By Tehelka Bureau
Following TEHELKA’s cover story exposing the insensitive and misogynistic attitude of policemen in Delhi/NCR towards rape victims and towards the phenomenon of rape, there was outrage among readers and in opinions across the country. A range of voices — civil society activists to politicians, film stars to former police officers, and many, many ordinary people — expressed their anger and deep anguish. “Such policemen should be sacked”; “How can women get justice if the police think this way?”; “How safe are women in Delhi?”: questions without satisfactory answers, asked in frustration and an emotional welter, flooded social media sites from Twitter to Facebook. This was not just a hotly-discussed scoop — it was a mirror to our cruel world.
Women politicians like the CPI(M)’s Brinda Karat and the Congress’ Renuka Chowdhury were among the first to respond, both of them labeling as “criminal” the police’s instinctive disparaging of the rape victim. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit spoke of her anxiety about the safety of women in the city and promised to raise the matter with the police commissioner. In comparison, the home ministers of neighbouring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh — states that house the three NCR cities of Gurgaon, Faridabad and Noida — were conspicuously silent. Every day, thousands of women travel between these cities and Delhi. Often, they are completely dependent on local police forces for their protection — forces that are not just unsympathetic but, as TEHELKA established, downright antipathetic.
Perhaps it is this attitude that stops women from even approaching a person in police uniform for help, terrified by the knowledge that it may result in a rebuff or a sneer. Police veterans blame it on inadequate training and lack of gender sensitisation in the ranks. How long have we lived with that excuse and how long will we continue to? Every second, some terrified woman in the urban jungle called the NCR must ask herself that question.
SR Darapuri, Former Inspector General Of Police Vice President Of PUCL, Uttar Pradesh
‘Sensitisation is done through reading out just one chapter on gender issues during police training. How will that help? Usually, someone comes and gives a talk. That is all. Policemen come from various backgrounds, from rural to urban areas. There is a cultural gap. It is these cultural biases that policemen carry with them when they perform their duties. A rape victim is looked at as a culprit who incited the crime. How can one chapter bring about a change in such attitudes?’
[box]Kamini Jaiswal, Supreme Court Advocate
The long term measure must be to educate the police forces and make them gender sensitive. But what do you expect a two penny officer to say in a state when your CM makes such statements? The CM is educated, she studied in Miranda house. And yet she makes ridiculous statements like women should not be adventurous just because she has her convoy. Is an ordinary citizen supposed to not go to work, be shy and sit around in a burqa? There is a need for all women to raise voice against these kinds of statements and not vote for them. As far as departmental action is concerned, it’s not an offence to make such a statement. But every time they do not carry out their duties properly because their investigation are coloured by the fact that they think the woman is at fault, then you can take action for dereliction of duty.[/box]
Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister, Delhi
“We are all scared, we are all worried about this atmosphere where women do not feel safe. This has to change. Our government makes it mandatory that all women who work after 8 pm should be dropped home by their employer. I have not seen those tapes myself, but I will watch it and talk to the Police Commissioner myself.”
[box]KL Gupta, Former Director General Of Police, Uttar Pradesh
‘In our training programmes, only a little bit is taught about women’s rights; but the media should be vigilant and at regular intervals, pressurise police officials. And those guilty (of crime) should be chided and punished. The offences related to molestation and rape should be tried in a separate court or a fast-track court to ensure speedy delivery of justice. The remarks should not have been made as the issue is related to the way police works. They should be immediately corrected by colleagues and disowned, saying the comments are wrong’[/box]
Kiran Bedi, Former Director General, Bureau Of Police Research & Development
“Beyond the outrage we need to demand correction by way of pre-induction training before police station posting and mandatory annual training after that for attitude change. Induction training before posting to a police station is a must because law and order and investigation work have not been separated still! Two key practices are a must for police station functioning: Sustained sensitisation, PS training and induction for police station posting.”
