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CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

 

FROM THE DIRECTOR'S DESK
SEEMA MUSTAFA | 20 JANUARY, 2014

The rape of the 51- year-old Danish tourist is yet another blot on the capital of India. Delhi has developed into this rather ugly, unhappy city where no one likes anyone else, and where rude, vulgar behaviour is not just legitimate but a hallmark of growth.

There is a gender insensitivity that is impossible to understand. Delhi-ites poured out on the streets following the brutal rape of the young girl last year who eventually succumbed to the injuries, but apart from a stiffer law were unable to influence either the police or the politician into evolving a system of prevention and control. Only two of the men who attacked the foreigner were apprehended, and somehow the manner in which the entire incident was handled does not speak well of the authorities at all.

Rape survivors are harassed, their families threatened, not by the rapists but often by the police who make the girl come to the police station over and over again in rather humiliating and traumatic circumstances. Recommendations of various committees and commissions appointed after heinous incidents are not even looked at, let alone implemented, by callous governments. Even today women, regardless of age, feel very insecure in Delhi with sexual assault, in some form or the other, becoming part and parcel of daily life. This is not an exaggeration, and a girl has only to use public transport to understand the truth behind this statement.

Strangely enough the new party that has formed the government, Aam Aadmi, does not inspire confidence amongst the women. This has partly to do with the rather patriarchal name with feminist groups openly asking what are the provisions, if any, for the aam aurat. The party and now the new government clearly have a position against corruption, but have still to spell out their stand on gender issues. Interestingly, Aam Admi workers had participated in the mammoth protests against the rape of the young girl last year, but failed to cut ice with the women's organisations who asked them to first form a women's wing, and articulate their position on issues concerning women in Delhi and across India. Nothing substantive has emerged on this to date.

In fact Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal when asked to comment on the rape of the Danish national said, "I don't want to talk about this right now." And AAP leader Kumar Vishwas who is contesting the parliamentary elections from Amethi against Congress scion Rahul Gandhi merely said that the Delhi police is not under the Delhi government, a plea that was often taken by the Congress government earlier to excuse inaction. Strange really, or perhaps not, that this corruption obsessed government promising change, has little to say about what it will do to heighten awareness and ensure the recommendations for a systemic overhaul are implemented by the Centre and the State.

The Delhi Police, aware of the VIP status of the national capital, is a little more responsive than the state police forces but even so it fails to prevent such crime. This particular rape took place in daylight hours, and at a Club just a few metres from bustling Connaught Place. There have been incidents of rape, before the big rape that shook the country last year, in moving vehicles, driving through populated parts of Delhi without being detected. After the crime, the police acts to block the FIR from being filed by being as non-cooperative and nasty as it possibly can to the victim and her family. Rapists are not always caught, and even if they are, many more in the crime get away scot-free. Policemen themselves have been accused of rape and sexual molestation.

Despite all this the politician in the chair remains indifferent to the plight of Delhi's girls and women, where infants are also not safe from the sexual marauders. Given the past years, having a woman chief minister in the chair is no guarantee for action, with a woman moving on her own in Delhi placing herself at 'high risk'.

The new government has clearly no interest in security and gender justice. The focus is so completely on financial corruption that issues of import are getting marginalised. Kejriwal, encouraging vigilante activism by asking citizens to record sting operations against corrupt officers and politicians, has no answers for the women of Delhi. Perhaps he never will, until he and his team moves to add the 'aurat' to the party that seems to be concerned only with the aam aadmi.