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Bhopal Gang Rape :High court comes forward to restore trust in a failed system

Bhopal Gang Rape

We can call it Nirbhaya 2!

A daughter of India, contender of IAS, ran from pillar to post to complain about her brutal gang rape, but her ordeal was not only described as filmy or headache by police officers, her complaint was denied registration. With all jumlas about beti bachao beti padhao, the common man of India wonders how insensitive the system can be towards a heinous crime that demoralizes and disappoints people who were shown the dreams of achhe din. Heart breaks into pieces when the leadership keeps silent on issues that have long lasting impact on liberty and dignity of women and hopes and aspirations of parents who want their daughters to come out of the glass ceiling.

A 19-year-old UPSC aspirant was raped by four men on the railway track near the Habibganj Railway station while she was on her way to board a train to Vidisha after attending her coaching class on October 31, 2017. The victim, along with her parents, had approached the police the very next day after the incident but they had to run to 3 police stations for over 24 hours before an FIR was registered. How deep the rote has spread and taken the shape of a cancer can be realized only when we see how the police reacted when the victim approached them. The girl’s parents – her father is with para-military and mother with the state CID – said their complaint was initially turned down by the police. A complaint was only filed after the girl spotted two of the accused outside the second police station they were going to and her parents managed to grab them after a dramatic scuffle. At the Government Railway police station, an officer accused them of cooking up the story. Different police officers at other police stations denied registering the case on the pretext that the crime does not fall in their jurisdiction.

We are living in aspirational India which has set many high benchmarks of achievement and where everybody claims to be honest and upright, sensible and human; you will wonder the event happened in front of large number of indifferent passersby. The spot where she was raped has some of the busiest roads and rail tracks — the bustling Habibganj station is just 100 metres away, and an RPF post just 50m away. Thousands of cars drove past just 100 metres from where she was stripped, tied up and raped repeatedly. Yet, no one heard a thing. What’s more horrible is that the Bhopal police dismissed her story as “filmy” when she went to report the incident. The survivor shuttles between her hometown, about an hour’s journey from Bhopal, every day as she is preparing for the UPSC exams. That is how Bhishma Pitamah syndrome- the culture of “looking away” and “culture of silence” where we should stand up and speak out came alive! Shame on aspirational India- cowards and self indulgent lots!

Notwithstanding criticisms of judicial system being influenced by the ruling dispensation, thanks to the Madhya Pradesh High Court notice to government for inadvertently erroneous medical report which shows that this country still has a future, and hope has not died altogether. That all of us have not killed our conscience and there are still some who decline to be mute spectators like Bhishma Pitamah who kept silent when Draupadi was being disrobed.

Taking suo moto cognisance of media reports that exposed the insensitivity of doctors who prepared the first medical report of the Bhopal teenager allegedly gang raped on October 31, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has a served a notice to the state government.  The state women commission has already sought a report from police with Chairperson Lata Wankhede terming the incident of ‘grave concern’. Home minister Bhupendra Singh has also ordered a probe in the delay in filing a police complaint. Five policemen have already been  suspended for dereliction of duty and harassing the victim. One of the accused, Golu Chadhar, was produced in the court on Friday while two others are in police custody. The fourth accused is still at large.

Our daughters are unsafe, we know it but still we are not serious. Women are still seen as an “object of pleasure” or an “attractive poster” for commercial advertisement and also as an “item number” in films, and “subject of laughter” in laughter shows on TV. The violence against women in the patriarchal society has different forms and their occurrence has become so frequent that it is hardly taken as an outrage.

Nevertheless, Amit Sharma, a young author and blogger declined to be part of thick skinned aspirational India. He spoke loudly and with conviction thus:

“When crime against women are committed in Delhi, the government suddenly springs to action IF there is a protest. An exception to this was the Guwahati molestation case because the video went viral. It was heartening that Delhi took to streets yesterday and forced the government to take notice (however bland it was) but the actions promised are a bit worrisome. There was no talk of taking up the issue at a national level. Our rulers (yeah, that is what they are. Rulers) should understand that applying quick fixes in Delhi will not solve the problem on a national scale.

According to the National Crime  Records Bureau (NCRB) data (1991-2011), Madhya Pradesh has led the nation in the number of rapes committed. Only last year, it recorded 3,406 cases of rape, which means nine women were raped here every 24 hours. Overall, the State accounted for 14 per cent of the rapes committed across the country in 2011. Among cities, the State capital, Bhopal, with 100 rapes, was second only to the metropolises Delhi (453) and Mumbai (221), while the State’s industrial capital, Indore, stood fifth, registering 91 rapes.

Not surprisingly, the top five States in terms of the number of rapes — Madhya Pradesh (3,406), West Bengal (2,363), Uttar Pradesh (2,042), Rajasthan (1,800) and Maharashtra (1,701) — also have dismal sex ratios. While Madhya Pradesh (930), Rajasthan (926) and Uttar Pradesh (908) have sex ratios below the national average of 940, West Bengal (947) and Maharashtra (946) are just on the threshold.

In February this year, a woman in Indore was gang-raped by eight people including a cop while her husband was kept in captivity. However the cops took their own sweet time to file an FIR. After the Delhi gang rape case, an abducted school girl was found raped and murdered in Chennai. She was 12. Let us not forget what happened to Sonali Mujherjee in Jharkhand when her face was splashed with acid and her father rubbed his nose in front of authorities for 10 years to get her treated as the criminals who did this to her were out on bail. And let’s not forget that 19 rapes happened in a month in Haryana and no one raised an eyebrow.

And of course, Delhi goes on as usual when a 3 year old was raped by the husband of a play school owner. This happened after the Delhi gang rape incident. Clearly, the deterrents are not working. Clearly it is not an issue prevalent just in Delhi.

We are all aware of the various factors in play here which range from treating girl child as a liability to attitude within the government (where ministers blame women and mock them) and the police force to dismal conviction rates. All these problems will not vanish by hanging the gang rape accused of the Delhi case. And I am afraid that is where we are heading.

There are preventive measures which can be applied. More patrolling, better lightening of streets, gender sensitization, education, teaching your children about respecting other humans and gender equality, drilling messages through media. It will not happen immediately. It will take years. We cannot root out all the psychopaths that we have created over decades in one snap of a finger but we have to make a start. The government can play a vital role in this but everything will be defeated if this is not done on a national level.”

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