The broom must begin from the lawless towns around Delhi

The broom must begin from the lawless towns around Delhi

Crime against women in Delhi cannot be tackled in isolation without cleaning the mess in the capital’s neighbouring states, namely Haryana and UP, and satellite towns first. The broom must start from Ghaziabad. Every day the news wire is chock-a-block with rape and murder in this ‘lawless’ town.

After the brutal gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi exploded in the face of the Sheila Dikshit-led government, suddenly there is some token action to prevent crime against women in the neighbouring states as well.

The incident did force the governments of Haryana, where khap panchayats run a parallel ‘injustice’ system, and UP, where molestation and rape are staple news, to declare that police patrols will be increased, more fast track courts will come up and other blah-blahs.

But subsequent developments, from Haryana politicians celebrating the birthday of a well-connected man accused of abetting the suicide of a young woman to nonsensical statements by some public representatives and even a godman, have made one thing clear: A rotten social fabric that looks down upon women cannot be set right with the help of any known method at the disposal of a modern nation state. The crop would naturally turn bad if the fields are infested with pest.

More often than not criminal gang members hauled by the Delhi police turn out to be from either of these two ‘infamous’ states. Will better policing in the capital help, or the solution lies in disinfecting the source petri dish?

It is no secret that western UP is bandit country, albeit without equestrians brandishing double-barrelled guns. The modern version roams in stolen cars. Nobody feels safe travelling alone on the highways in those parts.

But the denizens and their rulers never bother to ask why it is so unsafe because, well, why taint your own place by humbly accepting something that is so plain in sight. The confidence the criminal mind has in UP due to lax security and government apathy is so great that it permeates nearby Delhi too.

The protests in Delhi jolted the government to act. Even the prime minister spoke briefly on TV, though it is a different matter that by now nobody can recall what he had whispered. The middle class students who tried to storm Raisina Hills and lay seize to India Gate do not count as gold in the vote bank lexicon. Perhaps something inferior to pig iron. Talking about low urban voter turnout after every election is an all-time trend.

Statehood demand

The agitation—not linked to reservation or statehood demand, and hence politically dud—could not have dislodged anybody from their position of authority. That is why there is some visible action only after half the country started yelling in full lung power. The Delhi government has been enjoying a sound sleep all these years. This was not the first time that gang rape in a moving vehicle has been committed. Crime against women is a momentary discomfort to the Delhi government, not life threatening.

Khap panchayats in the villages of Haryana exist not very far from the last milestone of Delhi. Their opinion on most matters, including the private affairs of an individual, is final. They have been known to settle rape cases by making the accused pay the victim some compensation. The inevitable corollary of such khap decisions is that rape is like a road accident or an insurance fraud, where the aggrieved gets some money or milch cows.

There is no mention of a living being who will nurse the scar for her whole life. The political class hesitates to act against the khaps because they can exert their influence on the vote bank, unlike the mall-going, miniskirt-wearing, ‘dented and painted’ crowd who only vote on Facebook and Twitter.

‘No comments, the law will take its due course.’ A familiar refrain indeed. Every ‘powerful’ person who lands in trouble recites this line so casually that it seems to suggest there is no such thing as due course. There is no fear in the eyes of those who utter this line repeatedly. The average pick-pocket or the lurking rapist will soon find out there is no due course and get too excited about it.

Much has been said about crime and punishment in the past few weeks, from summary hanging of rapists to chemical castration. The acolytes of the civilised empire may be right in saying that knee-jerk reactions will bring more harm than good in the long run.

The juvenile, who was said to be the most brutal of all the six accused in the Delhi gangrape case, is just a few months away from turning 18. If convicted, he may not get the same quantum of punishment that he would have got if he was 18 or above.

His age is being determined in court now. Knee-jerk or not, a girl was raped and murdered. That should be the yardstick. How can her parents feel redeemed? That should be the yardstick. The age debate, though perfectly valid, should not come in the way of a fitting punishment for a grave offence on the borderline of law.

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