A grim reminder
The Unnao rape case spotlights our failing deterrence against rapes and the perverse mindset that still plagues society
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seems to be acting in top gear while probing the Unnao rape victim's critical injuries, sustained by a mysterious truck ramming into the victim's car, killing two of her aunts. The victim and her lawyer are now battling for life. The court had also ruled that subject to the health conditions and concurrence of the family members of the 19-year-old rape victim and the lawyer, the critically injured could be airlifted for better treatment in AIIMS, New Delhi – which has now unfolded. The rape accused, MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, in the meantime, is under interrogation by CBI at the Sitapur jail. Two persons who visited Sengar in the jail preceding the deadly accident, are also under questioning.
Meanwhile, the trial of this case, which commenced on August 5, is evincing keen interest amongst all. Judge Dharmesh Sharma has been designated to hear the case at Delhi's Tees Hazari Court. The accused and his alleged accomplice are expected to be produced before the court on August 6. It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had taken a suo moto cognizance of the Unnao rape case victim's accident and ordered the transfer of the case to a Delhi Court, which is under instructions to complete the probe within 45 days. In the same order, the SC has asked the CBI to wrap up the investigation and file a charge sheet by August 14 in the accident case.
Under express monitoring of the SC, a six-member team of professional experts with a proven record of forensics, belonging to CBI's Central Forensic Laboratories, are also currently in UP, aiding the investigation.
Professionally, it has been a wise decision that this significant probe drawing national attention has been handed over to CBI for a thorough investigation instead of entrusting it to the UP police. It is hoped that CBI's ambit of the probe will also include the conspiracy, beginning from accusations of rape happening in 2017, the custodial beating of the victim's father leading to his death, the nexus between the truck driver and properly identifying other accomplices in blackening the registration number of the truck to conceal identity. By such ugly acts, it is evident that there were several players involved in the rape, the custodial beating and brutal ramming of the victim's car. They all need to be exposed through a dedicated delving without caving to political pressure, if any.
The most unfortunate Nirbhaya case memory is revived fresh in public minds after the Unnao rape case. The retired CJI, late JS Verma, had suggested several measures but it would seem that all is lost and rapes continue to shock us. The judgments, howsoever harsh and deterrent, don't seem to work. It's a segment of society that's sick and afflicted with a perverse mindset. More importantly, it would also appear that the unholy nexus between politicians and a section of the police has thrived over the years and has now reached a point of no return. This linkage needs to be severed perhaps with the help of civil societies and a thinking police leadership.
On the part of politicians, it's incumbent upon them to act responsibly and refrain from putting pressure on custodians of law to cave in to the whims and fancies of their unbridled ambitions. Also, the party leadership should also exercise discretion while inducting people to its party fold. In the instant case under reference, Sengar is suspended from the party only after the truck causing accident hit headlines. He merited expulsion way back in 2017 when he was accused of rape. He was obviously drafted in because of his winning track record in electoral politics. A thorough turncoat, Sengar was with the BSP and SP before joining the ruling BJP. He could win elections for the party but the huge taint too comes as a moral encumbrance to the party. The politicians possibly have become so thick-skinned that they care two hoots for being labelled as a corrupt or a rapist. They have nurtured a culture of insensitivity. We hear daily reprimands to the ruling party workers, with the Prime Minister himself issuing guidelines for better conduct in public life and good behaviour. A minister's son in Madhya Pradesh used a cricket bat to hit a civic official. The errant was taken to task but the fact that he was audacious to perpetuate that bit of violence in full public view shows that they have scant respect for the law of the land. So far, all sermons have gone unheeded.
Politicians should themselves introspect their conduct in public life to remain above accusations of rape and other serious offences. Unless they reform themselves, police and judiciary can do little. On part of the police, its leadership must tell the force not to be a party to politicians' desires of implicating someone in a false case and subjecting them to torture and duress. Each stakeholder is expected by society to discharge responsibilities with abundant care and the utmost discretion.
Uttar Pradesh (UP) being the most populous state, has its own problems making it difficult for the administration to deal with routine law and order, and crime-related challenges. And then come leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, who not very long ago, instead of condemning rapists dismissed the act by saying that boys will be boys – how irresponsible was the statement? Such remarks do embolden the potential rapists and shockingly from Mulayam's party, no women member including any MP criticised the blatant comment.
According to the statistics available from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), out of 38,947 cases of rape, UP stood second (4,816) showing that 14 per cent of the rape cases occurred in UP.
Ironically, there is open support extended to Kuldeep Singh Sengar by some party colleagues. This is unfortunate. He should be a social pariah until the CBI/court clears him. Those exercising silence, particularly for women MPs of the party, by not condemning the gang-rape on the teenager that caused inexplicable trauma, they cannot escape their share of blame by being a party to the heinous crime. Unless there is social pressure, such heinous crimes will continue to recur and eventually, will evaporate in thin air like the Nirbhaya case only seven years ago.
(The author is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and the former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. The views expressed are strictly personal)
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