Rape exposes failure of govt institutions

Delhi Police chief has got it all wrong — his resignation may or may not solve the crisis, but asking the right questions, and censuring dereliction of duty, certainly will


Jasleen Kaur | April 23, 2013

On a day Delhi Police chief Neeraj Kumar gave his force as good as a clean chit on two charges — offering Rs 2,000 to parents of the five-year-old rape victim to hush up the case and an assistant commissioner of police slapping a protester — badminton ace Saina Nehwal smashed the credibility of Kumar’s force as if swatting a fly.

”After what I am hearing, it is really very scary. I will think twice (about walking alone in Delhi). This can happen to me as well,” the London Olympics bronze medallist said.

If it a bad remark on the police commissioner’s report card, his arguments to justify his actions, rather inaction, were worse: “If you do some wrong reporting, does your editor resign?” he shot back at a reporter who had sought Kumar’s reaction on demands for his resignation.

That’s irrelevant, for no one really was asking for Kumar’s resignation. The demands were for punishment for the cops for not registering an FIR — a punishable offence under the new anti-rape law. Second, ACP BS Ahlawat slapped a protester demonstrating against the police’s inaction and callousness outside the hospital where the girl was recuperating — her gender is irrelevant here, for Ahlawat was caught on camera, and the least his action deserves is a case of assault.

Kumar did not address either issue.

The inaction of the authorities carried on to the highest quarters: while Congress president Sonia Gandhi paid the customary lip service and mouthed customary seen-as-sensitive and proactive lines about “time for action, not words”, Neeraj Kumar’s boss, union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, the same day told Parliament that rapes take place across the country, and not just in Delhi.

And to imagine we have had all this less than four months ago — in the same city, involving the same set of characters and after another ghastly attack and gangrape of a woman!

“All government institutions working in the name of women and children have failed,” says an irate Ranjana Kumari, social activist and a crusader for women’s rights. “The national commission for women (NCW) chairperson says she cannot go and meet the victim because it was a holiday (referring to Mamata Sharma’s remark on Friday, a public holiday in the capital on account of Ram Navami). But we are not protesting for some favour from the government — we are protesting against the crime and a cop who slapped a woman protester.

“That cop is also a molester.”

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated that he felt “deeply disturbed”, activists say the bigger worry is the total systemic failure. Otherwise how is it possible, they ask, that a law has been passed by the government and the police do not know that they cannot refuse to write an FIR on rape?

“Police sensitisation towards gender sensitivity is not taken seriously. There is no political will to change the situation,” Ranjana Kumari affirms.

Section 166 (A) in the new law passed in March says action will be taken against the police if an officer does not investigate a rape case. It took a full day for the police in this case to lodge the FIR.

There is little need for the establishment to feel victimised in this case, for only a few such incidents are reported, and a minuscule few attract media attention. And if them, only the likes of a December 16 gangrape or the rape and barbarism inflicted on the five-year-old (broken bottles and candles inserted in her private parts, and left for dead by the accused) attract such public attention.

“There are many places in Delhi and NCR where such incidents take place; they are not even reported,” says Kavita Krishnan of the All-India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA). “In Nithari, small children, mostly of Bihar migrant labourers, are disappearing even today.”

Nithari, a village in illuminated Noida, achieved notoriety when body parts of several children, missing for months, were found from the drain of a bungalow there — apparently killed after rape, mutilation and other ghastly torture.

Calling any talk of police sensitisation “useless”, Krishnan says, “There are strict actions mentioned in the law but the police are unwilling to look at it. That attitude needs to be changed.”

Supreme court lawyer Vrinda Grover says, “We do not want the government to feel upset. We want them to bring change. There is lot of mental illness in our society. It is not just about rape — women are discriminated against in general.”

The police, Grover says, should be trained to work according to the law and it should be a continuous exercise.

In the end, the police and other representatives of those in authority must be held accountable for dereliction of duty. It’s not a question of resigning en masse; it’s a question of accountability.



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