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Gang-Rape, Infirmities of the Law & Police Accountability

The gang rape of the 23 year old physiotherapy student in a moving bus on Delhi roads has angered the nation, more so for the torture of the girl and her male companion. Both were attacked with iron rod by the rapist driver and his other criminal accomplices. The girl has been injured so badly that half her small intestine had to be surgically removed to ward off the danger of gangrene. Her platelet count is low and infection is feared. She has been on ventilator. The medical bulletin stated that her bilirubin level has increased from 5 to 5.9, which indicates manifestation of septicemia in her body. If she is alive till now, it is because of the prayers from the people, medical care and above all the exemplary spirit to live and fight injustice the girl has displayed so far. She is conscious and talking a little and has given a written statement to the executive magistrate yesterday. The people are, however, very agitated and holding demonstrations all over India against violence against women. The protests in Delhi have reached the portals of power, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, North Block and South Block, which are offices of the President of India, Home Minister of India and the Prime Minister of India. It is for the first time since the departure of the British that the protesters have carried their Satyagrah as far as the Rashtrapati Bhavan! The response of the government has not been found satisfactory by the people. The people have been demanding “justice” (“We want justice” is their slogan or mantra). The Home Minister has held a press conference assuring all action. What, then, is the cause of public dissatisfaction?

The people want swift action. The assurances of the government mean nothing more than allowing the law to take its own course without any kind of political interference. That takes its own course in its most devastating manner, meaning thereby years in proceedings, hundreds of witnesses, grilling of the victim, thousands of pages in the case book, hundreds of arguments in the court causing mental agony to the victim, chances of the rapists winning the court case by hook or crook in a country known for corruption in all wings of the government including police and the judiciary, and the maximum punishment resulting in only life imprisonment. People demand early execution of the rapists.

There is merit in public demand. Even as the case is being covered 24×7 by TV channels and the print media, reports are pouring in from various parts of the country everyday about rapes being committed. The rapists have no fear of the law. The question is: how to instill the fear of law in the minds of the intending rapists and make the punishment so demonstrative that it acts as a deterrent in society? There can be no doubt that the punishment has to be swift & harsher than the crime in rape cases. Gang-rape is a new category of a heinous crime and deserves severe punishment under a new law providing for death penalty. Any rapist inflicting injuries to the person causing disability should equally suffer the consequences of the new law. Besides robbing the victim of her dignity, rape causes lifelong injury to the body, mind and soul of the victim. The person suffers permanent disability. She might remain bed ridden life long, as the Mumbai nurse who has been reduced to “vegetable”, while her tormentor has been set free after serving his jail term. Just imagine the shock the victim will experience seeing her rapist with a smirk on his moustached lips while she is unable to even move out of the bed! Such a rapist will only be encouraged to commit the crime again and again targeting new victims.

If the government had shown the will in this Delhi gang rape case, they would have promulgated the necessary law through an ordinance, as the whole parliament was unhappy with the incident. The government amends the Constitution, in spite of it being against the basic structure of the constitution, whenever it is politically expedient for it. Can’t it change the criminal law to meet public demand and reduce to zero the chances of repetition of such heinous crimes? Had the Home Minister or the Prime Minister shown the will to deal with such criminals decisively, the public anger would have subsided by now. Instead it has responded with lathi charge, water cannon and tear gas shells on the agitated people demonstrating peacefully. Worse still, Section 144 (unlawful assembly) has been imposed in the area surrounding the President’s office (Lutyens Building Zone) and metro services connecting Central Secretariat, Barakhamba road etc suspended, fearing more demonstrators joining the agitation today. What a farce? The British lost their power in India for indiscriminate use of section 144 ! The government has not been advised correctly. This style of policing has to change forthwith. Instead firm action should have been taken by now.

The manner of the crime suggests that it might not have been the first such crime committed by these criminals. The manner in which they picked up passengers from the bus stop in an unlawful manner, the gang rape while the bus was moving for 45 minutes on busy Delhi roads which are congested and not signal free, the attack with an iron road, disrobing both the girl and the man, dumping the victims by the road on a stretch which sees thousands of vehicular movement per hour, going back to their respective residences, eating, drinking, watching television, washing thoroughly the vehicle etc all indicate to a highly skilled operation with past success. Is it not disturbing that the Delhi police have not disclosed their past crimes so far? Their residences should have been raided and all information on their past crimes brought to public notice. That would have shown the seriousness on the part of the police, whom the public perception considers to be hand in glove with criminals.

