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The 'armed' enemy that lies within!

Monday, July 21, 2014

If it isn’t a watchman committing rape, it’s a husband, a policeman or worse still, defence personnel who simply go scot free. Where rape is concerned, the enemy lies within, writes Gajanan Khergamker

Just a few days back, a 22-year-old woman was allegedly abducted and raped by the son of a BSP leader in a car in the presence of her friend in Bangalore. While the son of the BSP leader has been arrested, his four accomplices are yet absconding. According to the police complaint, the woman said she was sitting with a friend in his car in front of her apartment complex when the four men attacked them. The men reportedly drove the woman and her friend around the city in the car. One of the men sexually assaulted her, silencing her friend at knife-point.

Sometime back when Trinamool Congress MP Tapas Paul, made a nasty remark regarding rape it sparked nationwide outrage. Paul was seen in a video that had gone viral saying “If a Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) man dares to touch anybody, I will take out my gun and shoot him. I always carry a gun... I will destroy his entire clan. I warn my opponents... I will make their family pay dearly. I will ask my boys to go there. They will rape them and leave.”

Apology after an insensitive remark becomes a norm
A couple of days later, the MP’s wife rendered an apology on her husband’s behalf but also stated that Paul was provoked to make such a statement and ‘there is a story behind the comment.’ A day later, the MP himself rendered an unreserved apology for his ‘deeply insensitive’ remark. But, the damage has already been done. The callous manner in which the men in power make remarks about rape and other sexual assault is not something that can be just ignored. Especially, if it’s a threat met out in public, no matter how provoked.

Along with a few other things, security of women has to be one of the top agendas of the new government. The previous government wasn’t able to win the confidence of the public when it came to protecting the women in the country. And, with the nation witnessing one horrific rape after the other, the situation only got worse. The new government has already had its share of horror stories with the Badaun Rape case. And, it needs to buckle up and start taking measures that are effective and not just on paper.

Rape, in itself, is a heinous crime and the situation gets all the more horrific when it’s someone in authority is the perpetrator of the crime. Who do you turn to when someone who is supposed to protect is the one committing the crime?

100 Delhi policemen accused of crime against women: RTI 
Earlier, in February 2014, an RTI application was filed asking for details of policemen who have been accused of crimes against women including rape, molestation, eve-teasing, etc., in last ten years. The reply revealed that a total of 100 Delhi policemen have been accused in rape and molestation cases. The data provided also stated around 70 policemen in the capital had been accused of rape including gang rape. The data provided by the department also hinted towards the fact that there has been an increase in such cases in the past five years. Apparently, despite facing charges, most of the accused have been able to secure bail and are working at various posts in the Delhi police department.

However, recently, for the first time, two cops were dismissed and arrested for attempting sexual assault on an underprivileged juvenile girl in 2013. And, these are the statistics for just one city. Other cities and states have their own share of statistics.

Just recently, in Mumbai, a policeman was arrested for allegedly raping his junior after falsely promising marriage to her. Apparently, the policeman also forced her into having physical relations with him by blackmailing her with a video clip he had shot of her on his mobile. The head constable was arrested after the woman lodged a police complaint against him. The victim also claimed that she had complained to a senior officer, but to no avail.

Jawan accused of raping 20-year-old Agartala woman
In another case, in Agartala, police arrested three accused in the gang-rape of a 20-year-old woman, one of them was an Army jawan. The victim was allegedly raped by a Tripura State Rifles (TSR) jawan and two others in Agartala despite high security just before the Lok Sabha election. According to the victim’s FIR, she was waiting at Nagerjala at night when two accused approached her in car. They offered the victim a lift which she accepted. But, on the way, one of the accused called an accomplice and the three then raped her.

Reportedly, the victim was gang-raped and left in a bush nearby. She was discovered by the locals in the middle of the night after they heard her cries for help. The attempted rape and murder of Mumbai-based lawyer Pallavi Purkayastha, made news once again when a Mumbai Court convicted the security guard for the crime.

