Wake-up time for India

Prof Javed Mughal
Growing rapes and other crimes have sent across a question mark on the identity of India. Damini rape and now the repetition of the same shameful act to a five year old girl are basically not to be taken as a mere technical problem for the Government or merely a crime to be seen within the framework of penal codes, we have, rather, to lay our heads together regarding the far-reaching repercussions we may come across in the international biradari. Our relations with other countries can be adversely affected and it can negatively tell upon the health of our economy too. The ghastly incidents of rapes one after another have, now, brought out several other issues to the fore which need urgent attention. The entire country now remains focused on how to deal with such incidents. It has triggered off the pent up public anger against a weak Government, which as usual was taken unawares. There are lessons to be learnt from this incident. First of all, why is the government passive in relation to such cases instead of being proactive and assuring the public that the authority would prevail and culprits would be brought to book? In the United States, there are crimes and rapes, but by and large, the public is aware that the big brother is watching and they will be caught sooner or later. Is the same style of controlling crime prevailing in India? While the protestors are again on the roads continuing their agitation, the spurt in the spate of media reports on rapes and other molestation cases in Delhi and elsewhere are again in the air that the criminals have no fear of the authorities. The people have lost faith in the Government, which is now evident in the street demonstrations. The Government should show that there would be zero tolerance for this kind of crimes and seen to be implementing the existing laws. The priority of the government should now be restoring the confidence of the public and improve the governance.  This is going to be a huge task. It is time to improve India’s image abroad as some countries have already issued advisories against visiting India. The media hype and the anger of the public has made it worse. A message has gone abroad that much needs to be done on the law and order situation. It will take a while for the government to address this. It is a sad commentary on the government that despite the Supreme Court’s observation that the judicial reforms were urgent the government has been dillydallying. The backlog is stupendous and the cases take too long, proving justice delayed is justice denied. Several posts are yet to be filled up and the judicial system needs to respond to the public needs. Building up of weak cases even by the CBI has enabled the culprit’s get away free or with minimum punishment sending a note of encouragement to other criminals thereby giving an impetus to the crime-swing.  There is no doubt that the system needs some shake-up. The children should be taught moral values right from their childhood so that it remains entrenched in their subconscious minds. The moral fabric of the country is tearing up slowly and this needs to stop. The children should be taught to respect women in a country where the Shakti cult is still relevant. The society has to change its present attitude. Firstly, a rape victim should not suffer from any social stigma. Secondly, the family should give moral support to rape victim. Third is that the family and relatives should not protect their relatives if they raped their daughter. Data show that the persons known to them often rape girls, particularly minor children. For family considerations, these rapes are hushed up. Unless rapists are brought to book they may be emboldened to attempt more rapes.  A watchful society is very necessary to check these heinous crimes. The archaic laws need to be amended. It is bizarre that when a child of three or five is raped and is unable to give evidence, the culprits go scot-free because the mother’s evidence is considered secondary evidence. How can a three or five-year-old child give evidence of what happened to her? It is this kind of incongruity within the legal system which needs to be addressed. The onus of proof should not lie with the victim. The strong implementation of existing laws is the need of the hour. There is no fear of the authorities and many think that they can get away by bribing the police.
The courts take a long time to provide justice and innocent people often do not have the money or the time. Had the authorities implemented the existing rules that the buses should not have tinted glasses, some passers-by could have detected this particular gang rape of Damini. But above all, despite all the new and existing laws, despite better policing and better governance, it is the mindset, which should change.
This is a huge task and cannot be achieved in a day. When women in Maharashtra or Gujarat could walk around the street at any time of the day why not others in the rest of the country? There is need for a multi-pronged approach and some day this will succeed. It has to start some day and let it be today so that at some future date girls could walk around the streets without fear of being raped or molested.