— Rampur police (@rampurpolice) May 29, 2017
Uttar Pradesh police arrested three more accused on May 29 after a video of sexual harassment and assault from a village in Rampur district went viral. While the search for the survivors, for recording their statement, is still on, police have told YKA that it was the special circumstances surrounding this video that have made these arrests possible. In fact, that the arrests were facilitated by a video circulating on social media, again highlights a growing concern regarding such videos.
“You will see that a lot of videos go viral on social media, but there are very few videos where action is taken, where the culprit is nabbed,” Vipin Tada, Superintendent of Police, Rampur, told YKA. He explained that since it was a ‘heinous’ crime, and purportedly going viral in a particular area of the district, the police decided to investigate whether it took place in their district.
This is, however, not always the case. In early 2015, activist Sunitha Krishnan from the anti-trafficking NGO Prajwala had to file a petition with the Supreme Court. The reason? Police didn’t take any action when she alerted them about rape videos circulating on the internet.
In December last year, Krishnan told YKA that it is the vast jurisdiction in which the videos are circulated makes police abdicate their responsibility. “The crime happens in one place, the video lands in somebody’s hand in another part of the country. As a concerned citizen, I cannot file a case although I see the crime. It’s there on my phone but I can’t file a case because the jurisdiction is different,” she said.
A similar incident came to light in Rajasthan recently. YKA reported on May 25 that a viral video led to initiation of action against people assaulting a group of 3-4 Sikh men over a month after the alleged assault. Police officials at the very top had to ask officials in every district to find where the incident could have possibly taken place. Fortunately here, the registration plates on the vehicles seen in the video helped verify it.
In the Rampur case, action was taken, it seems, because it was a police personnel himself who filed the First Information Report. “A Sub-Inspector Sunder Ram was on patrol. A person informed him (about the video). The person did not reveal their name or address, but they told him that this video is going viral,” a police official at the Tanda police station, where the FIR was registered, told YKA. Ram himself filed the FIR, the official said.
“We got to know from Tanda police station, but we weren’t able to establish identities then,” Tada told YKA. He said that 4 teams comprising of personnel from all police stations were then formed to enquire into the origin of the video. “The video was sent to all four teams. Then we learnt that the video was made in Tanda. We zeroed in on the village and on enquiry we found about the men,” he explained.
#Rampur incident update~Total 4 arrested till now .1-Shahnawaz 2-Saddam 3- Danish 4- Farman. Gonda Act shall be imposed on t molestors.
— UP POLICE (@Uppolice) May 29, 2017
Since the police took cognisance of the video, five of the 14 alleged accused have been arrested. The police have learnt that the alleged crime took place on May 22 in Kuwakhera village of the district.
Multiple reports last year highlighted that sale of rape videos in western Uttar Pradesh is a flourishing trade, although the size of the trade remains unknown. A journalist who reported on the videos told YKA in December last year that men might shoot such videos for blackmail after they have committed the crime.
Krishan’s petition before the Supreme Court seeks to curb the circulation of such videos. The petition also asked for a central agency that could act on such videos without being limited by jurisdiction.
According to submissions made by the union government before the court, it granted in principle approval for setting up three units for curbing cyber crime and crime against women in September 2015. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs told the parliament this year that the units are yet to become operational.
Since 2014, when the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) started comprehensive collection of cyber crime data, crimes against women have been a large part of such crimes. ‘Insult to Modesty of Women’ and ‘Sexual Exploitation’ were the 3rd (5.2%) and 4th largest (5.1%) categories respectively of motive behind cyber crimes in 2015 and the 2nd (6.2%) and 4th (3.7%) largest categories in 2014. The NCRB collects data on 20 such motives.
The apex court has now brought internet giants such as Facebook and WhatsApp too to the table for solving the problem. The report of the committee, comprising of representatives from these companies, is however yet to be made public.