Pallavi Purkayastha was brutally murdered inside her apartment by her building’s security guard Sajjad Ahmed Mughal alias Sajjad Pathan. The court pronounced Sajjad Ahmed Mughal guilty of all charges.

On the day of the murder, the watchman Sajjad Ahmed Mughal entered Pallavi Purkayastha’s flat with stolen keys.

He reportedly, tried to force himself on the lawyer while she was sleeping, but when the lawyer fought back, the guard slashed her throat with a knife.

UN urges India to repeal the controversial AFSPA
Back in 2012, the United Nations has asked India to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, saying it had no role to play in a democracy. “The AFSPA in effect allows the state to override rights in the disturbed areas in a much [more] intrusive way than would be the case under a state of emergency, since the right to life is in effect suspended, and this is done without the safeguards applicable to states of emergency,” Christof Heyns, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions had told media persons after the end of his fact-finding mission in the country.

The AFSPA has been an Act that has been a bone of contention for a very long time. There are many activists, politicians and the people of the valley who are against the AFSPA because it gives sweeping power to the army, which many have accused the army of exploiting. This Act came in the light after the Manorama Devi case of Manipur when a group of women had stripped to protest in front of the Kalanga Fort in Imphal after the alleged rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama, by the security forces.

The Act gives special powers to the Army. According to the Act ‘Any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces may, in a disturbed area :—

(a) if he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do for the maintenance of public order, after giving such due warning as he may consider necessary, fire upon or otherwise use force; even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of fire-arms, ammunition or explosive substances;

(b) if he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do, destroy any arms dump, prepared or fortified position or shelter from which armed attacks are made or are likely to be made or are attempted to be made or any structure used as a training camp for armed volunteers or utilised as a hideout by armed gangs or absconders wanted for any offence:

(c) arrest without warrant, any person who has committed a cognizable offence or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed or is about to commit a cognizable offence and may use such force as may be necessary to effect the arrest.’

Kunan Poshpura rape victims may get compensation
Just a couple of days ago, twenty-three years later, the mass rape victims of Kunan Poshpora villages have achieved their first major success when Jammu and Kashmir high court directed the state government to explore the possibilities of paying compensation to the affected women.

In June 2013, a Public Interest Litigation filed in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, by fifty Srinagar-based women, backed by human rights group Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil society (JKCCS) had resulted in a Magisterial order for further investigations of the mass and gang rape by Indian army personnel of the women of Kunan and neighbouring village Poshpora, in Kupwara District of North Kashmir on the night of February 23rd-24th 1991.

Reportedly, on September 14th, 2013 the police asked for and were granted an additional three months’ time for further investigations, apparently without any notice given to the survivors who are legally represented in the case.

However, the closure report, which had been presented before the Magistrate of Kupwara just weeks before the Public Interest Litigation was filed, in March 2013, details several important previously unavailable official documents. These included a hand-drawn police map, a nominal roll of 125 army personnel (including several officers) who were admittedly part of the operation and in Kunan-Poshpora that night, statements from victims, witnesses and army men mentioning specific locations, times and incidents and the official medical reports of some of the rape victims.

US report lists 3,553 sexual assaults by its military
Assault by men in uniform is not just restricted to India. In November 2013, the US Pentagon has released new data about the reported number of sexual assaults in the military. According to the data, between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013 there were 3,553 reports of sexual assault, there has been a 43 per cent increase in sexual assaults in the military as compared to the previous year.

During the same period, there were 219 casualties in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Report suggested that in 2012, soldiers were 15 times more likely to be raped by a comrade then killed by an enemy.

An anonymous survey of military members, however, revealed that there may have been as many as 26,000 assaults in 2012, a definite surge from the 19,000 estimated assaults in 2011.

(With inputs from Prerna Pandey)

Readers keen on seeking help on drafting RTI applications may write in to rti@draftcraft.in or call Gajanan Khergamker on 022-22841593 for any assistance on RTI or to have their findings / issue featured on this page

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