As we agonize over the happenings in this nation, it has become extremely painful to bear what is going on, the incidents of brutal violence against women have become a regular affair. We hear how young girls and women can be easily set on fire, how they can be pulled from bus stops in broad daylight and gang-raped, how they can be gang-raped/murdered/burnt without recognition and thrown away like piece of garbage, how acid can be thrown at their face and bodies with little impunity, how minor girls lured into love jihad and left behind, we cannot help wonder what is going on in this country? It is a country that lost its moorings, particularly its institutions, the political, the police, the judiciary and even the media. We have created an elite that seems to show little empathy for the larger population, sitting in ivory towers ruling over with abandon to the sufferings of the common man.
From North to South, East to West this is going on while our politicians go on discussing in parliament and assemblies, courts go on giving bails to culprits with unending delays in sentencing, police go on with complete apathy to the cries of the helpless and media go on with selective reporting of the crimes. We are spending literally millions of dollars worth of taxpayers’ money to protect the most corrupt but we cannot protect the most helpless. We have created a political elite with commandos roaming around the country but we cannot save a young girl who was set on fire running for 1 km crying for help. We have police who thinks that their job is to protect the elite and their political masters but not the common person.
We speak of our large heart to shelter the oppressed in neighbouring countries facing brutalities but we are not paying the urgently needed attention to the plight of brutalities against the girls and women in our own country. We spend 46 lakh crore rupees and support 14 lakh personnel in the military to protect against external aggression but we are unable to protect a few thousands of women from brutal internal aggression. The Constitution of India is not even worth its paper if it cannot help the helpless under the apathy of the system we ended up today in 70 years of independence. The sad truth is, it is cursed to be born in India, especially if you are a woman.
Today India has perhaps the best administration since independence in the Center, but the system has become so endemic that it is taking a lot of effort and time to steer the country. Even 7 years after a rusted rod shoved into a young woman’s vagina and her intestines pulled out, in spite of so much furore, protests and chest-beating by millions in the country and her parents running from pillar to post, we have a system that waits forever to hang the culprits. The juvenile who was supposed to have perpetrated the most heinous of the acts was allowed to go free. Now, in a matter of a few days, we are hearing how women and girls are hardly safer in this country only because media chose to project while this is happening all along. A country, which cannot respect its women, where a woman cannot feel safe, it cannot flourish and it cannot progress.
We may say rapes are not unique to India, but India stands out in its barbarism, the brazenness, the impunity and most importantly the real culprit – the response of its institutions. I hear that the NHRC is concerned about how the rapists were killed in police encounter in Hyderabad, but where are these so-called ‘respectable’ people when girls and women are gang-raped, killed and burnt alive in broad daylight. One small country Singapore with just 58 lakh people sent 400 convicts to gallows in just a decade, and that too mostly on drug charges, while India with a population of 12,000 lakh people and with the worst of crimes did not hang the demons from Nirbhaya case for the last 7 years. Singapore canes (whipping) thousands every year even for theft and burglary while we feed the most brutal rapists mutton biryani in our jails using taxpayers’ money.
These two lines in an article in Times of India relating to the girl who was set on fire, sums up the situation in many parts of India. I want to emphasize that things have come to this pass particularly in UP not due to current administration which has done yeoman job of curbing notorious criminals within a short period and did its best to save the girl, but only to emphasize the kind of system that developed during last few decades and the urgent need to make Police accountable, everywhere across the country.
“1) The survivor had been gang-raped by the accused in December last year but the FIR was registered in Rae Bareli only in March this year on the intervention of a local court
2) The rape survivor was admitted to Lucknow’s SPM Civil Hospital with 90 percent burns after being allegedly set on fire by five men, including two of the accused who are out on bail.”
Here are questions to ponder.
- On what basis did Police not register FIR for a girl reporting gang rape and end up in a situation where court having to force them to file an FIR months later?
- On what basis did the Court give bail to the accused? Did the police take bribes to water down the case and let the accused go free on bail?
- Why did not the police give any protection to the girl who was so brazenly set on fire given that the accused was given bail just a few days ago?
