A City Speaks Up
You might call it Bangalore’s ‘Nirbhaya moment’, though that’s a disturbingly label-happy distinction. Last week, hundreds of Bangaloreans joined parents of students at an upmarket school where a six-year-old had been raped, allegedly by a skating instructor, in a protest that voiced anguish, disgust and immense anger. It’s a consolation that the victims of the two recent rapes in Bangalore—the other was a 22-year-old who was with a friend when she was abducted and raped—are alive. For in many other recent rapes across the country, the victim also ends up being killed. But rape is rape, and though it is not unusual—statistics have it that a rape takes place in India every 22 minutes—this time, it has hit the vocal, educated middle class where it hurts most: at a school where they pay huge fees to get their children educated.
The incident has raised many questions, not very different from those raised years ago when, after a spate of dowry deaths, tough laws were put in place to fight the menace. Dowry-seeking did not end, to be sure, but the new laws made enforcement agencies follow a protocol that was set out and police personnel started tending to such cases with more sensitivity. But it took time. Similarly, post the horrendous Delhi gangrape of December 16, 2012, stricter laws have been enforced and guidelines issued. Police stations now have clear standard operating procedures. But they are yet to be fully understood. Mohammed Rafique, an inspector at the Fraser Town police station, for instance, did not know he was liable to be prosecuted for diluting the new laws while applying them.
In fact, public indignation over the child’s rape was also inflamed by the manner in which the Fraser Town police handled the case of the 22-year-old victim, a PG student. The incident had scarred the reputation of Bangalore as a city where women, alone or in company, were safe after sunset. It showed how clumsy police handling harmed the case and the victim: the police did not seem to know that sexual assault had to be treated as rape.
To be fair to the police, they did follow protocol to some extent, because the six-year-old girl was too traumatised. But this delay proved costly in terms of social and political implications—what with the media keeping up a relentless tirade. Police were blamed for delay in investigation even as chief minister Siddaramaiah faced flak for asking reporters if there wasn’t any other news to report on. The line between sensitivity and insensitivity became blurred, as it happens in most such cases.
But there was nothing to beat the insensitivity of the school management. “Their approach has been so lax, so arrogant that the vicarious culpability clause in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2013, or pocso certainly needs to be looked at in this case,” says a senior police official who did not want to be identified.
The school did no background checks on its employees. Maybe if it had, it would have been revealed that the skating instructor, Mustafa, had faced child sexual abuse charges in his previous job, although these were not reflected in the records he presented. Besides, the school allowed outsiders to use facilities like the sports centre and the swimming pool on its premises. Even 23 days after the child’s ordeal began, and after the chairman of the school, Rustom P. Kerawala, was arrested under provisions of pocso, the Juvenile Justice Act and ipc, the school spokesperson maintained this line: “We don’t know whether it (the rape) happened or whether it did not happen in school.”
The incident has jolted several schools, including those consciously taking preventive steps. Teachers, principals, police as well as psychiatrists do agree on one point. Nobody knows where a predator might be lurking in the dark corners of a school or elsewhere. “Every time an incident of this kind gets media attention, the focus falls on the police. It’s not a question of policing alone. It’s a question of our values, culture, commodification of women. Why does our society have so much of sexual violence? We are so short-sighted that we do not even consider why women are not looked upon as human beings,” says Donna Fernandes, founding-member of Vimochana, a women’s initiative that has been working to raise consciousness about women’s rights. Fernandes’s point is worth pondering. It’s something all of India—urban as well as rural—seems to be in the grip of all of a sudden: an eruption of random, unprovoked hostile behaviour and sexual aggression, often murderous, directed at women. What are the social impulses that are sending the dislocated Indian male on a blind gender revenge spree?
There is also another aspect. A year ago, a girl of the same age as the school student was raped by a 14-year-old in a bushy expanse near Electronics City. The victim, daughter of a garment factory worker, collected her blood-soaked clothes, wore them and walked back several kilometres to her house. The police found blood all around the spot and arrested the juvenile rapist. The child went through the entire process of identifying the spot, the accused and replying to questions by the police. The legal course was followed. The chargesheet was filed and the boy, as per law, was sent to a juvenile home. “A rape is a rape, whether in an upscale or a downmarket school,” says a senior police officer. Yet, the Nirbhaya moment that Bangalore saw last week was not seen then.
By Imran Qureshi in Bangalore
Apropos your story on the molestation of a six-year-old in a Bangalore school (Traumatic Questions, Aug 4), raping a child is the rarest of rare crimes and deserves the highest level of punishment. This is not hyper reporting, the society must raise its voice if such crimes have to be prevented.
Rajesh Chary, Mumbai
A week from now, we celebrate our 68th independence day. But is there anything to celebrate really? So many years down the line, women are still unsafe in this country and successive governments have been unable to do anything to assure their safety. The Congress was in power when Nirbhaya was gang-raped, now it’s the bjp. Has anything changed really?
The problem with India is that it will take a 100 cases like Nirbhaya’s for people to come together and ‘do’ something. Until then, they will be content to join rallies, shout slogans, write open letters. Indians tend to get carried away by the momentum of a big issue.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
I see lot of usage of word "allege" here. While the front page story doesn't have this word.
22 D Rajesh
"...This is not hyper reporting - raising society's voice is a must if such crimes have to be prevented in future...."
"...This is not hyper reporting - raising society's voice is a must if such crimes have to be prevented in future...."
This IS hyperreporting since MOST of these turn out to be FALSE allegations ( although even if a minority is true, these are far and few between, and not discoverable ).
As for preventing crimes, a good law and order is essential.
Paradoxically, if the law and order ( judiciary ) does improve, then these false accusations will NOT happen, since these antimale accusers will have their tongues chopped off, and their media friends will find themselves in jail.
Stopped reading after the first few lines. Problem with India is it will take perhaps 100 such nirbhayas before the community comes together to solve the issue. Until then, people will be more than happy to join rallies, write open letters and all the shenanigans that follow.
I mean, its been a year and longer since Nirbhaya incident? What happened? The culprits are still undergoing trial while one idiot is happy sitting in a juvenile jail.
Take the case of Anna hazare movement.. India wanted to copy the Tahrir square... Corrruption still exists and I bet half the people at the rally do continue to pay bribes.
Indians tend to get carried away by the momentum that comes from a big issue. Similar to bollywood movies. As long as this doesn't change, nothing will change in india and that's the fact.
Rajesh Chary >> Raping a child is a rarest of rare crime and deserves the highest level of punishment.
DEATH SENTENCE FOR CHILD SEX ABUSERS .. Bring IT ON I SAY.. and TO HELL WITH ALL THOSE MARXISTS WHO OPPOSE IT.
We are going to celebrate our 68th independence day on August 15 ,2014 .What have we acheived ? Nothing .As a nation we are crippled ,Still we cannot protect women in india nor we are able to assure their safety .During the delhi gangrape incident it was Congress in power now it is BJP in power and yet the case is no different .
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