Capital Offence

While security of women has become a top-of-the-mind issue, the man in uniform mandated to provide protection is increasingly turning a sexual offender. anil pandey investigates

While security of women has become a top-of-the-mind issue, the man in uniform mandated to provide protection is increasingly turning a sexual offender. anil pandey investigates

35In a country, which is coming close to being dubbed the rape kingdom of the world, offenders are not merely the vagrant and lumpen elements of society. Increasingly the number of those charged with this capital offence are men in uniform.

According to figures available with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in 2013 of the 15,571 complaints including  sexual misdemeanors registered with them, a whopping majority of the 8,470 were lodged against policemen. That is bad news for a country aspiring to reach the global high table.

Now consider some archetype samples:

  • In Chandigarh, five policemen gang raped a class 10 girl at the point of a gun for two-and-a-half months;
  • In Delhi, two policemen have been charged with an attempt to rape a minor;
  • A DSP-level officer in UP has been charged with luring a young girl with prospects of employment and then raping her. On protests, the victim is threatened with death;
  • In UP’s Pratapgarh’s district, a cop molested a woman who had come to lodge a complaint;
  • In Noida, two UP Police constables and three friends have been charged with gang rape;
  • In Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district, a minor girl was kidnapped and raped by an assistant sub-inspector and a special police officer;
  • In Amritsar, a woman tourist is sexually abused by the Government Railway Police (GRP) head constable Ajmera Singh on the pretext of helping out with hotel accommodation;
  • In HP’s Mandi district, three cops are charged with outraging the modesty of a woman on the pretext of helping her with road directions;
  • In Shillong, Nurul Islam, a police post-in-charge, is accused of raping two sisters, one at the post and other at home when a complaint was lodged against him.

36That then are the most common headlines in the last one year when those mandated to protect women have merrily disregarded rules, using their high offices to indulge in the most wanton attacks on a hapless citizenry. Apparently all the national outcry over rape and several legislations later, the gravity of the situation is utterly lost on them.

While the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) points out that 90 percent of such acts are committed by known persons, the role of those in uniform designated to protect victims has gone largely unnoticed. In December 2013, when Delhi’s civil society was burning the mid-night candles – quite literally – protesting against the brutal Nirbhaya gang rape a year ago much to the nation’s shame, an innocent was being gang raped by five policemen in Chandigarh. The matter came to light on December 20 last year when the survivor with the help of her brother, some local leaders and NGOs managed to lodge a FIR against the five Chandigarh-based cops. According to the survivor’s account, she had approached the police with a complaint about a dispute with a relative. She was called in to discuss the case and in the PCR van was gang raped by five policemen at the point of gun. This routine continued for several weeks until the bubble was burst. At the moment, the five accused, constables Jagtar, Akshay, Himmat, Sunil and Anil are behind bars. While Sunil was attached to the crime branch, the rest four were posted at the PCR.

37On October 13, 2013, in capital Delhi, home to the country’s law makers and the apex court of justice, a 13-year-old girl was grabbed by two policemen, Amit Tomar and Gurjinder, but was lucky to be rescued when her siblings raised an alarm and the two were caught red handed, sacked from service and now spending time behind bars. About a year before this incident, on October 20, 2012, a Delhi Police constable Insaf Khan was arrested for raping a 13-year-old girl from south Delhi’s Jamia area.

Amethi, the prince of political constituencies in India represented by Gandhi family scion Rahul in UP, was rocked by a story which reveals the disturbing pattern of sexual abuse by men in authority. A woman has charged DSP Musafirkhana Bipul Kumar Shrivastava of sexually abusing her on the pretext of helping her out with employment. According to her a stray wrong call to Shrivastava triggered off the nightmare. The DSP absolutely insisted on helping her even when she had politely declined and continued to stalk her. He even landed up at her village but was unable to meet her. Finally, after much persuasion, he convinced her of coming to Lucknow where a job was waiting for her. On November 24, 2013, DSP Shrivastava called her to a hotel in the capital’s Alambagh area and assaulted her sexually. The matter is currently under investigation.

38But what happened in neighbouring Pratapgarh is something that would be a deterrent for any woman going to lodge a complaint or case at a police station. A trusting innocent woman went in to file a complaint against a man who was not marrying her despite repeated promises. The policemen were far from helpful. At the police station gate, she was asked by constable Vir Singh to wait in a room till the morning when a case could be lodged. That morning never came. Vir Singh was charged with raping and molesting the victim in the room at the dead of night.

