California – Did New Delhi make news again for another gang rape? Chances are you are stumped by the gang rape of a Danish tourist – for all you knew, the new rape laws passed after the Nirbhaya agitation were a panacea to the rape crisis.
Strengthening the rape laws early last year was just a way to pacify India’s middle class – which had gone berserk after the infamous Delhi gang rape. There was nothing wrong with the then rape laws of India – it was poor law enforcement, police apathy and most importantly the societies inability to view women as just equals that contributed to high incidence of rape. Not surprisingly, the new rape laws have since only acted as placebos and have had no effect on the rape stats – except for false accusations made by unscrupulous women to settle scores.
Now that the rape crisis is back in full swing, the ball of making Delhi safer is in Aam Adami Party’s (AAP) court. AAP’s favor rating was swinging like a pendulum from adulation to condemnation (did you not know that the middle class sees only in black and white?), after going public on its views on reservations and foreign investments.
Arvind Kejirwal, the AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister, may have succeeded in forcing a few junior police officers to go on leave, but that is a textbook example of missing the woods for the trees. And what was the fault of the officers? Being misfortunate enough to be the officer in charge of the area the gang rape took place and refusing to follow the diktats of a minister.
However good intentioned may be Kejirwal’s demands to suspend the officers, they ironically echo the actions of politicians like Mamta Banerjee (Chief Minister of West Bengal) and Akhilesh Yadav (Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh).
AAP ministers Rakhi Birla and Somnath Bharati may have had the approval of locals in pressuring the police into conducting an arrest or a raid. But Law and order in a democracy depends on rules and procedures that have been put in place to ensure a fair trial and prevent miscarriage of justice. Police procedures such as the requirement of a probable cause to conduct a raid are the very hallmarks of a democracy that distinguish it from an authoritarian state.
Not only is Bharti’s (by the way, he is a lawyer!) midnight “raid” a crime, coming close on the heels of the Devyani Khobragade row (an Indian diplomat was arrested and strip-searched in New York), it makes us Indians look as hypocrites.
Instead of negotiating with the center to take charge of the police or creating a special force under the city government such as in Washington DC, it is disappointing that the Chief Minister Kejriwal made a hasty decision to get on the streets.The knee jerk reaction to amend the rape laws during Nirbhaya agitation has failed to make the city safer. This time again, hasty decisions like street protests and vigilantism are making the recipe for a disaster.
There is no denying that police reforms are urgently needed to make Delhi safer place. However, such changes must be well mediated and procured through democratic process, and the most important change is not about the Delhi police but our the society’s view of women as mere equals – not as goddess or sex objects.