Crimes against victims from lower strata of society on rise; 27 minor girls raped this year
As the demographic profile of the IT Capital of India undergoes rapid changes in recent times, law-breakers have now shifted their attention to women who form a large chunk of the workforce.
While Bangalore is still better off than many other cities in the country in respect of crimes against women, the fairer sex here continues to be targeted by felons.
A marked shift, however, is seen in the way crimes, mostly sexual, against women are perpetrated. The City has left behind its somewhat 'dull' past when the mischief makers targeted mainly middle-aged women.
The targets now are educated, suave, and urbane young migrant women, especially from India's northern States, who, the malefactors believe can ill-afford to approach the police. Besides, they hardly know the City well and don't have enough contacts here.
The shooting of Shankar, an associate of Shankar (30) of Denkanikottai, Tamil Nadu, a suspect in the gang-rape of a 26-year-old Jharkhand woman, in an encounter amply illustrates the gravity of this fast-changing trend.
New-age gang of rapists
Encounter killings are generally reserved for hardcore criminals operating in gangs. Doesn't the shooting down of Shankar suggest a far more serious danger the City police sensed in the way the gang operated? If the confession of a suspect is anything to go by, police perhaps didn't err in doing what they did.
According to Shekhar alias Somashekhar who was arrested on December 15, four days after the Jharkhand girl was raped, she was just one of the many women they had raped. Shekhar's confession that he knew of at least eight such cases and that he joined the four-member gang recently left the police gasping for breath.
What also stunned the police was the way the gang went about its job. According to police, the gang would spot young women, mainly from north India, waylay them at an isolated place and take them off in a car to their hideout in places like Attibele, Hosur and Electronics City.
“The suspects didn’t pick up girls at random. Rather, they choose their target with 'due diligence'. Fair-complexioned girls in western attires were their favourite prey,” a police officer said.
According to Shekhar, after reaching their dens, members of the gang would rape the victim, one by one. During the heinous act, they would shoot a video and also take the victim's nude photos.
This was their unfailing trick to avoid getting caught. While dropping the victim to her place, they would threaten to upload her video footage on the internet and the photos through the MMS if she disclosed the matter to the police,” the police officer added.
This was their trump card. Their victims, the rapists believed, won't undermine their lives and careers by approaching police. “It was precisely this susceptibility of the victims which the offenders exploited with glaring impunity,” an officer involved in the investigation said.
While a few victims of the gang were call girls and hence there were no complaints, most victims of the gang were migrant young women. The trick worked well for a long time, but their luck ran out after they gang-raped the MBA graduate from Jharkhand.
After taking up the case, police had showed the victims photos of many criminals. The victim identified Shankar and two others, and also recalled the number of the car used for abducting her.
When Shekhar was arrested, initially he thought the police were after him only for a robbery and so remained casual. So much so that he replied only vaguely when the police questioned him about the rapes.
“This illustrated their impudence. He was so overconfident about the rapes that he thought police had arrested him only for the robbery,” an officer said. What shocked the police was that Shekhar and Chandru, another member of the gang, had no criminal record. Shankar who had criminal record and only two other members of the gang were involved in robbery and dacoity.
Career holds victims back
Throwing light on the phenomenon, Alok Kumar, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), said that the stigma attached to sexual atrocity and the likely danger to victims' careers forced them to keep quiet.
“It's very much a social issue. It's difficult for us to prevent such crimes and nab the culprits unless the victims approach us,” Alok said.
While the police are unsure if similar gangs operate in the City, one thing is crystal clear: young women fear walking past parked cars. They never know when the vehicle's door opens, a hand emerges and drags them inside.
The gang's modus operandi is a far cry from the way Mohan Kumar, the teacher-turned-serial killer from Mangalore, operated. Although Kumar also chose his victims carefully, he operated in an entirely different way. Most of his victims were in their 30s, hailed from poor families, and were enticed by his offers of marriage.
This apart, Bangalore did see many others gangs of rapists. Earlier in June, a four-member gang, arrested for dacoity bid in J P Nagar, was found to be involved in the rape of a hotelier's wife.
Minor girls have also been targeted by the rapists. In 2010 alone, at least 27 minor girls were raped. The figure, however, also includes girls who cohabited with their boyfriends.
So, is Bangalore on its way to join Delhi as a dangerous city for women? Its rapid growth, and the migration of young women from other parts of the country for job, and education opportunities the City offers have set the stage for such a development.
Safety precautions on part of women, their employers and the law enforcing agencies are essential if Bangalore is not to go the way of the nation’s capital.
“We need to adopt a different approach on unreported rape cases. The companies and organisations concerned should maintain a separate database of women staff and victims and provide it to police. We should identify victims and ensure psychological counselling to help them to overcome the trauma. But, victims should lodge complaints and shouldn’t worry about social stigma as police will maintain a high secrecy in rape cases.”
SHAILAJA M Counsellor
“Psychological counselling plays a major role in overcoming traumatic experience. Trauma is dangerous as it leads to mental shock, depression, mood disorders and dissociative attacks. If victims suffers silently, chemicals in the body will change leading to other disorders. Different therapies will help victims to lead an absolutely normal life.”