The terrible, horrible gang rape and murder of a vet in Hyderabad raises straight questions which are being lost in the din of corporate media coverage, hysterical crowds baying murder and a CM who opens his mouth after days to speak as though no responsibility lies at his door. The Father of the girl has clearly stated that the police wasted four hours making the hapless family go from one police station to the other. The scene of the crime is dark, lonely and without police. These are two of the clearest issues which came up after the Nirbhaya case in Delhi- a police force which couldn’t care less and poorly policed, poorly lighted areas in the city. The huge Nirbhaya fund outlays lie unused, Commissions pontify about need for responsive police, police officers spew talk of workshops. On the ground, police and governance are to blame for this family’s terrible experience and the girl’s rape and murder.
But when the CM of Telengana speaks, he does not acknowledge failure of his Govt., but talks of a Parliament session to waive review process in death sentence in gang rapes. Crowds are mobilized in thousands to bay for the blood of the four economically poor guilty, someone starts a communal hashtag as one of the four is a Muslim. Why not at least demand criminal charges against the highest ranking policeman present in each police station from which the family was sent off to look for another police station? Not suspension, not transfer, but arrest is the need.
There are marches and rallies displaying the photo of the girl, her name is being flashed in news papers and spoken over channels and the MoS of Home of GOI shares photos of himself with the family members. Done to dustbins are the mandates to keep the name of the girl unspoken and to protect her and her family’s identity. The Minister of Home Affairs is above speaking of issues of women’s security (they are second class citizens in Manusmriti anyway), women MPs add to hysterical bayings for castration and lynching. The obvious fact is that responsive policing, surety of punishment and effective fast tracking of cases are the need –this is consciously dissipated by police and govts. who fear being held accountable. Justice is the easy victim of the Govts in this country. Mob violence-lynch her, the ‘witch’; beat him, the ‘Muslim’; kill him the ‘Sikh’; strip her, the ‘Dalit’ woman; burn her ‘she married a Dalit’. Are these the type of responses within which we seek to fit response to sexual violence against women? Or do we demand answerability from Govts and police, both maintained on the money of the people. It is also worth thinking why these slogans NEVER ring out when power sexual violence is involved- when Ministers rape and kill women who are enticed by them, when a three time MLA rapes a minor, when godmen MPs sexually exploit dependent students….. the list goes on and on and the murders can’t even be established.
An obsession with the death penalty is being promoted too, to distract not only from the lack of answerability to people of police, not only from the lax and flawed judicial system but also from anti people governance, from the horrible conditions of existence. No adequate street lighting in major cities, no adequate public transport, no social support systems for children, inhuman conditions of work and life of motor transport workers, degeneration of unemployed youth and a flourishing patriarchal culture- all this are what the current spate of gang rapes and murders highlight, whether in Hyderabad or Kanchi or in Gujarat or in UP and…everyday one more case comes up.
Organizations must rise and develop the democratic fight for women’s security, for answerability of police and govts. to the people, for surety of punishment and speed of justice, against patriarchy enshrined and being strengthened in state and society and also for decent living and working conditions for all. This fight alone can strengthen the battle for the right to safety for women in all spheres.