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Rekha Sharma, the National Commission for Women (NCW) Chairperson has been in Kerala for the last three days.
M C Josephine, the chief of Kerala State Women’s Commission (SWC) says that they did not receive any intimation about the chairperson’s visit. She, it seems, came to know about the visit through the television channels. It is true that the visit of the NCW chief without informing the media outlets and without holding sittings after issuing a notice, was to meet only those of her own choice. On the other hand, Sharma’s statements during her visit are unbecoming of a person serving in a responsible position. She, without the support of any facts or specific evidence, said that forced religious conversions were taking place in Kerala. She also met the state police Chief Loknath Behra and demanded an inquiry into the institutions involved in forced conversions. Although the SWC chief and the journalists asked about who was carrying out the forced religious conversions, Sharma was not willing to give a clear cut answer.
The NCW chief raised some highly serious allegations while speaking to the media in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday such as: forced religious conversions were taking place in Kerala; the institutions that carry out the conversions were receiving financial support; the people subjected to conversion were being used as human bombs. Rekha Sharma is a known BJP worker in Haryana. She might be believing in the RSS ideology. But now she is the chairperson of National Commission for Women. A person serving in such a position should issue statements with a sense of responsibility. However, one cannot help but say that Sharma ignoring her position, unleashed poisonous remarks akin to that of RSS demagogues in the streets.
Of late, grave criticisms and complaints related to forced religious conversion in the state have been raised in connection with the Aarsha Vidya Samajam in Tripunithura, Ernakulam. Several women who were subjected to torture at the centre came out with complaints which led to court interventions too. Allegations including sexual harassment were raised against this institution. The officials of the Yoga centre escaped from the clutches of law only because of the sluggish approach of the state government. The NCW didn’t find it fit to either visit or hear the plight of the women who were subjected to brutal harassment by the centre. On the other hand, the people running the institution were given audience to meet the NCW chief and present their case.
An image of the meeting with them was published on the official Twitter handle of the NCW. The footnote for the image is what is amusing which read: the victims of forced religious conversion meeting the NCW chief! This is a clear picture of a person holding an official post implementing the RSS work culture of building a fortress of lies, using the official machinery. Of course, ruining the sanctity of Constitutional institutions and official positions is a common sight after Narendra Modi came to power. But it should not be allowed to exacerbate into the scale of insulting a state and triggering fissures among the people. The civil rights activists and women’s right champions as well as those who believe in democracy of the state should be constantly vigilant in this regard.
The chairperson of National Women’s Commission (NWC) also found time to visit Hadiya at Vaikkom, who has been in house arrest for months following her conversion and marriage with a man of her choice. There again, after she came out of Hadiya’s house, the main subject of her conversation was forced religious conversions. She was not prepared to let the people know what Hadiya had to tell. At the same time there is a big contradiction in this. The SWC has been maintaing the position that they could not visit Hadiya when her case was pending with the court. It is at the same time when the state commission was harping on this position that the NWC visited Hadiya. Now that the NWC and even some Sangh Parivar associates, have visited Hadiya, the point the SWC should clarify at least now is what technical hurdle stands in their way of their visiting her. It is beyond doubt that the state government’s lax stand has been a cause of Hadiya’s issue getting this complicated. Therefore, it is time that the state government and SWC come forward to intervene in the matter with a little more responsibility and fairness.