“You have to take some basic precaution. You can’t travel at two o’ clock in the night and say "No, No, Delhi was not safe… You need to take someone along... take some brother, driver… Those reasonable precautions are expected to be taken by all families, all citizens of Delhi.”
Thus spake Delhi Police Commissioner B.K. Gupta on Saturday at a session organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Ladies Organization for the city's women entrepreneurs, professionals and social workers.
Expectedly, the civil society and women's rights activists were shocked at the commissioner's statement and their outrage is palpable.
It seems to be a clear case of blaming the victim. The remarks, activists point out, were eerily reminiscent of a mindset that only recently attracted global protests in the form of "slut walks" which were provoked because of a similarly callous remark by Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti who had told a personal security class at York University that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."
During the course of his address, the Delhi Police Commissioner went on to give a certificate of merit to Delhi Police, saying they are doing a fine job and that the media is to blame for the negative perception created about the city and its police.
He said the people should take the onus for corruption as they pay bribes to cops. "Constables are not treated well by citizens. They work 12-hour shifts and are always there to help the citizens."
When questioned on the rising incidents of rapes being reported from the capital, the commissioner said good policing was not the only solution as statistics show that rape victims in most cases know the accused.
He did not stop at that and said that no urban centre throughout the world is free from crime - be it New York, Johannesburg, London, Berlin or, for that matter, any other top city of the world.
He said the crime rate —including that of rape —is much higher in these foreign cities.
"The bag of my daughter who lives in London was snatched more than once. It happens," he said.
"No one in the world carries millions in a car. It only happens here. In Germany, they say if someone carries 500 euros with him, he would definitely be murdered. Strangely, here we like to carry millions with us," he went on to say.
Mr Gupta is not the first from Delhi Police to just shrug away the complaints about his force or exhibit a pronounced sexist attitude towards women.
In 2007, Delhi Police had caused an uproar by publishing a booklet titled Security Tips for Northeast Students/Visitors in Delhi which contained gems such as: “Revealing dress be avoided. Avoid lonely road/bylane when dressed scantily. Dress according to sensitivity of the local populace."
The same booklet also had cautionary tales for parents of students from the Northeast:
"A proud father sent his only daughter in Delhi to make her IAS/IPS but she returned back as drug addict, promising boy landed into police case for drunken brawl, late night parties with loud music landed six youngsters into police case, revealing dressed up parties lass was molested and thrown out from moving vehicle badly bruised after being outraged…."
In 2008, the Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit courted similar controversy about young women driving alone at night, when journalist Soumya Viswanathan was shot dead on her way back home from work at 3 a.m. "One should not be so adventurous," she had memorably said, but later sought to wriggle out of the controversy by suggesting that she had been wrongly pilloried because of misquotation. She said that she would have said the same thing even if the victim had been a boy. In sum, the DPC could be said to be paraphrasing her words.
The Delhi CM was back in news as recently as March this year when she had sought to shift the blame away from Delhi Police by suggesting that the society should also take some of the blame for a shocking incident in which a 21- year-old college girl was shot dead in broad day light.
It could well be argued that the Delhi CM and the Delhi Police Commissioner are well-intentioned people, and that adequate precautionary steps should be taken by all, but they certainly seem to give the impression of not wanting to take responsibility for what should essentially be their prime priority: ensuring safety for the capital's inhabitants.