Karela Fry

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A lawless capital

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The most recent of many chilling incidents around the country was reported by TOI:

Police said the horrific attack took place when the young couple reached Munirka in south Delhi around 9.15pm on Sunday after watching a movie and boarded a stationary bus to go to Dwarka.

Around five to seven men in the bus, including the driver and conductor, allegedly misbehaved with the woman. When the boyfriend intervened, he was beaten up. She was then sexually assaulted in the moving bus.

The woman’s ordeal, a police officer said, lasted for 45 long minutes.

Both victims were pushed out of the bus at Mahipalpur in south Delhi after their mobile phones were snatched.

A police vehicle rushed them to hospital past midnight after being tipped off by a toll plaza patrol that a young man and a young woman were sprawled by the roadside.

Doctors said she had grave injuries on the stomach and intestine, and she bore signs of having been beaten with a blunt object.

While the 28-year-old boyfriend was discharged from hospital on Monday morning, the young woman, whose name is being withheld, was on ventilator at the Safdarjung Hospital with life threatening injuries.

One hopes that the unfortunate victim does not become part of the statistics reported in an article in EPW which recently took a cold look at the violent misogyny in Indian society:

Roughly 12% of missing women are found at birth, 25% die in childhood, 18% at the reproductive
ages, and 45% die at older ages. With the possible exception of Gujarat, the majority of missing women die in adulthood in all the other states.

Women have perhaps been discriminated against for a long time in India. However, extreme violence against women has been on the increase in the last few decades. One wonders why? Could it be that misogyny is potentiated by political patronage to criminals. Instances of political patronage of criminals is widely documented, and cuts across party lines. The most recent major example was reported by India Today:

In a face-saving exercise, the BJP on Monday expelled the former Uttarakhand Minorities Commission chairman Sukhdev Singh Namdhari, who has been charged as the main conspirator behind the liquor baron Ponty Chadha’s murder.

Though Namdhari has been removed from the BJP he continues to remain the Uttarakhand state president of Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

More than protection, such dubious persons conneced with political parties become the law, even in large metropolises, as TOI reported last month:

Over ten days after CM Prithviraj Chavan suspended superintendent of police (Thane rural) Ravindra Sengaonkar and Palghar senior inspector Shrikant Pingle, it has emerged that the duo were guilty of “insurbodination” as a senior IPS official had advised them not to arrest two teenaged girls under stringent sections of the IPC and the Information Technology (IT) Act.

More shockingly, despite the advice from the IPS official, the entire process of registering the FIR and the sections in it was monitored by a section of senior Shiv Sena leaders at the Palghar police station even as police officials stood by as mute spectators.

The result of such political patronage is that crimes go unpunished. It could be that, in turn, the widespread impression that criminals go free ensures that more people break laws. The victims are the ones who are habitually discriminated against: women.

Fortunately, in this case, NDTV reported:

The police have arrested the prime accused, the bus driver, in the shocking case of a medical student being gang-raped and assaulted in a bus in Delhi on Sunday.

The rule of law is weakened whenever people get away with crime.

18 December, 2012

India Today reported on the Bandaid offered by the government:

[Home Minister Sushil Kumar] Shinde informed the House that four of the six accused of the 23-year-old paramedic student’s rape were arrested. He said the government has proposed to hear the case in a fast track court so to ensure speedier justice to the victim.

Like all politicians, this minister too offers a special solution for a special case. No mention of the structural problem: who protects hoodlums?

On the other side of the floor, the BJP offered an equally empty solution, as NDTV reports:

The horrific rape of a young medical student in a bus in South Delhi on Sunday night was raised by angry parliamentarians today in both houses.

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said it’s time to introduce the death penalty for rapists. “What is the government doing to curb rape cases in the capital?” she asked. “The rapists should be hanged, we need tougher laws to stop rapes,” she said.

Exemplary punishment is a deterrant if the hoodlums are arrested, a water-tight case is made out against them by the police, and the case is brought to trial. What if hoodlums are protected, the FIR is written out incorrectly and the investigation is botched? What is the point of fast-track courts and death penalties then?

19 December, 2012

NDTV reproduces the full text of Sonia Gandhi’s letter to Sheila Dikshit on this matter:

I would urge you to take whatever steps are necessary to take community action, to strengthen law and order, and to step up vigilance to protect women.

Whatever steps? Like cleaning up the party?

In any case, the letter galvanized the home ministry into pious action, as Z News reports:

Stirred by Sunday’s gang-rape, the government on Wednesday announced a slew of measures, including increased police patrolling and immediate crackdown on vehicles having tinted glass besides impounding of buses and autos being plied by unverified drivers.

