(First published on 14 April 2012)
She asked for it.
It’s all about money.
They have made it a business.
It is consensual most of the time.
THIS IS how policemen — keepers of the law and protectors of innocent — view rape in the Delhi- National Capital Region (NCR). Although generalising is fraught with hazards, this is one generalisation that can be made. There’s evidence to support this.
A month ago, the outrageous apathy of our police towards rape victims was in full display when the Noida Police revealed the identity of a minor girl who was brutally gang-raped in a moving car. If that was not enough, the Noida Superintendent of Police cast aspersions on the girl’s character at a press conference. Besides the fact that, by doing so, the police flagrantly violated the law of the land — Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code defines the disclosure of the identity of rape victims as an offence punishable by up to two years of imprisonment — it also gave a peek into the minds of the police and how they see the raped and the rapist.
Often been called the rape capital of India, the Delhi-NCR region has thrown up numerous such instances of police apathy in rape cases. When asked to explain the rising instances of rape, the cops have invariably blamed the women, an array of extraneous factors or resorted to specious arguments instead of looking inwards and focussing on police reforms. The most disturbing aspect of this is the rank misogyny that underlies it.A few weeks later, the Gurgaon Police outraged civil society by proposing a blanket curfew on working women in the city after 8 pm without prior permission from the Labour Department. This was the first reaction by the police after the report of a brutal gang-rape of a pub employee by six men. The police made no statement about the rapists. Later, however, the police put out a statement asserting they had been misquoted by the media.
Here is a quick reckoner. In 2010, as many as 414 rape cases were reported in Delhi, the highest among 35 major cities in the country. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the conviction rate in rape cases in the capital was a dismal 34.6 percent. In case after case, courts have been acquitting the accused because of flawed first information reports (FIRs), erroneous procedures in collating medical evidence and shoddy investigation. Lawyers and women rights activists have continually been flagging the deep prejudice prevalent in the police against women in general and rape victims in particular, as the single biggest reason for the repeated failure of justice.
But instead of addressing core issues like poor conviction rates, under-reporting of rape cases by victims (studies indicate that for every reported case of rape, more than 50 go unreported), the lack of faith between the victim and the police and the insensitivity of the police personnel towards women, our police and ministers want to ban late-night work shifts or keep women away from unconventional jobs like bartenders.
HAVE WE created a system that instills fear in the heart of offenders, promotes deterrence and ensures that offenders get exemplary punishment? While we may have excellent statutes to deal with crimes against women, do we also have the police machinery to implement the law in its letter and spirit? Are police stations of the NCR being manned by professional and efficient police officers who can deliver justice to hapless women turning up at their doors?
TEHELKA decided to investigate the conduct and approach of Station House Officers (SHOs) and their deputies who are in charge of police stations in the NCR. These cops are the first point of contact for any victim of sexual assault when they have to lodge a complaint. The objective was to find out if there was any latent bias among the police personnel towards rape victims.
In a two-week long investigation, TEHELKA undercover reporters posing as research scholars, visited 23 stations across the NCR and spoke to more than 30 policemen with experience of 20-30 years. The reporters did not make misogynistic comments or incite the policemen to say or do something they wouldn’t have otherwise said or done. The line of inquiry was to be completely neutral and non-partisan. And what we came back with was shocking.
Our two week long investigation reveals that the NCR, which houses some of the leading industries from around the world and where lakhs of women work alongside men, is policed by the cops with a 19th century mindset.
Every time a rape accused gets away due to shoddy investigations, it reinforces the cops’ belief: she had asked for it
Seventeen senior cops of over a dozen police stations across Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad were caught on spy camera blaming everything from fashionable or revealing clothes to having boyfriends to visiting pubs to consuming alcohol to working alongside men as the main reasons for instances of rape. ‘It’s always the woman who is at fault’ was in essence the argument offered by a majority of the cops. Many of them believe that genuine rape victims never approach the police and those who do are basically extortionists or have loose moral values. Others believe that the women from Northeast could never be victims of forced sex as they are invariably involved in the flesh trade. Even more shockingly, some of them are of the view that if a woman has consensual sex with one man, then she shouldn’t complain if his friends also join in. If a woman is doing late hours at the office then she had it coming… and the arguments keep coming.