Around the same time, Hyderabad veterinarian Preeti Reddy (name changed) was brutally raped and killed, just a few miles away a 30-year-old Dalit woman in Telangana was gang-raped and burnt to death by perpetrators who happens to be all Muslims. The same media, reporting the brutal case of Preeti Reddy, goes about with almost no coverage for that family, as if the worth of life and the brutality of crime are dependent on the religion and the status of the victim and that of the perpetrators. Unable to bear to see what happened to his wife with little response from the administration, her husband attempted suicide.
A few years ago, soon after the news of Love Jihad of Christian girls came out, Rajdeep Sardesai rushed to Kerala but he did not feel it worth reporting when Hindu girls are subjected to the same and have been reported for years. Daily across India, particularly in West Bengal and Kerala, Muslim youth are encouraged actively to lie about their religion to vulnerable minor Hindu girls, marry them along with other women and abandon them after bearing children. Just a few days ago a charred body of a 20-year-old girl in the Muslim majority district of Malda in West Bengal, was found but the media has little interest in that. There is no mistake that perpetrators who are committing these brutal crimes are both Hindus and Muslims but it cannot be ignored that the proportion of crimes by Muslims is very high compared to the percentage of their population.
The cost of women safety issues to India’s economy is staggering. In 2014, late finance minister Arun Jaitely mentioned how the news of one Nirbhaya incident in 2012 cost India literally billions of dollars in terms of tourism revenue. When the country is struggling with the economy, news of such incidents cannot come at the worst time. If there is one front where India can quickly improve the job situations and make a big effect on the economy it is on the tourism front and this only adds the need to address this with utmost urgency. Besides, there are the break India forces looking for every possible way to weaken India, these forces are waiting in the wings to defame and blame current administration in Centre, which is the best hope India has to change the situation around.
Here are some suggestions to consider to improve the situation:
- Make Police accountable. NCW Chairman Rekha Sharma has been speaking for a long time how the Police apathy is the biggest factor for inability to curb the violence against women. NCW should be given powers to summon police and take disciplinary action against policemen who are apathetic or even part of the crime. Just this one action can make the biggest difference. Police should be dismissed (not suspended) and given a mandatory jail sentence for not acting in a timely manner when distress call was made or refuse to file FIRs. When police itself commit crimes against women, then their sentencing should be double that of a regular convict.
- Gang rapes, acid attacks, burning alive need to be categorized as terrorist acts because of their brutality and ability to strike terror and insecurity to women and families in many areas. This allows central institutions and Central police to act.
- Necessary laws need to be amended so that the safety of women is not just left to state jurisdiction and affected families should be able to get the required justice by reaching out to Central institutions. If necessary, we need to amend the constitution but it may be easily addressed by categorizing the brutal acts as terrorist acts.
- Laws should also be amended to establish a very clear deadline for adjudication of rape cases and make sentencing mandatory without parole. Brutal gang rapes and acid attacks should have a mandatory death sentence with a fixed time frame and with a very small number of appeals. Politicians should not be allowed to pardon rapists for appeasement before elections.
- Police ‘help desk’ privatization using public-private partnership with powers to take Police to task for inaction or not acting timely manner (i.e, with the required urgency). The online records should be available with clear data on the progress of every single violence case against women, available on the NCW website in different languages.
- Set up a vigilance force consisting of well-established organizations such as RSS, Art of Living as well as other reputable NGOs, that can work with Police to monitor in particularly violent areas.
- NCW website with its facilities to report crimes should be available in local languages and it should be provided as Smart Phone app, also in local languages. NCW need to have a call Center catering to people who speak any of the major languages, perhaps even by State for families to call in need and get help.
- Work with private technology eco-system to provide women with low-cost panic buttons, which upon pressing will immediately contact police, families, and friends with the exact location. This technology is available today and can be improved and made easily affordable.
- In cases of dowry killings, the Government needs to be proactive because relatives do not pursue cases for reasons such as concerns for raising children.
- We need to study the effects of pornography on violence against women.
India is the only country where the Divine is worshipped in feminine form in the grandest manner. Living abroad many women mention how this is so unique in India. Our ancestors have created the system of worshipping goddess, tying Rakhi to look at other young women who are not your spouse as sisters and many others. As the rural Indian population is moving away from their families and starts living in sprawling and demeaning urban ghettos, we need to think out of the box to address the problem while at the same time making our institutions accountable. More than the laws, we need accountability and speedy justice.