Shinde said it has been decided to augment the PCR fleet of Delhi Police by providing more vehicles which would be GPS-enabled so that their movement can be tracked at the central control room.

There shall be immediate crackdown on buses having tinted glasses and curtains and all such vehicles will be impounded immediately, the Minister said after reviewing the situation with Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar.

All commercial vehicles, including buses, will be asked to keep their lights on during night while plying in Delhi.

“All off-duty buses must be parked with their owners and not with their driver or staff,” Shinde said.

Commercial vehicles including buses found violating the contract carriage conditions or any other permit conditions shall be impounded and their permits cancelled.

Police will undertake verification of drivers and staff of all public vehicles and all buses and autos being plied by unverified staff or drivers shall be impounded, said Shinde, who is directly responsible for law and order in the capital.

Of course, we trust the police to always be alert, act proactively, and report crimes faithfully. They are very well-known for the impartiality with which they enforce licencing and permit regimes. And, yes, they are very good at solving crimes even when the media is not breathing down their necks. I am sure the home minister’s declaration is already sending shivers down the spines of all the goondas across the nation.

20 December, 2012

The Pioneer relays the home minister’s report to the parliament:

The data submitted by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs illustrates how poor the system has been in delivering justice in cases of rape across the country. While the registration of rape cases went up from 21,397 in 2009 to 22,172 in 2010 and 24,206 in 2011, conviction figures could not cross the 6000 mark in any of these past three years.

That is an incredible 25% conviction rate! What is the point of stringent punishment if investigations are shoddy? Could investigations be so lackadaisical unless goons had godfathers?

Even after cases of rape and murder has been brought to court, tried, guilt established, and the sentence pronounced, IE digs up the fact that many have been pardoned by the president:

In cases where the rapists have murdered their victims, only one convict has been hanged in the last eight years. Since Dhananjoy Chatterjee of West Bengal was hanged in 2004, 25 killer-rapists sentenced to death have obtained the President’s pardon.

An opinion piece in the Hindu takes a reasoned position on punishment:

[On] the question of the death penalty for rapists, I find myself unable to want that kind of vengeance. There are the practical reasons: aside from reasoned opposition to capital punishment, there is no evidence to suggest that the death penalty will act as a deterrent. There is the strong possibility that it would make an already low rape conviction rate even lower, since judges would be unwilling to hand down such an extreme sentence except in the worst and most brutal cases.

Whether to give a death penalty or a long jail sentence is a moot point unless the guilty are convicted. A 25% conviction rate just does not inspire faith in the law. For which other violent crime are 75% of the guilty never convicted?

India Today calls the government’s bluff:

In 2001, a 26-year-old woman was gangraped by four men in a moving Blueline bus which she boarded from Mathura Road in south Delhi. The men threw her out of the moving bus after raping her. The incident enraged residents of the capital and the police, as usual, reacted by cracking down on buses and promising night patrolling.

Eleven years later, Sunday’s rape was no different from the one on Mathura road. Efficient night patrolling, as promised, by an alert police could have saved the girl from being brutalised.

The police claims fell flat again November 15, 2002, when a fourth-year student of the Maulana Azad Medical College was raped by three people on knifepoint on the terrace of the Khooni Darwaza monument on the busy Bahadurshah Zafar Marg in broad daylight. Shockingly, the crime took place less than a kilometre away from the police headquarters. A fast track court was then set up to try the accused in this particular case.

Once the judgment was out, the court was wound up. It has taken the government exactly 10 years to set up five fast track courts to try rape cases.

In 2003, a 36-year-old Swiss diplomat was abducted and raped in her own Toyota Qualis from the Siri Fort complex parking lot by two men. She was beaten up, robbed and then dumped along with the vehicle a few kilometres away. In a kneejerk reaction the police started a campaign, issuing orders that all parking lots should be well lit.

Once again, they promised to improve night patrolling. The issue attracted international attention because of which the reaction lasted for some months. The case has remained unsolved and with culprits still at large.

21 December, 2012

It turns out the politicians more than protect rapists, some of them have cases pending against them. IBN Live reported:

Two sitting MPs and six sitting legislators in different states were fielded by their parties despite cases of crimes against women pending against them, a think tank said on Thursday, four days after a 23-year-old medical student was gangraped in Delhi. Data compiled by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) showed that parties like the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) gave tickets to candidates with charges of rape and other atrocities against women in different states.


3 Responses

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  1. […] reports a reason for the continuing protests in Delhi which makes perfect […]

  2. […] spontaneous movement against the kind of lawlessness which led to the Delhi bus gang rape seems to have been subverted by a host of “usual suspects”. TOI […]

  3. […] government which could not prevent corruption in its own cabinet, and could not assure safety to its own citizens, now excludes the people from the capital city. Washington Post […]

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