Hubballi case should refocus attention on women’s safety

For the BJP, the case came up at an opportune moment, allowing it to sharpen its narrative of saving Hindu girls and community appeasement.
Representational image.
Representational image.(File Photo | AP)

While the brutal murder of Neha Hiremath on a Hubballi college campus in North Karnataka has left people in shock and outrage, it has also raised the political temperature in a state that votes on Friday. The murder, committed by Neha’s former classmate, a Muslim, swiftly became a political issue and ignited a slugfest on ‘love jihad’, a term used by Hindutva organisations to denote an alleged trend of Muslim men luring Hindu women into romantic relationships in order to convert them to Islam.

For the BJP, the case came up at an opportune moment, allowing it to sharpen its narrative of saving Hindu girls and community appeasement. Neha’s grieving father, a Congress corporator, endorsed the love jihad angle; protests have broken out across the state demanding justice for the student. All this has put the government on the defensive. CM Siddaramaiah has rejected the claims of love jihad, said the killing was due to “personal reasons”, and that the police were handling the case with efficiency. The government has promised to set up a special court to fast-track the case and punish the murderer, who was caught within an hour. 

Political leaders should realise that this is neither the time nor the occasion to talk of either love jihad or an affair, but to deal with the case as a heinous crime that should not be repeated, definitely not on any campus. It involves the safety of women, whether at home, on campuses, on streets, or at workplaces. Women are increasingly being attacked for rejecting advances by men or for choosing to end a relationship, and religion has little to do with it. In Neha’s case, the perpetrator had obviously reached the point of obsession and needed professional psychological help to deal with it.

With electioneering in the slog overs, it is inevitable that the Neha case will remain political and the BJP will play the love jihad card to the hilt. For the Congress, which is battling charges of minority appeasement and looking to reclaim at least a few Lok Sabha seats, the case could prove to be a minor setback. Instead of playing on people’s emotions to sway their vote, parties ought to move away from divisive issues and talk of real problems affecting everyday life. But as in love and war, all is mistakenly deemed fair in elections too. 

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