It was a tranquil winter night in 2012, exactly seven years ago. I was in Delhi, the national capital of India when on the 17th of December, the entire city and the nation woke up to massively horrific news. The infamous incident of the gang- rape of a 23 years old Physiotherapy student, took the entire nation by storm.
This was followed by her unfortunate demise as she succumbed to the inhuman attack she was subjected to. There were protests, marches and agitations that led to a swift investigation and subsequent death sentence of the culprits. However, the sentence was never executed. These facts are known to all.
Even after strong reforms in the anti-rape laws, since 2012, we have only seen the number of sexual assaults rise. The present scenario, that has evolved; i.e., the fate met by a veterinary doctor from Hyderabad.
Again, there was a brutal gang rape, following which, the victim was set ablaze and all that could be recovered were her charred remains! From Nirbhaya the vet in Hyderabad, everything is so similar. We are agitated and furious; but have we actually realised that the lawmakers and administrators have the most important role to play in deterring the rising number of incidents of sexual violence?
Are they serious about this? Perhaps not! Because their priorities are just so deviated. There are several instances when the politicians or parliamentarians, have just used such incidents to weaken the opponents, and the actual focus was completely shifted from punishment.
In 2019, the POCSO act was taken through some major amendments, one of which included death sentence to those who rape children of up to 12 years of age. However, since then, not a sing conviction has happened even after so many cases surfaced.
Nirbhaya Fund was created, which has remained underutilised; this is also a strong manifestation of the administrators’ failure in stopping sexual assaults. Recently, a report presented by Women and Children development minister Smriti Irani, in the parliament, has shown that six states and UTs – Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tripura and Daman & Diu – have not spent a single rupee from the Nirbhaya Fund allocated by the Union home ministry.
States like Maharashtra, that had been under the BJP rule for five years, from 2014 to 2019 could not be pressured by the central government, which recorded 4,306 incidents of assault on women, in 2017 – fourth highest in the country; second highest in cases of kidnapping of women and sixth-highest in number of rapes.
Now, coming to the biggest news, to which the entire nation has reacted in different ways – the encounter of the four accused. This move has attracted a wide range of applause and criticism at the same time.
It is very important to understand that anyone who has the feeling of empathy for the Hyderabad vet and all such victims, will be happy with the end the culprits have met, but this is not so simple.
There are so many questions that immediately pop up if we think logically. Many say that the culprits should have received a fair trial. However, if we examine all the previous cases, we will see that the right to defence of a rape accused, in the case where the guilt has been proven, has only weakened the case against the victim.
Therefore, this point can be completely excluded. We cannot turn a blind eye towards the role of the judicial system in this scenario. In any such incident, the law of the court should have the final say and then any execution has to be carried out.
Let’s just be frank; we are not directing a movie script, just to appease the outraged people, random action is taken. The biggest question is, will this inflict any fear in those who have cultivated such mindsets of objectifying women for years?
Will this process of extrajudicial killing be applicable to each and every case of sexual assault that has surfaced in 2019 only, let alone be the previous cases?
If we consider the case in Kathua, the case should have been tried as rarest of rare as the victim was below the age of 12. However, they have been merely punished for only 7-15 years and those who are convicted have all the liberty to challenge this decision. All of them being from a highly influential background will readily escape from any kind of actual punishment.
Why, instead of these highly distorted alternatives, can’t we take certain logical steps? Then there is the recent case in Unnao, where the victim has been set ablaze by the perpetrators, who were out on bail. The question is why were they granted bail? Why in such cases where every time the victims have faced multiple episodes of assaults, no strict action has been taken, ever? This could have made a stronger change.
Second, why isn’t there a stipulated period in which every rape death sentence has to be executed, like no more mercy plea beyond a year? Had this been the case the Nirbhaya case culprits would not be alive today.
Third, why is there a provision of mercy, even under POCSO Act? When a person has been proven guilty for raping children, then the execution must happen immediately. What is the point of passing bills in the parliament, when none of those are acted upon? India is a country that has a very strong judicial system, which has failed, just because of so many loopholes, and for that, we citizens are ready to take refuge in violence.
Finally, the most important question. Why do social, economic and political influences play an important role in protecting the criminals? Can we imagine that the police force of any given state, whatsoever, can carry out an encounter without any of the above-mentioned influences? No, because the intent is not to punish the criminal, rather it is just to silence the roaring crowd.
The point is, we want rapists to be punished and the highest level of punishment is desired but everything through the judicial system. Not everyone can go and beg for an encounter, even when they deserve justice. The government should act really fast, so that every such fallacy, like unlimited period of execution, rejection of mercy pleas and making the offence completely non-bailable, should immediately be made effective. Every daughter of India who has been tortured and brutalised must receive justice irrespective of the criminal’s background.