The incidents of rape at Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua and Uttar Pradesh's Unnao district are extremely revulsive and call for exemplary punishment for perpetrators. Ideally, our collective anger – manifested in candlelight protests, rallies, gory writings and heated debates – should have rested once the culprits were arrested and an investigation began in right earnest. But it hasn't.
The protests continue, though they serve only the limited purpose of forcing the police to register an FIR and file a chargesheet in the court. But, who cares, so long their campaign fulfils their sinister agenda, which is to tear apart social cohesiveness, communalise the situation, inflame passions and give anti-social elements a free hand to destroy properties and human lives.
We can never get rid of such crimes, given an excess of liberty, an absence of fear of the law, hamstrung police and a sharp breakdown in moral values. Rape did not stop with Nirbhaya nor it will end with Kathua and Unnao. The victims will soon be forgotten, and we will wait for another day, holding candle lights and placards in hand, when sexual vultures attack another girl elsewhere in the country.
Even a death sentence, that we have been demanding so passionately, is not going to deter the predators. The only way forward is to free the police from its political shackles and make courts more determined to conduct a speedy trial and dispense deterrent punishment.
This, of course, is better said than done. That is why we choose the easiest option; agitate, condemn and allege. For Kashmiri separatists, the Kathua incident was an excuse to pelt stones and attack security forces. For communist interlocuters, it was perpetrated to cleanse India of Muslims. Their propaganda could not be more mischievous. And, for 49 retired civil servants, it was an opportunity to betray their intellectual arrogance, which only so-called liberals and seculars could understand.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they spoke of Indians facing 'moments of existential crisis' and 'crisis of ethical order' and concluded that both rape cases were the outcome of 'a culture of majoritarian belligerence and aggression prompted by the Sangh Parivar'.
They apparently believe that rightists and the RSS produce rapists and motivation to commit rape is provided by Hindutwa, as defined by the BJP. Nothing can be more diabolical. With their professional background, they should have known that rapists have no caste, religion or political affiliation. They are simply criminals. The damage, however, is done as the Bombay High Court would like us to believe. India is today perceived abroad as a country of crimes and rapes.
Not long ago, several of us in uniform brooked no political interference. We neither turned rapes into spectacles nor subjected parents to relentless reminders about how their daughters were violated. We treated such cases as heinous crimes, whether inflicted by family elders, friends, social pests and politicians and acted ruthlessly. Courts also walked the distance with us, without fear or favour.
I recall a conversation with a Muslim sessions judge. He told me that my job was to convince him that a girl was raped. His job would be to fill the gaps in the evidence and convict the guilty. His judgments were always upheld by higher courts. This was the level of confidence in each other's professional integrity.
The handling of Kathua and Unnao rape cases shows how scared the police is to act. The shameful part is that some of them have even abetted the crime. Politicians have actually broken their spine, leaving them to crawl.
A few of them still have their backbones but have suffered heavily in terms of a thriving career and a settled life. The majority, therefore, finds it foolish to swim against the tide. In fact, they welcome public outcry and interference from politicians, activists and journalists for it helps to run away from taking responsibility.
Police stations are ever eager to let the cases be transferred to the crime branch and the SIT. And, senior police officers find it safer to hand over the case to the CBI. Agitators do not realise that they are making police stations defunct, which actually is the fulcrum of criminal investigation and will any day do a better job than any other investigating agency because of their knowledge of the area and its people. I recall we would fight tooth and nail if there was any hint of involving the state CID, forget about handing the case to the CBI.
It is beyond the police to prevent the mushrooming of rapists. Surveillance – electronic or manual – can at best reduce numbers but they will still be very high. Prevention should best be left to sociologists, economists, psychologists, educationists and family to handle. The real need is for insulating police from political control.
The same set of officers will do a miracle. The recommendations of the National Police Commission of 1977 can be a good guide to move in this direction. But will the Centre and the states ever let this instrument of raw power slip away? No, not in anyone's lifetime.
The author is former special secretary, R&AW
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Updated Date: Apr 20, 2018 15:42:53 IST