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  • Writer's picturemcborwankar

On Women's Day 2024, is It Police 'Patta' or Technology or both? Vote pl.

Updated: Mar 9

As I hang my head in shame at the most brutal gang rape of a foreign tourist in the land of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, I am also reminded of the forced silence of women in Sandeshkhali subjected to an equally monstrous treatment by a public representative. I wonder should I accept the invites of ‘Women day’ events of 8th March where I am supposed to assure women of their safety and talk of the so-called changed reality when all indications are that the situation on ground has not changed much.

I am sure that Jharkhand police would be able to arrest all the accused as they have already identified them and arrested some. I am equally sure that West Bengal police or CBI too would succeed in charge sheeting Sheikh Shahjahan soon. Is it not distressing that as reported in media, forty-two such police cases, against Sheikh have already been charge sheeted and are pending in courts?  So, it would not be any surprise that one more or a few more are added to his ‘list of honours’! When I took up the issue of court pending cases, the politicians sharing a session with me washed his hands off declaring it to be ‘court kachahri mamla’.

It is true that the distressingly long delays in completion of trials and conviction of offenders is emboldening criminals. And it is equally true that by recruiting more judicial officers and providing required infrastructure, government can reduce the pendency. We do not need new Laws but well-equipped police, prosecution, forensic laboratories and judiciary that would finish a civil or criminal trial by around eighteen months. Give another year for appeals. This would send positive message to the law-abiding citizens who have lost all hopes while making a criminals run for his life instead of prying for his next victim on a road or a field.

In today’s scenario, conviction and consequent punishment is so late that it loses its meaning. Crime data of 2022, released by the National Crime Records Bureau shows that 90% cases, of as grave a crime as rape, are still pending trial in different courts (178485) and that conviction rate of rape cases is only 27.4%. Does it not indicate that a woman’s body is worthless and her consent immaterial in our country? And that silence is her fate. Worse when she watches the gang rapists being granted remission and garlanded as happened in Bilkis Bano’s case,

It is equally distressing that of 10703 rape cases pending police investigation, 2671 i.e. 25% are pending for one to three years. While prompt police investigation and expeditious trials of offences against women are extremely important so is the need to hammer down the patriarchal culture that trivialises women. From family atmosphere of respect for gender to pre-primary till higher education emphasis on gender equality and respect are some points repeatedly been highlighted in various forums. And yet they escaped the monsters of Jharkhand.

We, some of the women officers of the Indian Police Service, discussed the issue recently. Positive suggestions that came forward included better lighting of public places especially of roads and parks, more women in transport and tourist industry and dedicated transport for late night travelling of women.  Gender focused emergency Apps, bill boards in all Indian languages about women safety and to improve bystander interventions, working women hostels and engaging with men and boys in changing attitudes towards girls and women were discussed.

Women safety audits both by the government institutions and by the community itself were suggested. And that these audits should involve local women instead of being vendor driven. Crowd sourcing of safety perception can help as girls and women ignore or shy away from reporting incidents of harassments at public places. While encouraging women to get involved in designing and planning safe cities and ‘mohalas’, they should also be provided basic training in self-defence techniques.

There have been many practical suggestions from these officers and there are adequate resources too. But while government machinery works in fits and starts, community in most cases refuses to get involved or fund simple local initiatives like installing CCTV cameras or to maintaining them. And we end up feeling aghast at a South Korean vlogger being molested in a market of megapolitan like Mumbai or a Spanish tourist’s gang rape in rural Jharkhand. The story is the same, whether it is rural expanse or concrete urban jungle of India, safety of women is an issue that continues to evade us. Our failure to provide basic security to women has not only held us back from reaching our full potentials but has also caused psychological damage to the society as a whole. I wonder if Inspector Chougule who worked with me was right that either police ‘patta’ or an encounter were the only remedies against sexually starved monsters roaming around freely. I hope he is wrong!

Pl tick any one of the below

☐Police 'Patta'

☐Technology

☐Both Neither

☐Other

Meeran Chadha Borwankar, IPS (retd) was one of the petitioners against remission of convicts in Bilkis Bano case.


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