Such criminals stay in unauthorized colonies, as the driver criminal in this case was staying in south Delhi’s R.K.Puram jhuggi-jhonparis or unauthorized colonies. They terrorise other inhabitants of the colony and become a kind of leader. As a colony the inhabitants form a solid vote bank. The land mafia in Delhi uses these people to illegally occupy public land. The inhabitants are so deprived groups that they survive on the mercies of petty local criminals and politicians for essential needs like a dwelling structure of some kind called a jhuggi or a thatched roof, a ration card, water etc. Crime pays in such situations and breeds more crime. The visible journey from penury to prosperity in a short span of a few years makes crime glamorous for these deprived sections of the society. Liquour, chicken and free sex adds to attraction. The criminal who picks up the bill for such festivities gets instantly turned to a hero from a deadly criminal. He gets noticed by the politician, who knows his best use. Once under the wings of the politician, such a criminal escapes the long arm of the law and the eyes & years of the police. This gang and its Sardar or leader must have come on the police records and intelligence would know for which leader he and others were working. Had the police disclosed the political links of the criminals and brought them along to justice, things in Delhi would have been different yesterday and might in future. But political compulsions may not allow the government to be so honest. It is a known fact that these gangs survive on the mercy of the politicians, who patronize them for running their illegal businesses of real estate, liquor, flesh trade and politics. These operations are run on corporate levels and as recent incidents in Delhi have revealed, have their own private armies of real sharp shooters and sophisticated arms.

One of the criminals in the gang rape case is a juvenile. Incidents of juveniles committing rape, murder, robbery, house burning, drunken driving, looting, shooting, kidnapping etc are on the increase. Innocence is lost early these days. Children are assaulting teachers in schools, parents at home, friends in parks and people anywhere in the locality. It is so for many reasons, but one important factor is early setting in of puberty. Fast physical growth, wealth, luxury private cars, mobiles, internet, communication, television etc are making them adults earlier in life. Hence the old definition of juvenile needs to be modified to reduce the age to the current age of puberty only. In today’s knowledge society, the explosion of information is so huge that it might have all kinds of negative effects on children if not managed properly. Today’s parents have no time to devote to rearing children. Joint families are getting replaced by nuclear families. Grand -parents are getting replaced by servants. Old values are giving way to new modern technology empowered life styles. If children are taking to crime in these circumstances, the causes need to be studied by sociologists, psychologists and even moralists. But the juvenile arrested in the gang rape case deserves no soft treatment.

There is an urgent need to connect the Delhi Transport Bus Service to the railway stations. Currently, a visitor to Delhi will get easily robbed if she searches for the bus at the Nizammuddin Railway station or the New Delhi Railway station or other such points or bus stops like Dhaula kuan. The buses are parked a long distance away, whereas they need to be connected to the platforms, for passengers to safely reach them by escalators for a smooth and safe transfer from rail to bus. Thousands of passengers use the rail services. Between the platform and the bus stand, all kinds of criminals operate and the police seem to feel safe by keeping away from them. This situation can be improved by any government that has a heart for the people.

Arrogance of the law breakers can be eliminated by honest police work. Schools in Delhi park their vehicles on roads, whereas they are supposed to keep the vehicles within their premises. Consequently half the roads are occupied by these vehicles. Their drivers cause annoyance to the nearby locality and road users. Should the police not sensitize the schools about annoyance of the residents and road users and end this menace? Auto-rickshaws are known to be run by many criminals in the night. Surely, police can end this danger. Cycle rickshaws outside metro stations need to be watched, especially after dark, for women have been robbed many a times.

We don’t need more policemen only. We want the police to establish their credentials by creating respect for the law. That can be done only if the police drive the fear of the law in the mind of the criminal and the judiciary ensures that they do so. The current public anger emanates as it is the opposite presently. The government can win public trust if the Ordinance is promulgated immediately and converted into an Act of parliament in the ensuing Budget Session beginning in the 3rd week of February 2013.

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