Grooming is a complex and wide-ranging concept that creates long-lasting harms while preventing the likelihood of disclosure.
The grooming scandals in the UK refer to a series of cases where children were sexually exploited and abused by gangs of men, often of Pakistani descent. The most well-known cases include the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, the Telford abuse scandal, and the Rochdale grooming gang case.
These cases have highlighted the failure of police and social workers to protect vulnerable children and prosecute perpetrators.
The ethnicity of the perpetrators has been a controversial issue, with some arguing that political correctness has prevented authorities from acting.
Now with the release of movie The Kerala Story in theatres on 5 May, 2023, the dangers of a similar problem—indoctrination of unsuspecting girls and women for conversion—is big news in India and understandably controversial.
The Kerala Story is an Indian Hindi-language film directed by Sudipto Sen and produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah, with the plot following the story of a group of women from Kerala who are converted to Islam and join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The film is believed to be based on the real-life cases of four women, Sonia Sebastian alias Ayisha, Raffeala, Merrin Jacob alias Mariyam and Nimisha alias Fathima Isa who surrendered to Afghan authorities in November 2019.
Their husbands had travelled to Afghanistan to join the ISKP. Currently in an Afghan prison, . This is like the stance taken by other countries, such as Britain and France, who have also refused to allow women who married ISIS fighters to return home.
Predictably there has been controversy surrounding the movie's release, its trailer, and the polarised reviews it is generating, like the long-drawn out events when The Kashmir Files was promoted, released, shown in theatres globally and broadcast on OTT platforms.
The question is why do people cringe at being shown things that are a reality for victims and their families, and why did it take so long for the authorities to respond or organise any effort to investigate, coordinate intelligence and devise a future deterrence plan?
The Rotherham grooming scandal was a large-scale sexual abuse scandal that took place in Rotherham, a town in South Yorkshire, England, between the late 1980s and 2013.
The scandal involved the sexual exploitation of young girls, mostly by men of Pakistani origin who were part of a grooming gang.
Several reasons have been cited as to why the authorities took so long to act on the grooming scandal in Rotherham.
The inquiry into the scandal found that there were systemic failures in the local authorities, police, and other public agencies, which meant that the abuse was not investigated or prosecuted as it should have been.
The inquiry found that many of the victims were not believed or taken seriously, and that there was a culture of denial and cover-up.
This is exactly the scenario played out in India when testimonies from Kashmir Pandits described how there were targeted high-profile assassinations, a terror-pogrom against the minorities, and abduction and sexual assault on Kashmir Pandit women in the 1990s.
It forced them to migrate to other cities in India during the proxy jihad by Pakistan in the now Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The same pattern follows now regarding , even as they have given interviews which are televised on national media.
There is denial, there are allegations of 'conspiracy theories', there is the usual 'Hindutva agenda' thrown in tele debates by Muslim politicians and social media influencers and the cover-up by 'fact checkers' has already begun.
In the UK grooming gang scandals there was also a fear of being accused of racism or Islamophobia, which meant that concerns about the grooming gangs were not taken seriously or were dismissed.
The inquiry found that some senior officials and politicians were afraid to raise concerns about the grooming gangs for fear of being accused of racism.
In India, despite the left-liberal deliberate 'ostrich-stance' towards bad behaviour, crimes and violence by Muslim youth, the authorities in general, the media, the judiciary, and the general population shy away from naming the perpetrators, or their heritage-origin fearing the label communal or the cleverly devised and engineered term "Islamophobia".
The inquiry in the Rotherham grooming abuse also found that there were not enough resources dedicated to tackling the grooming gangs, which meant that cases were not properly investigated or prosecuted.
A country such as India which deals with external threat of terrorism in its border states and important cities and urban centres, as well as the internal threat of insurgencies from the banned PFI nationally, of 'love jihad' or grooming of non-Muslim girls and women.
The few police officers assigned to investigate the grooming gang cases that are highlighted in the media, as well as social workers, lack the necessary training and understanding.
Additionally, other professionals may be uncomfortable with the nature and dynamics of the issue.
As a result, these cases are not given the appropriate treatment they require, which leads to the victims not receiving justice and a proper response to the abuse and violation of their rights.
This is often compounded by political debates, further obscuring the issue.
Authorities need to answer why the are not being tackled on a war footing and what is being done as a deterrent so that no further women undergo what the four girls of Kerala went through.
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