With incidents like Unnao and Hyderabad, India hangs its head in shame
Varalika Mishra | Caravan Daily
ON December 5, 2019, the twenty-three-year-old Unnao rape survivor was thrashed, beaten, stabbed and set ablaze by five men; two of them her alleged rapists. The men had hit her on the head and attacked her by knife before setting her on fire. The fact that these men showed the audacity to brutally kill her when they were out on bail is proof of how the system of justice-dispensation is sabotaged at will in this country.
The victim girl was doused in petrol and set on fire in her own village, while she stirred out of her home to go and meet her lawyer in connection with the rape case she had filed. She screamed and ran for a while, until a villager came forward and doused the flames. But, by then she was badly burnt. She was rushed to hospital with 90 per cent burns, and underwent treatment at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. She passed away on December 7.
The Nirbhaya gang-rape in Delhi took place in 2012. Stricter laws against gang-rape are in place after the nation rose as one to demand harsher punishment to rapists. The new laws framed by Parliament then, however, did not help in preventing occurrence of gang-rapes or ensuring safety of women in public places. The reasons are not far to seek. Both police and courts have not given the seriousness to rape, gang-rape or incidents of molestations, with the result that cases often are sabotaged at some level and the guilty escapes punishment.
Has India become a “Rape Country” is the big question being asked everywhere. The gang-rape and setting ablaze of the victim veterinarian in Hyderabad came as a big shock, but several such instances are going unnoticed or are casually treated by cops. Currently a five-member special investigation team (SIT) has been constituted by the Divisional Commissioner, Lucknow, to investigate the Unnao incident. No one is satisfied that this would be of any help to fix the guilty.
The Unnao incident has come a day after the Uttar Pradesh state police chief Om Prakash Singh boasted that rape cases in the state have reduced by 28 per cent under the rule of BJP chief minister Yogi Adityanath. The CM itself stated on the same day in Gorakhpur that the state was largely crime-free.
Politicians have a tendency to help worst criminals escape punishment because of local compulsions. The accused, who perpetrate crimes, are influential themselves or from influential communities. The casualness with the political class treats such incidents is worrisome. For instance, several MPs were absent when the Rajya Sabha took up a motion on the rape and killing incident, in the Rajya Sabha. They could not care less—and they brand themselves to be people’s representatives.
The Unnao rape case depicts the lawlessness in this country, not the strength of the the justice-dispensation system.
HOW UNNAO HAPPENED
It was on December 12, 2018 that Shivam Trivedi, who was known to the survivor girl, allegedly gang-raped her at gunpoint along with another man, Shubham Trivedi. On the pretext of marrying her, Shivam raped her on several occasions and made a video, and then blackmailed her by saying he would make it viral if she didn’t surrender his whims for longer periods. She went and filed a case. Then, he threatened her with murder if she did not withdraw the case.
On December 13 last year, the survivor filed the rape complaint with the police, but an FIR was not registered by the cops. On December 20, she sent a complaint to the SP of Rae Bareli on the cops’ failure to proceed with the case; the FIR was still not registered. On March 4 this year, an FIR was registered against Shivam and Shubham. On August 14, police ordered attachment of properties of Shubham and Shivam. On September 19, Shivam surrendered in Rae Bareli; on November 25, he got bail from the high court. He was released five days later.
After the case was filed, Shubham remained an absconder in police records for months. No serious attempt was made for long to arrest him. Then, one day, the arrest happened.
The entire timeline of the case is horrifying and unjust; and it has so many layers. Nobody can compensate for what the woman went through for months on end.
It’s difficult for women to get justice. Since history, women have been blamed and questioned about their clothes; about the time they go out and obstructed from raising their voice for justice. Focus still remains on how women should change and not on how their safety can be ensured in public places or how male mindsets must change. The plight that the Unnao rape survivor went through has put India in an embarrassing position vis-à-vis safety of its womenfolk.
Varalika Mishra is currently an education analyst at IPE Global, Delhi. She is a writer and has worked at The Hindu, as a sub editor and interned at Hindustan Times.