[box]Ajay Raj Sharma, Former Commissioner of Police, Delhi
“Investigating officers should not make such comments and it is highly undeserving of them. In law, a rape is a rape and there is no other side of looking at it when beginning an investigation. Such arguments made by the policemen in the Tehelka sting are absolutely foolish. This kind of mindset in investigating crimes is peculiar only to some people in the force. Each district chief should call a meeting of junior officers and play out these tapes as bad examples of investigation. This will make sure that such things do not happen ever again. Some amount of training is required and I agree at times reality of the crime might be different from what it appears. But even then it is not the business of a police officer to be making such comments.”[/box]
Prakash Singh, Former DGP, Assam
“There are a lot of good officers in the police force. You spoke to some of the bad fish. You should also look at the good work that the police has done. The police is most often the most convenient punching bag. No one cares about policemen who have perished in the line of duty. No one cares about those policemen posted in zones where they cannot even get leaves due to the call of duty. I do not want to comment on this anymore.”
[box]Brinda Karat, CPI (M) leader
“It is absolutely outrageous. In fact it is criminal because what is basically happening is that the law and order machinery which is supposed to bring justice actually obstructs justice with these kind of prejudicial and highly biased anti-woman sentiments.”
Vrinda Grover, Advocate
‘These attitudes will deter women from approaching the legal system for justice thus encouraging the perpetrator to commit the crime of rape with impunity. The officers who have expressed their bias against women victims of rape, have clearly stated that their prejudices will overshadow any investigation of the crime of rape. This admission makes them ‘unfit to stay in Police service’. There are two possible routes that can be followed. First, an immediate and transparent enquiry be conducted and the concerned officer be dismissed if his views and opinions are of such a nature that they will interfere in the professional and non partisan discharge of his duties to investigate crimes against women and protect women from crimes including sexual assault and rape. Second, the views expressed by the police officer make him incapable of discharging his professional duty and on this ground he should be demoted and removed from any investigation or police duty that involves crimes against women or where the rights of women are in issue. All this is to be done in a time bound and transparent manner. As there is a grave public interest involved all documents and enquiries must be available for public scrutiny’.
Farhan Akhtar, Actor & Director
“It is sad to hear the character assassination of rape victims by some police officers in Delhi. This mindset has to change.
Rebecca John, Advocate
Immediate steps should be taken like cracking the whip at the top level where senior officers simply say that we don’t care what you think but we will not allow rape cases to be investigated in this lax manner. We have to get our laboratories functional, use DNA and get rid of the two-finger approach. It is unforgivable how a police force can investigate without having a rape kit. Even women who are supposedly empowered resort to making inexplicable remarks, like Sheila Dixit’s “adventurous” comment or even Mamata Banerjee abusing efficient cops who investigated the Kolkata rape case and instead questioning why a single mother should be out drinking at that time. How different is that conversation from what these cops say? It’s not just cops, it’s the combined layers of the IO, doctor and judge that let down the rape victim. It’s important to reinforce the fact that it’s not the victim on trial, the man who committed rape is. The lack of concern is from a community at large which cops are a part of. We as a country look at the spice (masala), we don’t know how to collectively feel sympathy. Unless you have complete hauling, it comes down to how badly women in this country are treated. So long as they are, you will have such cases.
[box]Arun Bhagat, former Police Commissioner of Delhi
Education is one thing, cultural background in another. We have failed to understand, what cultural background they come from and, therefore, this difficulty in introducing them to ideas which are very different from one which they have grown up with. Ours have been, and still is, a segregated society gender-wise and when people come to bigger towns, they find a different environment. Even if you go from Delhi to Moradabad, or Delhi to Rampur, the cultural set-up there is very different. And why travel so far; you just travel 20 miles to a village in either Haryana or UP and you’ll find that their sense of value and understanding is quite different. These are the problems which the police department is finding very difficult to overcome and they are trying. I do not know much about Uttar Pradesh, but Delhi certainly is making considerable efforts. Any cultural change which goes against the tradition of centuries will take time. It is education and training all the time; that’s it.This training should be regular and that is not being done because of the resources.[/box]