In response to the speeches given by BJP campaigners for the forthcoming Delhi Assembly elections, 175 women’s groups and individuals have sent an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling upon him to “fight the elections in a manner that upholds the Constitution, not one that increases the fear and insecurity among women!”
The letter has been written in light of what is described as “the repeated hate speech by election campaigners of the BJP, using fear of rape as a campaign message, and urging their followers to inflict violence on peaceful women protesting against the CAA-NRC-NPR”.
The letter begins with the following in bold, capitals.
‘Vote for BJP or you will get raped? Is this your message to Delhi’s women?
‘Your party is also exhorting mobs to aim bullets at women and children.’
‘Please stop your party from threatening women with violence. Fight this election upholding the dignity of our constitution.’
The full text of the letter
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
We speak to you as women of this country, and the women of Delhi – Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Adivasi and Dalit – who are horrified at the atmosphere of violence against women that members of your party have created merely to try and win an election.
When Mr. Anurag Thakur, a sitting Minister in the central government exhorts a crowd to yell ‘Goli maaron saalon ko’, please remember that in this case the ‘saalon’ is lakhs of peacefully protesting women, sitting in parks and maidans across the city, with young children on their laps.
Another campaigner for your party, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Ajay Singh Bisht aka ‘Yogi Adityanath’ kicked off his campaign in Delhi by saying ‘Boli se nahi to goli’ se maanenge'.
When the esteemed Home Minister, Mr Amit Shah, asks people to push the EVM button on 8 February with such force “that protesters feel the current”. Is he wishing to electrocute the women?
Is the BJP now openly endangering the lives of India’s women and children? This is what history will record and India will not forgive, Mr. Prime Minister. For the nation saw the direct result of this violent atmosphere created by members of your party, which inspired ‘Ram Bhakt’ Gopal to open fire at innocent students in Jamia on January 30th, and another terrorist weaponised by the hate being spread by your party, fired at the women of Shaheen Bagh on 1st February.
Mr. Parvesh Verma, your party MP said, “Lakhs of people gather there (Shaheen Bagh). People of Delhi will have to think and take a decision. They’ll enter your houses, rape your sisters and daughters, kill them.”
What is this kind of communal hate and fear mongering that you, as head of government are encouraging, that seeks to make women of all communities feel more insecure and threatened? Vote for BJP or you will get raped! Is this your election message to Delhi’s women? Is this how low your party has sunk?
Women understand the meaning of rape, Mr. Prime Minister. We have long suffered violence on our bodies, with little access to justice, despite your government’s slogan of Beti Bachao! We condemn this attempt to demean our histories of pain and fear by using it for cheap, divisive electioneering.
We do not fear the Shaheen Baghs of Delhi, Mr. Prime Minister. What we fear is a government that directs its security forces to attack peacefully protesting students, women and men. Elected members who openly threaten ordinary citizens. And a police force that stands by and watches as people inspired by this hate-filled rhetoric indulge in acts of violence.
Your government may disagree with the reasons for this nation-wide uprising against the NPR-NRC-CAA. But peaceful protest is our constitutional right. That is all we are doing. Lakhs of Delhi’s women are not just part of this movement, they are leading it. Empowered women are on the frontlines. We will not be silent when women are labelled terrorists and traitors, when all they are doing it fighting to protect and preserve the Constitution of our country.
Mr Prime Minister, you may belong to BJP, but you are the Prime Minister of the country and have a Constitutional obligation to protect the rights of all citizens. When members of your party exhort mobs to use violence and bullets and you remain silent or support them, remember it is you who are responsible.
- You need to speak out against such targeted violence and hate speech
- You need to take immediate action,including under all relevant criminal provisions of the penal code, against these violence mongering members of your party.
- You need to fight the Delhi election in a manner that upholds the dignity of our Constitution and ensures the security of India’s women.
Prominent among the signatories are Devaki Jain, (Feminist Economist), Laila Tyabji, (Craft activist and Chairperson, DASTKAR), Madhu Bhaduri, (former Ambassador of India), Navrekha Sharma, (former Ambassador of India), Zoya Hasan, (Former Professor & Member, National Commission for Minorities), Uma Chakravarti, (Feminist Historian and filmmaker), Syeda Hameed, (Former Member, Planning Commission of India), Kamla Bhasin, (Gender Rights Activist), Farah Naqvi, (Author and Activist), Natasha Badhwar, Author and Film-maker; and organisations like Saheli, Pinjra Tod, WSS, AIDWA, AIPWA, NFIW, Makaam- Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch, Muslim Women’s Forum, etc.