To expect accountability from the Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar is to expect the man to act on principle. If that came from the head of a force that’s being collectively flayed for insensitivity, it would have quelled public anger to a huge extent. But then, for that, the man in question would have to have a set of principles in the first place. So, Mr Kumar’s quipping, “If my resigning will prevent such depraved action of the society, then I am ready to resign a thousand times. But that is not going to address the problem,” and, “If my resigning will prevent such depraved action of the society, then I am ready to resign a thousand times. But that is not going to address the problem,” was expected. The Commissioner went on to diagnose the problem as, “one of mental depravity, one of psychopathy that couldn’t be sorted out by anyone resigning.” And, surely not his, of course!
The quip was safe and politically correct but nobody from the media chose to address the issue of accountability that was swept right below the carpet, where it belonged as usual. When the Delhi Police Commissioner’s resignation was sought, it was forcing accountability; an accountability that should, otherwise, have come automatically as a knee-jerk reaction following the incessant surge of crimes in Delhi that persist despite public upsurge and concurrent amendments to a skewed law.
To a reporter, Kumar asked, “If you do some wrong reporting does your editor resign?” and the reporter kept mum. Kumar probably hasn’t been reading too many newspapers. Every newspaper is bound to mandatorily carry a footnote at the base of a page – usually the last – placing a legal onus of responsibility for selection of news under the PRB (Press and Registration of Books) Act on the Resident Editor. For any act of commission or omission by a reporter or an employee of the newspaper, the Resident Editor is legally liable. For that matter, in case of defamation, the publisher and printer too get roped into legal tangles, the validity of which was recently being debated at the Supreme Court.
Neeraj Kumar should have resigned on principle. But then, they don’t make men like that anymore. But then, the commissioner, on his part, headed the lot of Delhi police some of who assault women protesting against women being assaulted. Brash, brazen and brain-dead, the force just missed the whole point, didn’t it?
Soon after, the media’s fad for the semester, India’s Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde spoke on the rape of the five-year-old in Parliament, a wee careful than usual lest the media grab a spoken word and contort it out of its-already-warped context. He was silent about the action against errant police officers but did, in passing, mention about how Delhi wasn’t the only place where rapes occurred, saying, they occurred all over India.
And, that did it. Every newspaper carried headlines of how Sushilkumar Shinde chose to downplay the rape and instead of “expressing regret” chose to say that “rapes occur in other states too.” Just what if Sushilkumar Shinde said that rapes happened all over the world? Not that he’d be too off the mark but his statement would have fetched violent recoil…also from Indians, all over the world, this time around.
And then, there are Facebook Warriors and Blog Bombarders who have launched a social media blitzkrieg. There’s a lot of new-age literature, bordering on misandry, goading women to coerce / castrate / cripple the lot of men solely for their innate physiological ability to ‘penetrate’; narrative nuances of rape, associated memories and medical procedures associated with a dominion that reeked of apathy and disdain for women; a lot of material talking about Vox Populi and how the elected authorities continue to hoodwink them with false promises with each occurring incident of rape…and more.
What India’s probably missing is the obvious: There is a sharp decline in the deterrence that the Indian legal system aimed to provide. Among the placards that shone in the recent rape of the five-year-old in Delhi, one just about made the point – ‘The Death Penalty for Rapists Is Not a Solution’. It isn’t about an argument against Death as a penalty but the impotence of a police force in apprehending the criminal and stopping him right in his tracks. That, coupled with the all-pervading issue of lop-sided development and uncontrolled transmigration across states is what has led to the mess. Making things worse was the public perception of sex-crimes and associated unwillingness in filing complaints and following up on cases as well as the much-famed delays of the Indian legal system itself.
The Delhi police, as Sushilkumar Shinde, rightly suggested, wasn’t the only to blame: the entire police force across India was. Today, there is absolutely no fear of the law in the minds of felons and criminals who feel that the police can be easily manipulated and the system subverted to their convenience. It isn’t the gravity of the sentence that plays the role of deterrence among criminals. Whatever the sentence, life-imprisonment, death or castration, it’s the firm belief that he can get away with it which drives him to committing a crime. And, rape is another crime which needs to be addressed with as much urgency as murder or an act of terror.
India will need to deal with crime with the same dogged scientific determination as she dealt with polio; step by step, clinically weeding out the scourge mostly by preventive means rather than by providing lip-service after the act. That would mean, ensure the police intervene, each time, a girl even complains about someone as much as even stares at her or tries to make small talk. It shouldn’t go on till the victim has to file an FIR and the police try to avoid registering a complaint. It should be nipped in the very bud. There should be stringent checks on the antecedents of non-regular locals in cities and smaller towns.
Movement should be permitted but only through close monitoring. It’s in innocuous gatherings at street corners that potential rapists try to pass off as ‘acquaintances and then friends’ before attempting to commit rape. The police, everywhere and not just in Delhi, will have to be more pro-active failing which they should be pulled up, castigated, suspended even sacked if the situation demands.
And then, just like she won the war against Polio, India will win another against crime. Rape, on its part, will have no place to stay.
About the author: Gajanan Khergamker
Gajanan Khergamker is an independent editor and legal counsel with over three decades of experience. He heads DraftCraft – an India-based media-legal think-tank. His areas of expertise include policy, inclusion, foreign affairs, law and diversity. He can be reached on [email protected]