A rape a day: Why this rot in Haryana
A rape a day over the last ten days. Nothing can be a bigger shame for Haryana, a state neighbouring the national Capital.
And these have not been just plain rapes. There have been instances of necrophilia and gang assaults of the most brutish manner where girls, including minors, have been picked up and raped in moving cars.
The horror is being normalised with at least one such instance being reported in newspapers daily even as the 'lesser crimes' like eve-teasing and molestations are largely going unreported.
Having made some absurd statements like rapes being a part of society that have been taking place forever, officials and political heads of the government are simply groping in the dark over what to do.
After five days of stoic silence Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar recently announced that his government would enact a law to provide for capital punishment for those found guilty of raping girls aged 12 years or below.
Besides, the government will also request for setting up of fast-track courts for dealing with rape cases to ensure speedy justice to victims.
Though the police are dealing with such cases as required under the law, it has been decided to make provision of harsher punishment for rape, Khattar said and exhorted the media to not sensationalise such incidents without verifying acts.
According to the CM, one in four rape complaints registered at police stations last year were found to be fake. Earlier, complainants had to face a tough time in getting an FIR registered even after repeated requests. But today not even a single person could claim non-registration of FIR in any case by the police.
Usually, relatives and near and dear ones of the victim have been found to be involved in about 75% rape cases. Besides the police, it is also the responsibility of the society to come forward and generate awareness among the people against such kind of mentality, he said.
These may be the CM's claims and concerns. But the question remains as to why such law has not been enacted until now.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has shamed the state government time and again on the still unresolved cases of mass rape at Murthal during the 2016 Jat reservation agitation. Also, even if 25% complaints registered were found to be false, the remaining 75% cases were genuine.
“The enactment of a capital-punishment law is no solution because the punishment comes after a long legal trial and ordeal for the victim,” social activist Kavita Vidrohi said.
“Her trauma starts with the assault and only gets multiplied – the attitude of police personnel on the ground is detrimental to her.
“In cases we have approached the police with the victim, initial efforts have been to dilute the case and put the onus on the victim. Then compound it with pressure to compromise,” Vidrohi of Jan Sangharsh Manch Haryana added.
“The police tell the victim that nothing would come out of the case if she pursues the matter. The attitude of the doctors and health department staff who are to carry out the medical examination of victims is no better. They shame the victim, very often blaming her for what has happened,” the activist, who has been working in areas around Kurukshetra, said.
She cited a case where a girl was kidnapped and raped and the doctor gave a totally adverse medical report: “We had to carry out an agitation for a medical re-examination that brought out the truth and then again for the punishment to the erring doctor.”
A rape survivor recently told this correspondent how she shuddered even venturing out of her house for a few minutes. “Everyone just assumes that it was me who was responsible for what happened. How can I tell them that going to a girls' college in pursuit of education is not a crime? It was from near my institution that I had been abducted in broad daylight,” she said.
Psychiatrist Dr Devender Sangwan, who has been keenly observing social changes in the state, points out that instances being reported clearly points towards the 'disturbed psychology' of the rapists: “It is not plain lust but a much more disturbed mind at work that has got reflected in necrophilia and gang rapes.”
“There is a tussle at work. As women are getting aware and liberated they have learnt to say no to violation of their privacy, which is not acceptable to the males. The males simply refuse to acknowledge the fact that the woman has the right to say no. This results in the attempt to suppress the women in the most brutish manner,” he said.
Easy access to money, exposure to things like pornography at an 'inappropriate age' and, above all, lack of the fear of law has made things more complex.
“The children from an early age watch films where sexual assaults are shown along with the methods to evade the law. Then there is the attitude that since the law could not catch up with some known offender how can it catch up with me.
“Above all, there are no checks by parents on what their sons are up to. The parents do not know what their sons are doing, where they go and what they do. The youngsters are not scared of anyone. It is time that some ways and means are found to increase healthy social interactions involving the youth,” he added.
RS Dhani, a keen social observer, pointed out that rape as an instrument of violence is particularly used against Dalits and other marginalised segments: “Those who are unable to digest the upliftment of Dalits use it to humiliate them. Their resentment is against the Dalits leaving menial jobs to do something respectable.”
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mamta Singh, who is handling the portfolio of crimes against women, said: “There has been a lot of change in the attitude of the lower-ranked officials towards the victims in the last few years. Earlier, the victim would be made to feel guilty about her dress, language, her going out etc. These things have changed.
“But still there is a lot of scope for improvement and we are laying emphasis on sensitising lower-rung officials and developing soft skills among them to deal with the matter with compassion.”
She pointed out that the recent reports of the instances of rape have jolted everyone because of their heinous nature. “We want to provide justice to the victim and start investigations immediately,” she said.
She pointed that the matrix of rape in the state is very complex. Although three cases are reported to the police daily, a large number of them later turn out to be false complaints, she said adding that the police instantly lodges FIRs but investigations quite often lead to something else like elopement, consensual relations going wrong etc.
She also pointed to the instances of misuse of the Anti-dowry Act where the complainants quite often accuse their father-in-law and brothers-in-law of rape. She added that retraction of statements by the victims in courts was another major challenge for the police.
Whatever the case, the rape stories making headlines daily are leading to a sense of insecurity among the masses and something needs to be done about it soon.
Edited by Joyjeet Das