The unfriendly rustic cop at the desk is unlikely to look at you kindly, even if you are there to drop in an RTI query, and not a complaint. The wait for the “thanedar” (Station House Officer) at the police station could be harrowing and endless.
But here’s the way out? Make sure you bridle your patience to the hilt and wait for some good fortune. Now that’s the public image of the Haryana cops and it continues to take a beating, rupturing public faith-- thanks to rising incidents of rights violations inside and outside the domain of police stations in the state. Women rights too are at huge risk.
There have been incidents when women haveattempted suicide outside police stations, setting themselves ablaze, alleging harassment at the hands of erring cops. However, for Haryana, ill-famed for its dubious record on human rights violations, this comes as a welcome initiative, especially to protect women rights.
The State police have been instructed not to arrest any women during late evening hours or at night. The women will not be summoned to police stations in the state at night. The move is an attempt to do away with any possibilities that could lead to exploitation or harassment of women by state cops under the garb of investigation. Women suspects would be questioned during daytime and produced in the court the same day in case they are placed under arrest, additional director general of police Haryana BS Sandhu said. The presence of women cops in police stations at the time of interrogation of women suspects will also be essential. State cops have been advised to deal with cases relating to women sensitively.
Haryana, grappling a skewed sex ratio, has alarming human rights violations, with many left unregistered. In the last three years, an alarming over 9,000 cases of such violations have been reported from Haryana, a sizable number on women right violations. Data available with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reveals that a majority of the cases are of police brutality, inaction or misuse of power, discrimination against women and those concerning minorities.
Punjab and Haryana High Court advocate Pawan Girdhar told Deccan Herald that a large number of cases of rights violations, especially against women, fail to reach competent authority and go unreported.
“There are several times when women, summoned to police stations, get to face harsh and un-parliamentary language by investigating cops. It goes unreported and needs to be checked firmly,” Girdhar said.
He said Haryana does not have a State Human Rights Commission, unlike adjoining states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. The state of Uttarakhand, carved out of Uttar Pradesh, too does not have a Human Rights Commission. As per the figures of the NHRC, close to 3,000 cases of rights violations were registered last year in Haryana. In 2008-09, the number was 3,382 and 3,686 the previous year.
Now, 17 years after the Protection of Human Rights Act of 1993 was put in place and recommended states to set up such commissions, Haryana seems to be waking up from slumber. An official notification to set up the Human Rights Commission in Haryana is likely soon, an official said. A panel to recommend persons who will lead this commission has been constituted, said sources.
Officials feel many of the incidents of women harassment at police stations stem at the cutting-edge level where training could play a crucial role. The need for involvement women, even those not donning the khakhi, in policing activities was strongly felt as a measure that could reform the rot, both internally and externally. With that in mind, a new scheme to involve women in rural areas to help check crimes against their peers was launched last year in Haryana. The state police constituted a special group of five “socially aware” village women which could play a vital role in preventing atrocities and crimes against women, including domestic violence, rape, kidnapping, dowry and murder.
The women were to act as a strong feedback mechanism to help check crime against fair sex from all quarters, including the police. Certain villages in districts of Rohtak, Jhajjar, Karnal, Panipat and Sonepat are in the process of
being covered under this scheme. To prevent misuse of authority, it was also decided that these women groups will be involved in the investigations of women-related crimes as well, the police said.
Gautam Dheer in Chandigarh