An Unparliamentary Government: What the Prajwal Revanna House of Horrors Exposes

In cases of crimes against women, the BJP's response is non-existent at best and celebratory of criminals at worst.

6 min read
Hindi Female

The scale of the crimes of the accused – Prajwal Revanna – its suppression, the variety of targets including employees, farm-hands, domestic workers, government functionaries, party women, constituents, the range of crimes like threats, fear-mongering, kidnapping, coercion, rape, the social complexity of a highly feudal, dominant caste-supremacist and patriarchal culture, the brazen abuse of political power and flaunting of the law, his sense of entitlement, the trauma of the survivors splashed and regurgitated across the internet, and vested political interests on all sides, leave citizenry in a stunned stupor.

The sheer multi-dimensional nature of this case is a confluence of political power, wealth, caste, feudalism, family name, gender, institutional atrophy, an electoral alliance, individual political rivalry, dominant-caste vote banks and more, which makes it extremely complex for the common mind grasp, leave alone, unravel a path through the maze to justice.

However, what rages on is not only the ruling-party-endorsed candidate and sitting MP Prajwal Revanna's case but also sitting MP Brij Bhushan Singh's case, where he is being investigated for allegedly sexually harassing numerous female wrestlers after protracted protests.

His son has now been invited by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to partake, preserve and enhance the political power of their family. In both cases, sitting MPs – agents of the state – are accused by several women of sexual assault, abuse and rape.

More grotesque is the case of Manipur, where ongoing suppression, state inaction and occasional eruptions of evidence mean that unspeakable terrors against women, of unknown and unimaginable scale have been abetted by the state, and perhaps continue unabated.

Even as we struggle to delineate the state's and its agents' culpability in these crimes, there are calls from outraged citizenry and the political class, for both the tactical and practical, like extradition and independent investigations, to the knee-jerk and reactionary, like capital punishment.

It is, therefore, useful to remind ourselves of what democracy must do. Justice for survivors, due punishment for the guilty, regardless of their station, and, equally, laws, policies and procedures that prevent or minimize future crimes of such scale and nature. And it is at that last door that we pause to examine the last 20 years.

A Pattern Emerges

We looked at three examples where the state or an agent of the state was complicit in crimes against women, in the span of the last year. Rewind further and a pattern emerges.

The BJP-run government of Gujarat and the Union Home Ministry have enabled the remission of the 11 convicts of the rape of Bilkis Bano.

The BJP-run UP government retained MLA Ramdular Gond for a whole 10 days before disqualifying him for a child-rape conviction and hand-picked the wife of Kuldip Singh Sengar as MLA candidate in 2022 after the four-time UP BJP MLA of Unnao was convicted of rape under POCSO. Here too, the BJP would not even expel him from the party for a whole year and some, despite court-ordered CBI arrest.

While MPs and MLAs across political parties and their governments have serious charges of crimes against women, now and in the past, every government is voted out for its worst and the next is expected to better democracy, not blight it.

However, in the data compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) below, from 2009 to 2014, there were two MPs with declared cases of crime against women while from 2014 to 2019, there was an 800 percent increase in the number of MPs with declared cases of crime against women in the Lok Sabha.

In cases of crimes against women, the BJP's response is non-existent at best and celebratory of criminals at worst.

From 2009 to 2014, there were two MPs with declared cases of crime against women while from 2014 to 2019, there has been an 800% increase in the number of MPs with declared cases of crime against women in the Lok Sabha.

(Source: ADR)


In the 10 years preceding the Narendra Modi government, the Congress-led UPA governments were witness to a slew of social upheavals due to sexual assaults, some by agents of the state (like the Bhanwari Devi case earlier, but with continuing protests and pressure on the state) and some by non-state criminals (like the Nirbhaya case.)

The record of legislative response between 2004-2014 of the Congress-led governments on the matter of sexual abuse, sexual assault or rape, alone, were thus, reverse chronologically.

  1. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 pursuant to the Justice Verma Committee recommendations after the crime against Nirbhaya (Jyoti Singh.) It added new offences like acid attacks, broadened what constitutes rape etc.

