By Ankita Surabhi:
Unaccustomed to grasping reality, our society today is the epitome of delusional or rather blissfully ignorant. I am compelled to draw comparisons with the so-called jungle rule where it’s each person for themselves. The animals act on instinct, exclusively for survival. The so-called civilised two-legged creatures act on benefit per se, pleasure, ulterior motives and with no attempt at mincing words, against fellow human beings.
The negativity and hatred are palpable like simmering lava. A 14-year-old was kidnapped, twice, violated and murdered in grave circumstances. The news made multiple rounds, maybe even rattled consciences, mine included.
A child was raped. A child was murdered. A child was brutalised at the hands of the same perpetrator who should have been behind bars, within the clasp of the law and beyond the reach of the child.
How did he then manage to grab hold of her, evade consequences, keep her confined and continue his crimes for over two months before she succumbed and met her fateful end? The projection by the media of the crime focuses on three things primarily; that encompass the elements of this case.
Caste considerations and distinction being one, repeated aggravated sexual offence against a minor being two, and thirdly the shameful realisation that messed up procedures in our country have made a mockery of the judicial system resulting in nothing but disdainful tongue-clicking.
Shockingly, it wasn’t the first time, the girl, had been preyed upon. Predators or child sex offenders are adept at masking their nefarious intentions allowing them access to innocent kids. The fact that she was of a ‘lower’ caste despite making little difference to the nature of the crime did play heavily into boosting the audacious attitude of the offender.
Being socially accredited depending on the lineage of one’s birth has led to a false sense of entitlement, that is openly abused by pugnacious dimwits. It remains unclear whether a POCSO case was registered, but it’s certain that no case under Prevention of Atrocities Act was filed.
The SCs and STs require cohesive, focused protection by/under the law simply because its evolution took a different path and was tailored to suit the majority, rather than values of equality. It’s an echo of the past that rings hollow reverberations into our present and unfortunately unless things change, far into the future.
Sexual offences against children are heartbreaking and tear at the tapestry of our already dubious mentality.
Despite a case being lodged at the first instance, in December, the accused was roaming freely and managed to grab the girl in May. For two months, she suffered intolerable cruelty, at the hands of someone known to her. Enacted only in 2012, punishment under 4 and 6 of The Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act range from 7 years minimum to life.It was reported that she retracted her statement before the Magistrate, and had willingly accompanied the man. It makes no difference. Sexual intercourse with a minor is a crime, unconditionally and consent is irrelevant.
Assertions of influence, coercion and leading questions indicating foul play by the police have surfaced, which cannot be ruled out. Suffice to say, it could have been for no other reason that sheer laziness and incompetency that has come to define investigative processes.
POCSO Act is a commitment that ensures the victim is treated with respect, understanding and sensitivity in the most harrowing hours that is key to ensuring conviction, often a tall order, because of irreversible damage and trauma that shatters the psyche.
Questions have to be raised regarding the method of recording a statement. Where was it done? Were the accused and victim separated immediately? Was protection and counselling provided to the victim who on top of being ostracised for her caste would be cornered further into the spectrum of stigma? Was privacy maintained regarding the identity of the girl? Why was our pride as a community put to shame once again when we failed to protect the child who relies on us completely?
Another life has been lost into oblivion. Victim Protection Protocols need to be strengthened in our country. Half measures is a trademark of our approach towards crime prevention. Moreso, because of our apathetic nature. Bail provisions have to be weighed on the anvil of judicial necessity and effect of the society on a case by case basis.
Child offenders get bolder because the victim is a small target and can be easily eliminated. Without witness testimony, we are back to square one. Thousands of such demons throng our environment due to lapses in our collective will to stand up and fight, not just for ourselves but for those who can’t. Case in point: Women, children, minorities. She was all three. From a dystopian perspective, she stood no chance.
Did being a Dalit make a difference? The accused should be questioned on it. Criminology relies on and draws from psychological churnings that breathe life into criminal intent. Rape and abuse are exertions of misplaced feelings of power, authority and rage. It has happened in the past and will likely happen again. It is our bounden duty to dig deep into the validity and efficacy of caste distinctions and its effect on our society. What are we building for our children? How are we making it the promised safe haven to secure their bright future? It was a 14-year-old today, of poor socio-economic background, with little means to raise havoc among the community, to fight the injustice meted out to her. She cannot speak from the grave. We should, while we can.
If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at [email protected] You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.