Varalika Mishra | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI – One rape is reported every 15 minutes in India, a nation of 1.4 billion. The rate of crime per one lakh women increased to 58.8 in 2018 as compared to 57.9 in 2017. These are part of officially released data.
According to the data released a week ago by the National Crime Records Bureau functioning under the Union Home Ministry, crimes against women continue to remain at high levels, and children are also badly hit, despite of all the big campaigns of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’.
The recent verdict in the Nirbhaya rape case that came after seven long years of trial is not very comforting. Nirbhaya is no longer alive. She was brutally gang-raped by crew in a moving bus in 2012. Several questions can be raised now as to how the case was handled. Why the judiciary took so long to give its verdict, is one big question.
The criminal law amendment act was passed in 2013, which criminalised sexual offences like acid attacks, voyeurism and stalking. It also has provisions for a 20-year sentence for rape, and death penalty in extreme rape cases. A panel was set up, known as the Justice Verma Committee, to go into the issue. Its report suggested that failures on the part of the government and the police were the reasons behind crimes against women. Further, a Nirbhaya Fund was established in 2013, aimed at providing funds for initiatives towards women’s safety, security and economic empowerment. Laws were implemented, yes; but, incidents continued to occur and there was no let-up in the rape incidents.
It is a fact that, after a crime is committed, victimization takes place. This makes women highly uncomfortable, scared and worried, and hence they generally hesitate to report rapes or any kind of harassment to the authorities. However, there have been cases wherein courageous women have come forward to report the crime. Even in such cases, their FIRs were often not registered; and it took years for registration in several cases. The consequence of this is that they are subjugated to horrific torture, being murdered, or burnt alive.
SENGAR’S RAPE AND KILL
In 2017, a rape case had brought shivers to the entire country. A minor girl was raped by BJP MLA Kuldeep Sengar, his brother and others in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh. The girl was among those who approached him for a job. Once she filed a case against him, harassment of the family followed. Her father was thrashed and falsely implicated in a case by Sengar’s men, and he was killed in police lockup. His and her entire family was made to suffer. The FIR was registered after a very long time as Sengar used his political clout and power to thwart the course of justice being delivered to the victim. This incident had triggered nationwide outrage for a short while, like a storm in a teacup; and this was short-lived.
SHIVAM TRIVEDI, FAILED SYSTEM
In another Unnao rape case, on December 12, 2018, the accused Shivam Trivedi, known to the survivor, allegedly gang-raped her at gunpoint along with another man, Shubham Trivedi. On the pretext of marrying the survivor, Shivam raped her several times over a period of time. He made a video, and then blackmailed her by saying he would make it viral if she didn’t continue to surrender to him. Once a case was filed by her, he threatened her with murder.
On December 13, the survivor filed the rape complaint with the police, but the FIR was not registered. On December 20, she had sent her complaint to the SP in Rae Bareli. The FIR was still not registered. On March 4, 2019, the FIR was registered against Shivam and Shubham. On August 14, police had ordered for attachment of properties of Shubham and Shivam. Then, on September 19, Shivam surrendered in Rae Bareli; and on November 25, he got bail from the high court. He was released five days later.
Shubham remained an absconder in police records all throughout. On the 5th December, 2019, the 23-year-old Unnao rape survivor was thrashed, beaten, stabbed and set ablaze by five men; two of them being her alleged rapists. The incident happened at a village while she was on her way to meet a lawyer. She was highly critical with 90 per cent burns, and underwent treatment at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. She passed away on the 7th December last year.
The entire timeline of the case is horrifying and unjust, as one dissects the many layers. It represents the psychological trauma which can’t be compensated in any way. It reflects India’s failed legal system.
RAPES ALL THE WAY
According to government data, 32,500 cases of rape were registered with the police across the country in 2017; almost 90 per day. The National Crime Records Bureau has, on October 21, 2019, released its report for the year 2017, which stated that 3,59,849 cases of crime against women were reported in the country. In addition, Uttar Pradesh topped the list with 56,011 cases.
On December 5 last, the Rajya Sabha witnessed a debate on rising number of rapes in the country. Several MPs were not present during the debate, which was demonstrative of the lack of seriousness political leaders show in such serious matters.
In addition, 2,37,660 cognizable cases have been registered in 2018, in which Delhi leads over 18 other metro cities in terms of crimes, as per the 2018 edition of the ‘Crime in India’ report released by the by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). For instance, in 2018, as many as 228 incidents of acid attacks were recorded across the country which together had 240 victims. Of these, West Bengal recorded 50 incidents involving 53 victims. In 2017, 244 acid-attacks were recorded across the country.
West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi accounted for almost half of the acid attacks. West Bengal accounted for the highest number of cases. The NCRB report shows that West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi contributed to almost half of acid attacks in the country. In 2018, three states — Bengal (50) U.P. (40) and Delhi (11) — accounted to 101 of the 228 incidents accounting to 44 per cent of all cases. In 2017, the three states –Bengal (54), U.P. (56) and Delhi (14) — accounted for 124 of the 244 cases or 50 per cent of all attacks.
According to the Principal Offence Rule, each criminal incident is recorded as one crime. If many offences are registered in a single FIR, only the most heinous crime – one that attracts maximum punishment — will be considered as a counting unit. For example, in an incident involving abduction, wrongful confinement, rape or gan-grape and murder, it will be listed in the NCRB data as murder. All these are separate crimes under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). But, while gang-rape attracts maximum punishment of life imprisonment, murder can lead to death sentence to the culprit.
The Principal Offence Rule is criticised as it tends to “hide” many crimes –as in the 2012 Nirbhaya case or the recent Hyderabad veterinarian’s gang-rape and murder case. This is because only one of the offences would attract maximum punishment, and hence is counted in the NCRB database as one crime.
The NCRB had earlier defended adoption of this methodology by saying data collection from police stations is done manually. And, if an incident involving abduction, rape or gang-rape and murder is counted under three different heads in the NCRB, it may lead to over-reporting of criminal incidents.
The actual number of crimes has increased by 1.3 per cent, in 2018 compared to 2017. More people were murdered in 2018; as 1.3 per cent more murder cases were registered during the year than in 2017, which had witnessed a significant decline of 5.9 per cent over 2016.
NO DATA ON LYNCHING
Another shocking factor is that data on lynching has still not been added. Many incidents of mob lynching had taken place and it is highly necessary to keep a track of the lynching data.
Varalika Mishra is currently an education analyst at IPE Global, Delhi. She is a writer and has worked at The Hindu, as a sub editor and interned at Hindustan Times.