As Indians, including law makers in Parliament, rejoice in a particularly Indian phenomenon — the fake encounter of four men in Hyderabad who had allegedly raped a 23-year-old veterinarian Dr Priyanka Reddy and burnt her to death — India, if you forget the window dressing, has emerged as the rape capital of the world.
Just as the rape/murder of Reddy was sinking in, along came the news of a girl set on fire by her rapists, who were all out on bail.
The indomitable spirit of the girl was evidenced in the fact that she walked for a kilometre as a fireball to seek help and her last words to the doctors battling to treat her 99 per cent burns were: “Please save me. I want to live.”
Writing this SWAT analysis I feel unequal to the task for the first time in my life. It is a forlorn feeling as a woman to say that you feel nothing will ever change and a feeling of guilty luck that so far nothing has happened to you.
In my first job as a crime reporter for The Statesman, I used to routinely return home around midnight alone and vulnerable. At least the newspaper gave you a car to return home at 1am past late duty, but as an investigative journalist I always brushed aside my safety concerns.
The truth is India is no country for women. A large number of Members of Parliament (MPs) have rape cases against them. Rape is used as a brutal weapon to assert power over women. Whether it is the horrific Kathua case where an eight-year-old child was raped and murdered and the local BJP leaders took out marches in support of the alleged rapists; or the alleged rape by BJP leader Chinmayananda where the police acted with a great deal of reluctance; or even the case of alleged rape by BJP’s Uttar Pradesh leader Kuldip Singh Senger where the members of the victim’s family were murdered — nothing has changed since the Nirbhaya case generated widespread revulsion and anger.
It was the dying days of the UPA government that the Delhi police used water cannons against the protestors. In an eerie re-run, the water cannons were out again on Saturday night as the crowds protested when the Unnao victim succumbed to her injuries.
Because nothing has changed people at large support these fake encounters, but no democracy can afford to throw away the rule of law and due process. India’s police are well known for rounding up poor people and claiming to have solved crimes. So how do we know for sure the accused in Hyderabad were the actually the men who committed the heinous crime?
The long delay in the broken court system also ensures that justice delayed is justice denied. All this is made worse by the fact that fraudulent self-styled godmen such as Asaram and Ram Rahim are in jail for serial rape charges. Another fraud, Nithyananda also accused of rape recently, fled India and claimed to have set up his own country.
Come election time and politicians run to these frauds to deliver votes en masse. So post the ghastly Nirbhaya rape you had candidate, now Prime Minister, Narendra Modi calling Delhi the rape capital of the world and now Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi of the Congress party doing the same. Modi made no changes after taking over as prime minister.
Rape will continue to be used as a weapon of politicians to exploit emotions and garner eye balls yet no one is bothering to change the broken legal system that simply can’t cope.
India has some of the most draconian laws in the statute against rape, but because of the slow, and in some cases selective application, the law looks like an ass.
Modi’s government has a flagship programme called “Beti bacchao, Beti padhao” (Save Girls and Educate Them). Currently to me it looks like a threat.
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