Women safety and security, curfew free Gujarat, and no incidents of communal violence, are some of factors that helped the BJP in keep winning the voters’ heart during the last two decades in the state.
Out of 49,089,765 voters in the state, women are 23,751,738 and they play a key role in deciding the elections.
The Congress, on the other hand, lacks strategy and cohesiveness in countering the BJP in the state.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while campaigning, has emphasised on how communal riots had become “routine affairs and curfews were common — 200 days in a year”. “Since BJP came to power, women are more safe in the state, now women can freely roam in night and can even return home without fear after enjoying Garba.”
These claims are backed by the state’s track record. Communal violence had disturbed peace in 16 districts between 1961-71, when some 685 incidents of communal riots were reported in the state. Again in 1981, anti-reservation stir in the state took a violent turn, this followed 1985 communal violence – one of the worst violences in the history of the state. Similarly, post Babri mosque demolition, communal violence broke out in 1992 which dirturbed the peace and harmony in the state; and then, post Godhra carnage violence in 2002.
“Incidents of communal violence have occurred in the state, no one can deny it; but except the 1969 communal violence, all violence in the state had political angle and twist. Only 1969 riots can be called apolitical communal violence,” says Kuldeep Sharma, Former DGP of Gujarat. “So far, the peace and safety of woman is concerned, Gujarat was peaceful state from beginning,” he asserts.
Sharma said since the formation of the Gujarat state, it was front line state, initial governments initiatives, then ICS and IAS officers proactive measures helped in planning and setting up GIDC (Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation) in Vapi, Ankleshwar and other cities. These steps attracted investment as entrepreneurs only invest in place were there is peace and no labour unrest.
According to Sharma, women were safe in the past as well, but since the last few years it is presented that women are safe now only. “The fact is women were safe, roaming in night even in 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.”
He does not remember one such incident that eve teasing or crime against woman had increased during Navratri nights either in 80’s and 90’s. “But a propaganda is run and people are believing it because it is repeatedly said.”
While the BJP is claiming that women are more safe in its regime, National Crime Record Bureau report suggests otherwise, in 2020 – 8,028 incidents of crime against women took place in the state; in 2021, it came down slightly and there were 7,348 offences registered in the state. However, there was a 10 per cent jump in crime against children in 2021 – from 4075 cases were registered in 2020 to 4515 in 2021.
In the last budget session, the Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghvi has informed the state Assembly that in two years (2020 and 2021) total 3,796 rape cases were reported in the state, average five rape cases daily. The state also reported 61 gang rapes during the period.
“Women are safer (in Gujarat) as compared to other states, even during the Congress regime (they were safe)… there is no such evidence to claim that during the Congress rule, crime against women use to increase during Navratri nights in the state, and now it is not happening,” says former IPS officer Arjunsinh Chauhan, adding that it is “normal if few more cases are reported in Navratri compared to other nights, because during Navratri hundreds of women are out to celebrate, but those numbers too were never alarming, because police patrolling are being also increased during those nights”.
“A perception is being built that now women are safe and can roam in night hours… the problem is even those women who have enjoyed freedom in 80’s and 90’s are silent. So it is like ‘like king, like people’,” Chauhan adds.
“All those who are taking credit for women’s safety in the state, were the ones, who were not ready to give credit to police for the same. When I took over the reigns, on the contrary, the politician use to say, ‘what is a big deal in it, it is in blood of Gujarat’,” says a retired IPS officer on the condition of anonymity
The retired officer cited an example, “In schools, if a teacher wants to ensure silence in the classroom, teacher will appoint most mischievous student as class monitor, if law and order is better today, one should try to understand, why and how.”
“The fact is in the history of Gujarat, before storming of Akshardham temple in September 2002, terrorist attack never took place in the state, before 2008 serial bomb blast, never such bomb blasts have taken place, but that does that become talking point or political debate issue in the state? The ruling party will not talk about it, on contrary, they will market the post actions,” the he asserts.
The retired officer also argued that the “gospel propaganda is sold like hot potatoes and people are buying it, because Congress lacks counter strategy and cohesiveness. Congress leaders always live under the fear that the past will return hounding them if they raise the issue of 2002 riots, or serial bomb blasts”.