in the BJP “chargesheet” against the chief minister.

The chief ministerial candidate said the victim did not know what lay in store for her when she took part in the rally. She said she suddenly decided to get Jamnibai to meet Vajpayee to showcase the “Digvijay Singh regime’s dubious track record of making Madhya Pradesh the number one state in crime against women”.

Bharti said she did not need a “certificate” from Karat to champion the cause of women. “I am accountable to my conscience,” she said, adding that Jamnibai’s dignity had not been undermined by the parade.

“On the contrary, she appeared as a symbol of mahila shakti (women power),” Bharti added.

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