rahaf al-qunun’s saudi escape has lessons for indians

qunun, a saudi woman, who fled her country to find refuge in a more liberal and welcoming society, grabbed international attention recently. her transit at a thailand airport, her barricading herself in the hotel room to prevent authorities from forcibly handing her back to her family, subsequent support from human rights activists, expeditious processing of her application by the unhcr and canada finally granting her asylum, isn’t just a plain news story.

having reached canada, qunun breathed a sigh of relief and expressed joy over new prospects in a new country where she could pursue education, have a job and live according to her will.

almost at the same time here in india we come across reports of violence against a woman who entered the sabrimala temple, escaping the eye of vigilantes. almost no mainstream political party would come out in the defence of this woman whose only ‘sin’ is that she abided by the ruling of the supreme court of india that threw open the temple to women of menstruating age, something that was banned due to age-old customs.

the president of the ruling bharatiya janta party has openly criticized the judgment of the apex court and has said that courts of law shall not rule over religious matters.

sabrimala issue is just one of many ills that have suddenly made their way into the indian society that until some time ago was treading slowly but steadily towards making an inclusive india, where all are equal, irrespective of religion, caste, class, race or gender. and there are many evidences that can establish that the bjp win in 2014 lok sabha elections and the subsequent shift of the party from development to hindu supremacy have been the driving force.

what can one expect when the president of the ruling political party publicly announces that his party shall rule the country for another 50 years, no matter the mob killed a man from minority faith over rumours of cow slaughter? but the real problem is not the politicians from this party but some sections of the electorate that are buying their arguments, despite the fact that these are making us a more intolerant and regressive society.

the bjp government had also failed to protect the human rights of a dubai princess, latifa, who a few months ago escaped her home country to lead a free life elsewhere, but the indian government forcibly sent her back, proving that we lack both astute diplomacy as well as respect for human rights of an individual. loud claims by bjp leaders that all rohingya refugees will be sent back to where they will face further oppression and violence are nothing but steps that are quietly making india more and more regressive.

for indians, if they want the nation to develop further on the lines of the west (where rule of law, human rights and democratic values are placed above anything else, and this subsequently paves way for inclusive economic development), either the bjp must mend its governance, or the electorate should act smart in 2019.