Bulandhshar, UP, August 2013: A family living in close proximity to the Kotwali police station has charged that their 19-year-old daughter was abducted and raped by a neighbouring policeman Praveen along with his two cop friends in the night when she stepped out of her house to go to the washroom. She was taken to Praveen’s adjacent room, her modesty outraged.

In UP, the country’s largest province, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has shown feet of clay, unable to marshal his law and order machinery with a rising number of cases of rapes, molestation and assault. Last October in Banda district, waves over GRP inspector Rananjay Singh’s open molestation of a victim outside the railway station had barely died down when another similar incident hit headlines in Fatehpur. A woman from Bihar’s Jehanabad district had come to meet her brother at the local jail where a dead drunk cop instead of helping, molested her. In Lucknow the bar was raised further when a woman police employee was raped by a higher-ranking colleague right inside a police station. On August 31, 2013, a woman was sexually abused by two UP Police personnel and their three friends in high tech Noida, adjacent to Delhi. The two also severely assaulted her friend. Not satisfied with that, they snatched the victims’ mobile phone and credit card, using it to top up their official car with petrol.

39In Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district, a minor girl was gang raped by two cops, an assistant sub-inspector and a special police officer on September 14, 2013. Both of them have been arrested. Likewise on October 2 – Gandhi Jayanti day – sub-inspector Satyendra Singh in Bihar’s Khagaria district was accused of sexually abusing a young woman who had come to lodge a complaint at the police station. On November 13, a woman tourist looking for a hotel in Amritsar was misled by GRP constable Ajmer Singh who took her to a hotel instead and assaulted her. Earlier in the year in July, in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district, three constables were charged with outraging the modesty of a woman who was trying to find her way to a local temple. Instead of directing her to the temple, they took her somewhere else. In Arunachal Pradesh’s Shillong police station, Ampati police post in charge Nurul Islam showed what a power drunken cop can do. He first raped a 14-year-old who had come to lodge a complaint at the thana; when the issue was sought to be raised by the victim’s family, he went one step ahead by landing up at her house and molesting her older 17-year sister. Islam was later arrested.

40In the wake of the Nirbhaya murder, a lot has changed in Delhi. After justifiable public outrage and high voltage media shrill, people hit the roads. Suddenly, security of women became a red hot public issue and certain new laws were enacted to provide further safeguards. But the key issue here is this: any safeguard or law is not immune to corruption if law enforcers themselves begin to indulge in wanton acts. Not unnaturally, human rights organizations are flooded with complaints about police misdemeanours.

According to experts, such police behaviour despite efforts to train and re-train policemen, is a result of the prevailing  political climate. The nexus between politicians and police officers is so strong that an ordinary constable thinks he can get away with anything and there is great slackening of discipline and morale. Says former UP DGP Prakash Singh, main litigant in a case calling for implementing wide ranging police reforms which is currently going on in the Supreme Court: “The police administration in the country has become fragile. The order of hierarchy has broken down. The politician is misusing the police for personal ends and deals with them directly. Earlier, the ordinary policeman was scared of the officer; no longer now. He answers to the politician instead of the police officer.’’ Quite a deadly indictment that coming from a man who has also headed the BSF and has vast experience as an anti-terror, anti-Naxalite hand.

41Far from making policemen sensitive to issues, the atrocious working conditions – living far away from home, no transport available, endless working hours and the company of criminals and various addictions – have brutalised them so much that they can go to any lengths. Says Manish Kandapal, senior psychiatrist at New Delhi’s GB Pant Hospital: “Addiction is quite a deadly thing and policemen, like the others, have a sexual drive. When a policeman is drunk, living away from family and social life as he is, he tends to lost sight of right and wrong.’’

Police PCR vans patrolling the country’s streets have a lot of homilies written on them. A tax paying public wants to know what they mean; are they just written for the heck of it? In practice to convert these wise thoughts on ground, there has to be larger political and administrative resolve.  Says Prakash Singh: “The nexus between politicians and some crooked police officials ensure that long-awaited police reforms are not implemented. If they were, the police would be naturally inclined to serve the public, which will hit the interests of the politician directly.’’

That, alas, seems to lie at the root of all troubles.