When A Rape Case From 1992 Receives Punishment In 2011, We Need To Ask Harder Questions

Posted: April 24, 2018

Every government promises change when in the opposition, but the reality is that judicial reforms in India are still urgently needed. Until then, rape survivors will continue to be denied justice.

“Par ap isme Modiji ya Yogi ji ko kyu beech me la rahe ho?”

Why are you bringing Modiji and Yogiji into this, asked a 65 year old uncle who has been quite a BJP fan over the years, during a heated discussion on the Kathua and Unnao rape cases.

There are many others like him — uncles, aunties, college students, crybabies sending Whatsapp forwards supporting either the BJP or the Congress with the single-mindedness of a woodpecker.

But the fact that I as a lazy person, who takes as much interest in politics as a saloon owner in dandruff, am instigated to write this, is due to my caustic disgust at what is happening around me.

No, it is not about your esteemed Modiji or Yogiji or Rahulji or Kejriwalji. It is about 18 rapes in Vachathi village in Tamil Nadu, that happened in 1992, for which punishment was granted in 2011. It is about the fact that many of the accused, for all the crimes committed on that night in Vachathi, died comfortably of old age before they served any of the sentence for their crimes.

Look around. When was the last time that you heard of a murder, an abduction, a rape receiving its final verdict from the court many years after the crime happened? Probably yesterday.

In a country with the highest backlog of cases pending in the world, how can we expect justice for the rapes that occurred in the past, let alone the present ones?

Why aren’t we talking about our understaffed courts, our non-digital court work, the corruption in courts to stall cases where the affluent can buy as much time as they want while the deprived have to give up their life’s savings for a decent lawyer?

Are the tears of the Chief Justice of India not enough to scream about the state of the Indian judicial system, in our faces and in the faces of those in government?

Every government that shouts reforms when in the opposition tries to ‘control the situation’ when ruling.

Now digest this: According to a NCRB data, among the cities with the most rapes were those in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Is it shocking that these states fall in the bottom rankings for literacy rates according to the 2011 census?

Certainly, a good education and high qualifications doesn’t warrant that a person will not rape, but there is at least the possibility that it makes humans more civilized, aware of their rights and sensible.

Anybody earning a decent salary wants to get their child admitted in an English medium private school, since we all know what happens inside the confines of most Government run schools. Then what remains the fate of the education of 360 million people (the largest section of people in poverty anywhere in the world) in our country? It’s no secret that joblessness and crimes go hand in hand.

But we are not even talking about higher education here, or even of strengthening education till the senior secondary level, or of the rote learning framework we use, or of effective checks on the corruption and laxity of government teachers, or of how inculcating gender equality studies might prove impactful.

In recent years, it has become a vicious pattern to be dumbstruck by a monstrous rape every few months. After the national outrage, the candle marches, the heated TV debates where none can hear the other speak, we all go back to living with a minimum of six rape headlines a day. We have become numb to the normalcy of rape being a statistic, in our daily lives, in this country.

Though fast track courts have been created and laws have been strengthened, their implementation seems like the spit marks in our Government buildings that everyone neglects.

Reforming the judiciary and education: two factors among many others that can play a key role in ceasing this spate of rapes that are happening and will happen; are they included in the statement of the leaders running this country?

We have every right to ask and scream, to reach out to our Government at the blatant gap between manifestos and reality. And if we don’t, we are also at fault.

First published here.

Top image is from a protest at India Gate in 2012, after the ‘Nirbhaya’ incident that galvanised the country. The poster says Justice delayed is Justice denied. Photo credits Ramesh Lalwani, used under a Creative Commons license  

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