Rape FIR against Gehlot minister’s son; echoes get louder of a ‘Bhanwari repeat’

Rape FIR against Gehlot minister’s son; echoes get louder of a ‘Bhanwari repeat’

India News


“When I called him, he said he is the son of a minister and nobody can harm him… He brags about his money and power and at the end says people won’t even know where I have disappeared to. The Bhanwari Devi case will be repeated.”

These words are part of an FIR registered in Delhi by a 23-year-old woman who has accused Rohit Joshi, the son of Rajasthan Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) Minister Mahesh Joshi, of rape among other charges. The victim says she registered the case in Delhi because she feared she would not get justice in Congress-ruled Rajasthan, where minister Joshi wields significant influence, and said that associates of the accused have been “defaming” her.

The parallels to the Bhanwari Devi case of a decade ago and the woman’s references to it are threatening to blow up into a major controversy for the beleaguered Congress.

Mahesh Joshi is considered one of the most-trusted loyalists of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. The fact that the FIR registered against Rohit will be investigated by the Delhi Police, which comes under the BJP government at the Centre, is also significant.

Last year, Joshi had been summoned by the Delhi Police in the phone tapping case filed against Lokesh Sharma, OSD to Gehlot, on a complaint by Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.

An auxiliary nurse and midwife, Bhanwari Devi, was killed in 2011, leading to the arrest of then cabinet minister Mahipal Maderna and Congress MLA Malkhan Singh Bishnoi. Like Joshi, Maderna was the PHED minister, in the then (2008-2013) Gehlot government. After the furore hit the headlines, Maderna, the son of stalwart Congress Jat leader Parasram Maderna, was sacked.

In October last year, Maderna died of cancer. The trial in the case is still on in a lower court, with the statements of defence witnesses being recorded. Bishnoi is out on bail.

In the 2018 Assembly elections, the Congress had given tickets to the children of both Maderna and Bishnoi, who both won.

Shortly after the FIR was registered against his son in Delhi earlier this month, Joshi told reporters: “All my life I have stood with truth and justice, and I will continue to do that, whether in this case or some other. Police should do a fair and impartial investigation.” Joshi also alleged a “media trial” on the matter.

Incidentally, one of the first to raise doubts over the impartiality of such a probe was the late Maderna’s daughter and Congress MLA from Osian, Divya Maderna. “I have serious questions to DGP regarding police administration. Why the FIR was not registered by Rajasthan police? DGP must immediately direct… departmental inquiry against officers who refused to register FIR,” Divya Maderna tweeted on May 10, demanding security for the alleged victim and her family.

When the official handle of the Rajasthan Police replied to the tweet saying they didn’t receive any complaint, Divya Maderna posted that this was an “unreasonable” reaction. “… the officers who denied FIR will certainly not forward any such complaint either”.

Other Congress leaders have sprung to the administration’s defence. Panchayati Raj and Rural Development Minister Ramesh Meena said “anyone can level allegations”, and that it should be investigated how the “relationship” between the woman and Rohit Joshi had gone wrong.

In her FIR, the Jaipur-based woman has accused Rohit, who is married with one child, of raping her on multiple occasions between January 8, 2021, and April 17 this year. The FIR talks of intoxicating drugs, miscarriage, abduction for compelling her into marriage, unnatural offences, criminal intimidation and molestation.

Rohit’s Facebook page describes him as a member of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee. He regularly tours the Hawa Mahal constituency which is his father’s Assembly seat and takes part in social events. After the FIR was lodged against him, Rohit in a Facebook post appealed to people to not post anything on social media related to the case, and said that most people who know him know “the reality and truth of the case”.

The Hanuman Beniwal-led Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), which has three seats in the 200-member Rajasthan Assembly and is trying to emerge as a third force in the state, has meanwhile targeted former ally BJP over the issue.

The MP from Nagaur, Beniwal alleged that the BJP was keeping “quiet” because its leaders had joined hands with Minister Joshi to install the BJP’s zila pramukh and Congress’s up-zila pramukh in the Jaipur zila parishad elections.

The BJP appears to be trying to dispel that impression now. A minority wing of the party recently burned an effigy of Joshi in Jaipur and demanded his resignation. BJP state chief Satish Poonia told reporters: “The character of the Rajasthan government is out in the public. If such serious allegations are levelled against their MLAs, sons of their ministers, the Chief Minister should think in which direction he is taking Rajasthan.”





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