Social scientists and activists have questioned Rashtriya Swamamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement that rural areas have fewer rape cases than urban areas.

Bhagwat during a function in Assam had said that “such crimes would not happen in Bharat or the rural areas of the country”. “You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang rape of sex crimes,” he said.

According to Sanjay Kumar, a fellow at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), there may be an assumption that there are lesser incidents in rural pockets, “we do not have any concrete evidence to suggest this”. The National Crime Record Bureau does not split the sexual assault cases by rural and urban areas.

“This assumption is based on reporting/visibility of such cases. Such incidents which take place in urban areas are highlighted by the media, whereas similar incidents of remote places do not find space in news reports. We cannot say conclusively that such cases do not occur I rural areas,” he said.

Kumar also pointed out the fact that, because of greater awareness, victims in urban areas manage to lodge FIR in the police stations, whereas, as everybody knows, it is quite difficult to do so in villages. “Moreover, even in urban areas, there is heavy underreporting of such cases because of attitude of the police,” he said.

Social scientist Ashish Nandy said that rural areas see more rape cases, compared to urban pockets. “As per the data collected by some groups, 70% of rape cases take place in rural areas. Therefore, there is every reason to be believe that such cases are more frequent in rural areas,” he said.

He claimed that these figures are based on official police records. “You can come to CSDS and check this. Also most of the rape cases in rural areas are caste related.”

Sharmistha Chaudhary, general secretary of the All India Revolutionary Women’s Organisation, went on to add that though cases are not reported in rural areas, it is quite “rampant”. “Wherever there is feudal society or extremism, such cases are natural corollary. Landlords indulge in such incidents against landless women (like dalits); police and military personnel, deployed in extremist-affected areas, rape tribal women. But hardly these are reported.”

On Bhagwat’s statement, she said: “It is a deliberate lie, spread in order to derail the movement which has gathered momentum against crime against women. Urban incidents make big headlines and get attention but this is unfair to say that there are no such cases in rural areas.”

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