Date: 09/12/2014

By Rajeev Sharma Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-9 20:03:01

Another shocking case of rape in Delhi has shamed India internationally with parallels to the infamous gang rape case in the capital two years ago that outraged the entire country.

The latest case, in which a 27-year-old woman executive was raped by a taxi driver working for the American "ride-sharing" firm Uber, has triggered many questions. The incident demonstrates that virtually nothing has changed after the anti-rape laws were made more stringent and offenders are not deterred by the national outcry and police crackdown in the wake of the December 2012 Delhi rape case, where the victim, now known in India only as "braveheart," eventually died of her injuries.

The case has drawn attention to the safety issues around Uber, an app that circumvents existing taxi services and has been accused of failing to screen its drivers.

The Delhi government has banned the service as a result, strengthening taxi driver's unions elsewhere who accuse Uber of being both dangerous and of deliberately undercutting existing services for profit. Uber is not following the ban and is continuing to operate in Delhi, but there is little sign of how the authorities will act in response.

Domestically, though, the horrendous incident brings attention back to the fraught sexual politics and fears for the country's national image that the previous crime invoked.

The incident is fraught with huge political significance for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is trying his best to sell India as a tourist destination and a manufacturing hub to the world.

Modi is realizing now how rape cases like this one can upset his grandiose plans just as his predecessor Manmohan Singh did in the aftermath of the December 2012 shocker.

Worse, Modi can control or micro-manage the Indian press to an extent, but he cannot prevent negative reporting by the international press of incidents like the latest rape case. The latest rape incident has sullied India's image. This throws up a challenge for Modi.

Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party had hauled the Singh government over the coals for the previous gang rape case. But now a crisis of similar proportions confronts the Modi government. The chickens have come home to roost.

The Modi government is as clueless about finding an effective remedy of social evils like rape as the previous government was. Psychologists and sociologists will find it interesting to tackle the question of why incidents of rape have not diminished even after the nationwide outcry, high-octane publicity and tough counter-measures taken by the government in the wake of the horrendous gang rape case.

The most baffling and worrying feature of the latest rape case is that the rapist made pointed references to the December 2012 Delhi assault - but only to force his victim into total submission. Clearly, the criminal in the latest case was not deterred by the death sentences passed on the earlier rapists.

The latest high-profile rape case could not have come at a worse time when New Delhi is preparing to host two world leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday and US President Barack Obama on January 25, 2015.

For Modi, it is an embarrassing moment; for the Indian society, a continuing shame.

The author is a New Delhi-based independent journalist and a strategic analyst. Follow him on Twitter at @Kishkindha

Posted in: Viewpoint