IF THE police personnel are to be believed, everything from co-education to migration to cities to being independent and assertive and holding unconventional jobs are reasons for the rise in rape incidents across NCR. So mind-numbing are these admissions that one cannot help but wonder about the plight of the rape victims in mofussil towns and villages if the police in and around the capital is so deeply prejudiced. The TEHELKA expose warrants an urgent soul-searching at the highest levels of the police administration and demands immediate corrective steps in the police training and investigation.
Sample what Sunil Kumar, SHO, Ghazipur, East Delhi, had to say. “Go to a pub in South Delhi. Go to Greater Kailash where there is free entry for girls. Jinhone 1,000 rupaiye mein wo karna hai wo wahan jati hain. Daru bhi peeti hai aur aap ke saath sex bhi karti hai… Jis din koi thok dega rape ho jayega. (In these places you’ll find girls who want to do ‘it’ for Rs 1,000. They will drink and also have sex with you. The day somebody uses force, it becomes rape).”
Sub-Inspector Arjun Singh, SHO Surajpur Police Station, Greater Noida, also pins the blame on the victim. “Ladkiya ek seemit daire main, seemit kapdon main nahi niklengi… to apne aap khichaon ho jata hai.Wo khichaon bhi aggressive kar deta hai ki kar do bas (If girls don’t stay within their boundaries, if they don’t wear appropriate clothes, then naturally there is attraction. This attraction makes men aggressive, prompting them to just do it).”
There’s also ethnic bias against those from the Northeast. Try RajpalYadav, Additional SHO of Sector 29, Gurgaon: “Yahan pe Darjeeling aur Nepal tak ki ladkiyan business purpose se aye hai… wo jaate bhade pe hain. Baad mein paisa nahi mila to rape case bata diya jata hai (Girls from Darjeeling and Nepal have come here for business purposes. They go with men for money. Later, when the money is not sufficient, it becomes a rape).”
In the two-week long investigation, TEHELKA undercover reporters visited five police stations in Gurgaon, six in Noida, four in Ghaziabad, two in Faridabad and six in Delhi. Out of the 30 policemen TEHELKA spoke to, 17 were extremely prejudiced, misogynist and shockingly insensitive towards rape victims. Five scored well on the enlightenment card.
DESPITE THE Noida Police facing flak for lewd comments about the victim and her family, Ram Kumar Malik, the investigating officer for the case of the girl raped by Class X students is unrepentant. TEHELKA captured Sub-Inspector Malik on camera brazenly pinning the blame yet again on the victim alone: “Is case mein jo real baat hai, ladki vodka peene ki habitual hai. Usne vodka party mangi, Rs 6,000 mein book ho gai. Physical relation ke liye 6,000 mange. Baad mein mukadma likha diya. Yeh real baat hai. Mere pass uske CDR call detail ka record hai; unka purana relation hai (The real issue here is that the girl is a habitual vodka drinker and had asked for a vodka party. She then demanded Rs 6,000 for sex. When the money wasn’t paid, she registered a rape complaint. I have her call records that establish she had a relationship with one of the accused).” Pointless to ask him how having a consensual relationship with one boy could warrant a girl being raped by 4 other boys.
Malik then turns his guns on the family and character of the girl: “Is ladki ki ma ka pehle hi divorce ho gaya. Aur wo ek Yadavji ke saath beth gayi. Uski umar 48 hai, admi 28 saal ka. Saath mein do ladkiyan. Behekna to tei ho gaya. Nahi ho gaya? (The girl’s mother is divorced. She’s living with another man from the Yadav community. She’s 48 whereas the man is 28. It’s inevitable the two daughters will be wayward, isn’t it?)
“Ab jab 48 saal ki ma, 28 saal ke purush ke saath so rahi hai, do jawan ladkiyan dekh rahi hain, unko bhi zaroorat hogi. Sex is like hunger,” he continues. (Now when two young girls watch their 48-year-old mother sleeping with a 28-year-old man, even they’ll be aroused. Sex is like hunger).”
Blaming the victim, however, is not limited to Malik. The attitude was generic and TEHELKA found many more subscribers in the system.