As a part of campaigning for assembly elections in Rajasthan, Congress president Rahul Gandhi visited and offered prayers at the Ajmer Sharif Dargah today. He was accompanied by Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot and former chief minister Ashok Gehlot. After that, he addressed a rally in Pokhran.
As the Congress leaders visited the shrine, its dark past where Congress leaders were also associated, comes to mind. One recalls the mass rape and sexual exploitation that had happened at Ajmer which was exposed in 1992. Several members of the ‘Khadim’ family, who are the traditional caretakers of the Dargah, were involved in the crime.
The modus operandi of this crime was similar to what the Muslim grooming gangs have been doing in the UK in recent times. They would trap one girl and manage to take obscene images. Then they would blackmail the girl into familiarising them to her classmates and friends. Eventually, other girls would be raped, sexually exploited and have their pictures taken. The cycle continued so forth. The gang continued to expand its operations and victimise an increasing number of girls.
Local police were aware of this organised crime, but they turned a blind eye because the Khadims were powerful people with connections in high places. Even after a local newspaper exposed the crime, the prosecution was difficult as not many girls were ready to come forward and testify.
One of the main accused in the case was Farooq Chishty, president of Ajmer Congress. Other two persons accused in the case were vice-president and joint secretary of the city Congress unit. Initially, Farooq escaped prosecution by claiming to be mentally unstable. The defence was successful in proving that he had developed schizophrenia. He was convicted much later in 2007 by a fast track court.
It was estimated that more 500 girls became victims of this gang, most of them Hindus, while the criminals were Muslims. Rapists were not the only people to have exploited the helpless girls, others also joined in harassing them. Many local papers and tabloids had got photographs clicked by rapists, and they used those photos to extort money from the girls by blackmailing them.
Pokhran is the place where India has conducted its nuclear tests. And while Rahul Gandhi visits the place to campaign for election, the stand of the Congress party on the tests can’t be ignored.
While the first nuclear test was done at the same location by Indira Gandhi government in 1974, Congress reaction to the second test by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1998 was dubious.
While the tests were vital in building India’s nuclear weapons, the Congress party had actually opposed the tests. Then Congress president Sonia Gandhi had said that “real strength lies in restraint, not in the display of shakti,” referring to Operation Shakti, the name given to the operation. Party spokesperson Salman Khurshid said that BJP had done the test for political reasons and not to enhance the security of the nation. India’s neighbouring enemies have nuclear weapons, despite that fact, the Congress party had opposed the nuclear tests.