An editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna tilting in favour of deputy inspector general Sunil Paraskar, who has been accused of rape by a Mumbai model, created a storm in political circles on Saturday and generated a strong response from the complainant herself.
While condemning the growing cases of rape and crime against women, Saamna said it had become a fashion to level rape charges and the Paraskar episode showed laws were often being misused with impunity to malign those occupying high office. It accused the media of sensationalizing the case. “A model accuses a police officer of rape and, after long years of best service, he is dubbed a villain,” it said.
The model called this “an attempt to intimidate” her. “These are soft threats,” she told www.satyamevjayates.com.
Uddhav Thackeray’s son and Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray defended Saamna.
“The edit is a comprehensive argument on why “rape,” although 1 of the worst crimes, should be carefully tried in courts, not in the media,” he tweeted.
The Saamna editorial cited the case of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who had to face a false charge of rape, and P J Kurien, Congress leader from Kerala and deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha who, the paper pointed out, had recently been exonerated of rape charges.
Nowadays the complainant takes six months or two years after the incident to file a complaint, and no one raises any questions (on the veracity of the complainant’s claim), Saamna stated and opposed what it called trial by media.
“What are the antecedents of the model and how can there be a rape after ‘madhur’ (sweet) ties lasting many days?” Saamna asked.
But the complainant said, “The matter is in court, no one should be commenting on sensitive matters without knowing all the facts.”
On the delay of six months in filing the FIR, she said Paraskar’s post in the police force at the time of the incident stopped her from filing a complaint. “Yes, it took me time to go to the police. He was an additional commissioner at the time, I knew (about) his power, even today he is taking support from Shiv Sena and others. I have all the mails where I told him what he has done with me, and there was no response from his end,” she said.
If Paraskar was innocent, he should have forthwith registered an FIR against her for defamation, she said. “Why did his wife call me while I was sitting outside the police commissioner’s office? Why did all his drivers recognize me while I was there,” she asked.
She also said Paraskar should produce evidence rather than making public the emails sent by her to him. “He should provide evidence (in his defence) to the media rather than showing mails where I abused him or said I will file an FIR against him. What do you expect from a girl who had been raped? Should she give respect to the guy who rapes her,” she asked.
Saamna, however, stated that slander and character assassination had become “weapons” to settle personal scores in politics and administration and suggested Paraskar could be the victim of a larger conspiracy to malign him.
“The truth should come out… The other side of the coin should be examined too… The police should not be a party to sensationalizing the case… They should handle the matter with restraint,” the paper said.
At the same time, Saamna claimed it had no reason to take sides. No one should pronounce a verdict (on the case) coloured by caste, creed or religious consideration, it remarked.
The editorial provoked a sharp response from the political establishment, prompting the saffron morninger to beat a hasty retreat. Sanjay Raut, Sena MP and executive editor of Saamna, said the leader comment was not meant to back Paraskar. “I don’t want to say anything more on the subject,” he added.
Speculation is rife in political circles that Saamna may have rushed to Paraskar’s rescue in view of his equations with the Sena top brass.
Aditya Thackeray tweeted, “If proved wrong, they (media trials) are defamatory. Rape is one of the worst crimes and those guilty must face the harshest punishment, but one must ascertain facts and wait for court verdict before holding anyone guilty… The edit states clearly that it doesn’t seek to side or defend anyone, but such accusations are sensitive and must be seen in a sensitive light and only courts, not media must decide on it.”