Could the police have prevented the rape of a six-year-old girl in a Bangalore school? No. Could the law enforcement machinery in Frazer Town come to the aid of a 22-year-old girl who was kidnapped and sexually assaulted in a moving car by a gang of six for two hours while her friend was rendered helpless? Perhaps yes, if there was proper police patrolling at night.
Could the police have quickly nabbed the accused who sexually assaulted a trainee nun at a seminary in Bhuvaneshwari Nagar had they been more vigilant since the criminals had returned to the scene of crime the next day to tamper with evidence? Of course yes, if the police were more alert.
Bangalore is bristling with anger over a series of rape incidents over the past fortnight not only because the law and order seems to have collapsed, but the lethargic and callous authorities displayed appalling insensitiveness in either trying to hush up the cases or trying to play down the crimes, virtually abetting the actions of the criminals.
The attitude of Vibgyor high school, which is at the centre of the storm for suppressing the sexual assault on the six year old for almost 12 days and doing nothing even to identify the culprits, has shaken the faith of millions of school-going children and their parents across the city.
The school authorities have rubbed salt on the wound by claiming that they have taken an undertaking from the parents at the time of school admission that they are not responsible for the safety of children even when they are in school or when they are in transit.
Can there be anything more despicable than this when you think that you have no responsibility other than making money by running an institution?
It may be Vibgyor today and some other school tomorrow. Such unfortunate incidents may happen in schools where thousands of children are studying and where there are criminal-minded handlers.
But what is most worrying is that neither the teacher who first noticed the child who had been abused nor the principal reported the matter to the parents or the police. It was their bounden duty to do so. Since they have failed, their culpability is no less in the crime.
The solution does not lie in closing down the school, as the state government has attempted to do in a knee-jerk reaction, but catching all the culprits and awarding them exemplary punishment at the earliest.
The guidelines that the education department is planning to send to all schools now regarding the safety measures and background checking of all the staff members, should be followed up rigorously and strictly enforced.
The Cox Town incident involving the 22-year-old, has exposed the local police and the state home minister K J George of their total incompetence, just as the recent Kashappanavar episode had. After the Nirbhaya incident of last year and the nationwide uproar, the law has been made more stringent.
The inspector of the home minister’s constituency not only tried to dilute the case, but went absconding after a case was booked against him.
He reappeared later only to get bail. The home minister’s arrogance and ignorance were in full view during the Assembly debate as he tried to make pointless counter-allegations against the BJP.
Chief minister Siddaramaiah, of whom much was expected, but who has been a thorough disappointment so far, should come out of the stupor and address the issues directly. His defence that ‘we have arrested the inspector’ was extremely lame and his so-called toughness should not be limited to occasional tongue-lashing at officers.
Rot in the system
The crux of the problem – as the Kashappanavar incident and the earlier Ravindranath episode demonstrated – is that the police administration in the state has collapsed, for which the politicians are primarily responsible.
Otherwise, how did Kashappanavar, a sitting MLA, who was involved in a drunken brawl, get away after assaulting policemen on duty? How did senior police officer Ravindranath, who was accused of secretly photographing a woman in a bar, get away with a mere rap on the knuckles, after abusing other policemen and the commissioner of police without any provocation?
The need of the hour is to restore the confidence of the police by respecting the hierarchy and giving senior officers the independence to act.
The state government should stop meddling with the transfers and postings of all ranks including the inspectors, sub inspectors and constables.
They should be made answerable to their seniors and not their political masters. The deteriorating law and order situation is the direct result of a system that has been allowed to rot for a far too long a period. The onus is on chief minister Siddaramaiah, who came to power on a popular mandate, to quickly initiate corrective steps.
The first crucial step should be to restore the independent powers of the Police Establishment Board (PEB), which was constituted on the express orders of the Supreme Court as part of the long-delayed police reforms.
The Siddaramaiah government, after it came to power, rendered the PEB toothless through a legislation, which allowed government interference in its decisions. That legislation needs to be scrapped.
Ironically, the debate that ensued in the legislature the whole of last week over the rape incidents, was mostly confined to blame-game and scoring political points.
It showed how much the politicians are out of touch with the public mood. The city police commissioner, who was the face of the government before the angry, agitated crowd, cut a sorry figure for himself and the administration with few convincing answers. Can this situation change?
Of course it can if the politicians realise that people's expectations have undergone a sea change and they need to respond accordingly