The brutal gang rape and murder of 27-year-old veterinarian Dr.
Priyanka Reddy on the 27th of Nov had left the whole of India burning in rage,
it woke us up once again to the reality of rape that women in our country face.
The vicious act of rape followed by the brutish images of her charred body left
below an underpass left most of India in shock and despair, and as always it
plunged the country into a flurry of debates on topics ranging from that of
woman safety to that of police inefficiency.
On the 29th of
November, the Hyderabad police with clinical precision tracked the criminals
responsible with CCTV footage uncovered from toll booths, the video showed one
of the suspects leading Dr. Priyanka Reddy away from the toll booth. At first,
credit should be given where due and the Hyderabad police who had successfully
managed to arrest the four rapists within 2 days of the heinous crime need to
be appreciated for their swiftness in cracking the case. Apart from this the
police also collected reliable intel from the petrol bunks from where the
rapists had fuel that were used to burn Dr. Priyanka Reddy's body beyond
recognition. Furthermore, while in police custody the rapists had confessed to
their crimes and thus it is safe to say that the guiltiness of the accused and
had been established beyond reasonable doubt.
In the early hours of yesterday, India woke up to the news
of the encounter of all four rapists, who allegedly tried to flee from the
police whilst enacting the acts of the crime in the crime scene. The encounter
had captured the imagination of Indians around the world, who were seen to be
in a state of euphoria as they took to the streets in celebration by bursting
crackers, distributing sweets and raising slogans praising the police. Despite
human rights activists crying foul, the mood and sentiments of the people also
reflected on social media, with many tweeting in approval of the actions of the
Hyderabad Police and hailed them as heroes. What was even more surprising was
that similar sentiments were echoed even by various celebrities like Sania
Nehwal, P.V.Sindhu, Allu Arjun, Samantha, Nagarjuna, and Rishi Kapoor.
However not all
concur with the views of the majority public and many disputing both the
legitimacy of the encounters and the conviction of the accused. Many have also
raised serious concerns about society's glorification of such encounters and
see this as an indication of society's descent into anarchy.
Are these celebrations truly a sign of society's endorsement
of anarchy? Do they suggest a lack of empathy? Or is there an underlying issue
that we seem to miss? To figure this out one must take into consideration the
circumstances in which these events have unfolded. To begin with, we have
become numb to the number of rapes and violent acts against women that have
been plaguing our nation, it is seen that every other day a report on a rape
seems to find its way to the papers. We also seem to have one of the worst
conviction rates with conservative estimates putting us at 26%. According to
2017 statistics, more than 32,500 cases of rape were registered in the year
2017 alone, and at the same time, Indian courts disposed of only about 18,300
cases related to rape that year, thus leaving more than 127,800 cases pending
at the end of 2017.
To make matters even worse even when the accused are
convicted of rape, we have seen cases of bizarre judgment. For instance, let us
take the case of the juvenile rapist from Hyderabad who after four years of
investigation and trial who had been asked by the courts to do community
service in the very school of the victim whom he had raped. These lapses of
judgment on the part of the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB the judiciary panel)
need to come under serious scrutiny. Adding to this is the unsettling delay in
judgment even when all evidence has been strongly established on the accused.
What has the judiciary done to ensure that the families on the receiving end of
such acts are rendered justice? We all are aware of the Nirbhaya rape case of
2012 and uproar that it had caused and the protests that it had brought about,
but after 7 long years the convicts are still allowed to live their lives out
in prison. The mother of the Nirbhaya girl who herself has been running pillar
to post demanding for the hanging of the rapists of her daughters says she
finds solace in the way the four rapists in Hyderabad have been dealt with.
The jubilation of the
public to such encounters are not only because of the failure of the judiciary
but also because of their frustrations against certain sections of the media
who seem inclined to always humanize the guilty. As so craftily exemplified by
the online news portal The Quint, which attempted to humanize one of the rapes
accused Muhammad Pasha by writing a brief article on the poverty-stricken life
that the family has been subjected to. The ineffectiveness of the judiciary and
indifference of certain media portals towards the pains and the suffering of
the victims have pushed the general public to admire such acts. This is a
worrying trend and one that threatens to continue unless the Judiciary takes
notice and accepts responsibility. The Judicial system on India has been
allowed far too long to carry out without any sense of accountability, and the
people of India have lost trust in the judiciary. It is time for the judiciary
to build back the trust in the judicial system and if they fail to do so
society will continue to look towards vigilantism as a form of justice.