  2. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 to protect women at work from sexual harassment.

  3. Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 against sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography while safeguarding the interest of the child

  4. The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act of 2005 on medical examinations of the accused and survivors of rape, investigation by judicial magistrate of custodial rapes etc.

  5. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 for the protection of women against sexual assault (other than marital rape) by any family member.


A Solitary Act in the Last 10 Years

In the last decade under the BJP, despite the rampant increase in crimes against women, there is exactly one Act passed explicitly on crimes against women. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018, that increased the minimum sentence for rape for adults and children, and gang rape of children.

None of the pending recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee or anything else that transpired in the five years after the Nirbhaya Act was incorporated into this Act.

No other law was even proposed or discussed on crimes against women.

However, the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, 2023 increased the age of the victim considered a major in the case of gang rape from 16 to 18 years. It also criminalised sexual intercourse by the promise of marriage or deceitful means. This, in fact, is regressive in that it infantilises grown women's consent to sexual intercourse and enables false cases.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), incidences of rape doubled from 18,233 in 2004 to 36,735 in 2014.

In 2022, the NCRB compiled 38,911 cases of child rape alone and 4,45,256 cases of violence against women. Even with these staggering statistics, the sum total of substantive legislative responses from the BJP government is one solitary Act.

Beyond this, sexual offences against women where the state or agents of the state are accused or culpable have not been even acknowledged in Parliament. Where the ADR data on crimes against women by MPs and MP candidates should make the ruling party discuss and draft legislation against abuse of women by the elected, the BJP has taken a radical approach.


Even with an epidemic of such crimes against women from Manipur to UP and Delhi to Karnataka, a response from the government is non-existent at best to celebratory of the criminals at worst. No reassurance to women from the Prime Minister or Home Minister even where their own state agent is complicit. That would be the minimal first step before legislation can even be envisaged.

Laws Abroad

Other countries like the US, and several European and African countries have passed laws in response to recurrent legislator abuse of female constituents. In India, it is not covered by the POSH Act as victims may not be government employees.

Laws abroad include mandatory, recurrent training for legislators on what constitutes this crime – sexual advances, quid pro quo etc., with real use cases, acknowledgement of the balance of power and hence potential for abuse, mandatory fliers in MP/MLA offices on rules of engagement with female constituents etc. Such laws and policies signal women that democracy is alive and evolving to their needs, while also warning rogue legislators.


Other democracies have also strengthened their gender ombudsman agencies like India's National and State Commissions for Women to act autonomously and proactively. This direction of Parliamentary discourse and legislative reform has not been entertained by the BJP government in the last decade as evident.

When a pattern of societal disruptions emerges, democracy is meant to use legislation as a tool to ensure peace and harmony. Peace emerges from justice, and harmony with equality and fraternity and legislation as a response to disruptions is Parliament's very raison d'etre. While Parliament is vested with law-making, it is really the government of the day that drafts and tables laws.

The Parliament debates and passes it. If the ruling government turns a blind eye to persistent farm distress instead of passing reform in a consultative and democratic fashion, that sector will languish.

If it ignores joblessness instead of devising sound MSME and job creation policies, unemployment will abound, and the economy will quietly tumble.

Similarly, if it brandishes slogans of Nari Shakti instead of actively legislating against rogue state agents, society will sink further into a morass of misogyny and even GDP will suffer for the lack of formally working women, as it does today.

Contrast this with the UPA decade, with a slew of hard-fought legal provisions on violence against women, led by civil society in many cases. This is most certainly a regression of the legislative function of Parliamentary democracy and bound to leave citizens, especially women, questioning the ruling BJP's commitment to the very fundamentals of democracy – justice and equality for women.

(Tara Krishnaswamy is the co-founder of Political Shakti, a non-partisan group of citizens campaigning for more women MLAs & MPs. She tweets at @tarauk. The views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from opinion

Topics:  BJP   Crimes Against Women   JDS 

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More