THE brutal gang rape of a young paramedical student in Delhi in a private bus on the night of 16 December has tapped into the wellspring of a normally apathetic nation like no other event in recent memory. It has exposed the chronic failure of the security establishment in ensuring security for the common man on the streets of India. It has also showed up the utter failure of the Sheila Dikshit government in ensuring law and order in Delhi, the country’s capital. The statistics are chilling. Delhi tops the rape charts in India.
There were 661 rape cases in the city this year, up 17 per cent from 2011. The overall picture is equally dismal. In India a woman is raped every twenty minutes. Reported rape cases in India have increased by 9.2 per cent to 24,206 cases in 2011 from 22,172 the previous year, according to the latest figures from the National Crime Record Bureau. Rape cases in India more than doubled between 1990 and 2008; national crime records show that 228,650 of the 256,329 violent crimes recorded last year had women as victims.
Add to this the fact that the conviction rate for rape cases is 26 per cent and you have the picture of a lawless nation whose security forces are more busy protecting VIPs and ensuring their comfort and security.
To protest against the deteriorating security situation, more than 12,000 protestors recently marched towards India Gate shouting slogans against the government. Of those hordes, some 200 broke away and began heading towards the Raisina Hills area, which houses, among other important political buildings, the prime minister’s office and the official residence of the Indian president. These comprised members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), All India Students’ Association (AISA), and All India Democratic Womens’ Association (AIDWA).
The protests, peaceful at first, got out of hand, when a few lumpen elements ‘hijacked’ the demonstration and began to pelt stones at the police. Soon, it was a free-for-all and the police had to resort to lathicharge to quell the mob. The situation soon deteriorated into a riot.
The 1,200 cops present resorted to 10 rounds of lathicharge. Nearly 250 tea gas shells were fired and 65 protestors injured. 78 cops suffered injuries; one cop later died of his injuries in hospital. The police had to undertake draconian measures to bring the situation under control. They shut down nine metro stations, among them Rajiv Chowk and Khan Market, for two consecutive days, inconveniencing lakhs of commuters who take the Metro each day to work. The arrival of the Russian president Vladimir Putin during this time further exacerbated the situation.
Finally, our feeble prime minister appeared on TV and appealed to people to maintain calm in the midst of rising public fury. “I feel deeply sad at the turn of events leading to clashes between protesters and police forces. I assure you that we will make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety to all women in this country. “As a father of three daughters myself, I feel as strongly as you. We will ensure justice is delivered,” he added.
Later on however, his “theek hai” quote which mistakenly went on air during his address to the nation on the gang rape incident drew a lot of flak on social media sites. The incident is reflective of the deep disconnect between the ruling class and the general populace; the rulers are seen as distant and arrogant while the subjects are increasingly left to fend for themselves. To pacify the public, Finance Minister P Chidambaram recently announced that retired judge Usha Mehra would head a commission of inquiry into the gang rape incident.
Meanwhile, the condition of the gang rape victim continues to be critical. She is now being treated at Singapore's St. Elizabeth's Hospital. Doctors had to remove a portion of her small intestine. Her white blood count continues to fluctuate and there is an increasing risk of infection. She has already undergone five surgeries. She was assaulted after she was returning from a movie with a male friend at an upscale south Delhi area. The brutal assault lasted nearly an hour after which she and her companion were thrown out of the bus near a deserted flyover.