Crime and bad lives are the measure of a State’s failure : H.G. Wells
What constitutes a crime? In ordinary language the term crime denotes an unlawful act punishable by a state. Such acts are forbidden and prohibited by law. How does crime graph manifests itself in Jammu and Kashmir? Here are broad contours of crime in the state.
Crime Branch of J&K Police has categorized crimes in the state under Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) into 17 types which include murder, rape, dacoity, arson, theft, cheating, molestation etc. Information for the year 2013 revealed that the state police had registration of a total of 33285 cases of crimes including 7895 cases pending investigation from the previous year. During the year 2013 therefore, 25390 cases of crimes were registered from various parts of the state. This means a crime rate of 252 per 1 lac population. This is much higher than the corresponding figure of 227 for India as a whole. The inference is obvious: Jammu and Kashmir is among the more criminalized states of the Indian Union.
Looking at the intensity of various types of crimes, one finds that crimes related to greed for money and material such as dacoity, robbery, burglary, theft and cheating accounted for almost 1/4th (24%) of the total number of crimes. Thefts alone made up as much as 15%, indicating importance of money and material goods in the present day society and the difficulty in acquiring them by lawful means. With ascendency of capitalism in present day India, such a tendency is not difficult to reason. Capitalism has the potential to breed excessive yearning, competitiveness, envy, resentment and passion among people across class barriers. Combine with a proclivity to obtain gratification via shortcuts and it is no surprise that crime pretty much rises with a rise in capitalism.
The next highest group of crimes relates to crimes against women that included molestation, sexual harassment, rape, cruelty by husband, abandonment of women and dowry deaths which made up approximately 1/5th (19%) of all crimes. Abandonment of women alone accounted for 8%. Are these crimes due to reassertion of patriarchy on account of empowerment of women in the form of their greater visibility in public spaces, educational institutions and job market, and their independent decision making related to the self? Or are these due to capitalism’s own way of puncturing family values of pre-capitalist social order?
Believe it or not, capitalist discourse on individualism, identity politics, human rights, consumerism as well as feminist narrative have individually and collectively emboldened women to claim their share of space earlier occupied by men. Objectification of women in the media and their being a willing ally of capitalist trajectory are no less significant in exposing them to violence.
Violent lawlessness category of crimes made up the third largest group accounting collectively for almost 1/7th (13%). In this category are included riots, arson, hurt stabbing, attempt to murder and murder. Riots alone accounted for approximately 7%. Obviously, group violence not only affects greater number of people, makes more people insecure and unsafe but also jolts social fabric badly from which recovery is not easy.
While crimes cannot be prevented from occurring, investigation and justice can certainly be expedited. Unfortunately, the Crime Branch has been found wanting on that score. For example, of a total of 33285 cases registered in 2013, as many as 24% were backlog from the previous year. But, a significant chunk of backlog cases is not the only problem that criminal justice has to cope with. Tardy handling of criminal cases is equally important. This may be gauged from the fact that only 56% of registered cases were charge sheeted and as fewer as 29% put to investigation. Considering that 24% cases pending investigation belong to the previous year, it means only 5% crimes in reality were added for probe in 2013. A further case of inefficiency is the number of cases that remained untraced. There were as many as 2760 (8%) cases in this category. All these are clear indications that the police network is simply unable to handle the rising graph of crimes in the state.
One obvious reason for this state of affair seems to be the shortage of police personnel for street crimes. The second appears to be the lack of professionalism in the state police in tackling them. Transition of the society from traditional to modern appears to be the third as it is associated with a higher turnover of crimes. Fourth may be the increased reporting of crimes by the public, and the fifth, greater vigilance by the police itself. A combination of these factors is at work resulting in the mismatch between crime and criminal justice.
Whatever may be the case, the criminal justice system in the state today appears to be archaic and a misfit in the present day milieu. It needs a total overhaul and in synchronization with the swiftly changing society where crime is increasingly becoming an integral part of day to day existence.