Land of Darkness
After a child is raped, India’s government bares its flaws.
If the residents of New Delhi had their winter of discontent over the brutal gang rape of a young woman in December 2012, the unrelenting summer in its wake has brought more evil tidings. One of the latest victims in the rape capital of India is all of five years old. Kidnapped by one of her neighbors, she was subjected to unimaginable brutality. Apparently, the culprit also had an accomplice and both the suspects have been arrested. The crime itself is horrific enough, but what really stunned the nation was the callous response from police officials.
The child in question belongs to a poor family, and allegedly the policemen involved refused to file a complaint when she went missing. The delay cost the victim dearly. She was at the mercy of the two perverts for over 40 hours. When she was finally discovered, it seems the officials who should have registered the complaint in the first place offered the victim’s father a bribe of two thousand rupees (approx. $37) to hush up the matter.
When this became known, the city, already seething over the authorities’ insensitive response towards those who protested the December gang rape, erupted in rage. Large-scale protests were organized in different parts of the country. And then a senior police official was caught slapping a female protester three times on camera. She is seventeen-years old and her ear began to bleed after the assault.
After the December gang rape, Neeraj Kumar, the Police Commissioner of Delhi, had waxed poetic about how the case was going to be a turning point in the city’s history. He even quoted Shakespeare to appease the public and tell them his force would behave with more sensitivity in the future. Now that one of his men has amply demonstrated—on camera—the hollowness of his claims, he has once again resorted to grandstanding. As more and more protesters started demanding he resign, Kumar called a press conference and claimed he would resign one thousand times if his resignation could prevent rapes. But the anger against him is because of his force’s high-handedness in the aftermath of these crimes. Like an astute politician, he is cleverly trying to deflect the issue by linking his resignation to the rapes.
Time and again the central government has demonstrated its inability to take action against Delhi’s rogue police force. There has been a lot of public chest-beating by politicians over rape issues, but due to the absence of any action deterring law enforcement from running amok on the streets with batons and water cannons, the theatrics have failed to convince anyone.
The current times will rank among the most shameful chapters in the history of independent India. Scam after scam involving ministers have tumbled out. Crime has continued unabated, while peaceful protests have been brutally tackled by the authorities.
Those in power seem to have a one point agenda: Save their positions and privileges at any cost.
Their insecurities have ensured that the country’s police force primarily acts as a security agency for politicians, not a guardian of law and order. When protesters take to the streets, the politicians’ main concern is that demonstrators do not enter the exclusive neighborhoods they live in, lest their carefully manicured lawns get spoiled. According to a news report, the Home Minister is currently miffed with the police force—not because of the gross insensitivity with which they have dealt with the rape and mutilation of a child, but because some of the protesters entered his official residence.
The policemen who first refused to register the missing five-year-old’s case and then offered a measly bribe to the father of the victim have yet to be identified. The token punishment of suspension has been given to the senior police official for assaulting the young lady among the protesters. The prevailing belief is not only that he will escape any serious repercussions for his crime, but that he will also be reinstated as soon as the storm blows over.
In hindsight, the most appalling detail about the December gang rape in Delhi was that the culprits threw the victim and her boyfriend out of a moving bus after the brutalization. There they lay, injured and bleeding, missing most of their clothing, in the bitter cold for almost an hour while members from two different police stations argued about under whose jurisdiction the crime had occurred.
At the very least, the expectation was that some action would be taken against the Police Commissioner after that gruesome crime. But that didn’t happen because, allegedly, he has a patron in the powerful Home Secretary. So he was allowed to get away by quoting lines from Shakespeare in a press conference. The same story is likely to be repeated this time.
The only ray of hope in all this is that more and more citizens from the world’s most populous democracy are exercising their freedom to register their protests on the streets, braving the vagaries of the weather and the police’s water canons. The national elections are slated to take place in less than a year and pollsters predict that the country is all set to vote out the ruling coalition. The prevailing disgust against it is such that no one cares whether the right-wing opposition parties will fare any better if they come to power.
There is a popular saying in Hindi that goes: “Andher Nagri, Chaupat RaJa.” Loosely translated, it means, “In the land of darkness, the king is a nincompoop!” A saying most Indians are only too happy to agree with currently.