Hero as Molester
Subhash Gatade September 25, 2005
Tags: womens rights
Those were the days of the late eighties when Punjab was ’battling’ violent extremism of a different kind. Days when instances of gross human rights violations by the state were brushed aside as fabrications by vested interests. And riding high on
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the resolve of the powers that be to crush the recalcitrant elements was the then IG of Police Mr K.P.S. Gill, the last of the ’supercops’. Euologised by the media and adored by the chattering classes this ’no nonsense’ man was presented as the state’s answer to the ’terrorism sponsored from across the borders’.And it then seemed to be in the fitness of things that when supposedly the ’nation’s honour’ was at stake the Supercop’s misdemenaour vis a vis a fellow female senior IAS officer in a party were considered insignificant. And when she protested his molesting her she was told by her own colleagues that she was blowing the issue out of proportion. Ultimately when she decided to file a suit against the ’supercop’ for invading her right to bodily integrity, which every citizen of this country has under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, many of her seniors including the then Punjab governor Mr Siddharth Shankar Ray and even the first of the supercops Mr Ribiero advised her to ’forgive and forget’.All those wise men who had the audacity to counterpose nation’s honour to women’s honour stand exposed today albeit after a long gap of 17 years. The highest courts of the country has ruled in favour of the inviolable rights of the woman as woman granted by the constitution.The recent judgement by the Supreme Court which has finally convicted Mr Gill for ’outraging the modesty’ of Ms Rupan Deol Bajaj has finally vindicated what Ms Bajaj had been saying and maintaining all these years. She had always said that there cannot be hierarchies of honour before the constitution and it would be anti human even to think in terms of sacrificing woman’s right to a life of dignity and self respect at the altar of the nation.One still remembers the way in which Ms Bajaj was victimised for her standing up to the supercop. On the one hand the ’Supercop’ a darling of the media and the political class was winning laurels after laurels for ’breaking the backbone of militancy’ and on the other hand she was condemned to insignificatn postings supposedly for sullying the image of this ’Hero’.Persistence pays and slowly but not so silently she started winning legal battles against the Supercop. The first order by the sessions court came exactly ten years after that ’dinner party.’ The sessions court in Punjab sentenced Mr Gill to three months in prison.( 1998). The reaction from a section of the media was ferocious. Chandan Mitra, editor of ’The Pioneer’ wrote a fiery front page editorial wherein he went out of his ways to defend Mr Gill when the session courts had delivered its judgement. He castigated all those people who were fighting for women’s dignity when the ’nation’s dignity itself was at stake’. Ofcourse Mr Chandan Mitra was not alone in holding such views.He was in good company with the other watchdogs of democracy and upholders of freedom of expression at least on this issue.’Long years of wait, minus long years of suffering equals nothing.’ Thus went a poem which narrated the hopes, aspirations, struggles of a woman which finds herself in a crisis situation. The smile on Ms Rupan Deol Bajaj’s face the other day after hearing the judgement of the SC rather conveyed the same feeling. And remaining true to the spirit of her struggle she has donated the fine of 2 Lakh to a woman’s organisation so that women in similar circumstances at least get some help. The court has ordered Mr Gill to pay this fine to Ms Bajaj.Definitely this is a moment of celebration for all of us . It is a victory of the indomitable spirit of Ms Rupan Deol Bajaj who refused to get cowed down by the aweinspiring Supercop. One can say without any exaggeration that it is significant step forward for the women’s movement also which has consistently fought for violence against women in all its forms. But the saga of struggle of Ms Rupan is also a moment of reflection. -The first and foremost point which needs to be addressed is the longish wait for justice in any such case of sexual harassment / assaults. Despite the molestation occuring in full public view in this case, it took seventeen long years for the courts to decide. Counsellors or social activists come across cases where legal battles continue in cases of rapes of children till the victim reaches adulthood. Judiciary, executive as well as the legislature which has enough dominance of patriarchal notions and values over its functioning have refused to take a serious note of this phenomenon where the victim has to undergo trauma again and again with every hearing.- In fact, it has been a longstanding demand of the women’s movement that all cases of sexual harassment or gender related violence be expedited. It has been proposed that special courts be formed at various levels. Looking at the special nature of this crime where the victim of such sexual violence is left to herself to bear the ’stigma’, activists have consistently maintained that steps be taken to change the situation.But despite fifty five years of Indias’ ushering into a Republic one does not see that the powers that be are serious about it. - A related issue is the cavalier manner in which first information reports are filed by the police in all such cases and the sloppy investigation which takes place. The judiciary has time and again castigated the police for its partial investigations and its biased role which has allowed many a accused to escape scotfree despite clinching evidence against them. Looking at the overall picture one very well understands why the actual rate of conviction is less that two percent. Of course, of late one does notice some improvements on this front.In a few recent cases the constant supervision of the media coupled with the people’s pressure has facilitated early resolution of acts of violence against women.The recent case from Jodhpur can be said to break new grounds as far as similar cases are concerned. In fact in this case where a foreign tourist was sexually assaulted by two persons,the verdict was delivered within a span of less than a month. But it can be said to be an irony of sorts that in all these cases the class and caste background of the victim/ perpetrator has been a defining feature. While the Rajasthan court was efficient enough to deliver justice in case of the foreigner, it has been more than thirteen years that the case of the rape of Bhanwari Devi, a grassroot worker from the women’s development Programme’ is languishing in courts there. The session courts had quashed her petition quoting ’the great Indian family tradition’ because two of her perpetrators were related to each other. Bhanwari Devi has appealed to the High court to seek justice but the court has yet to find time to deliberate on the case. Similar is the issue in case of the sexual assault on Ruchika which ultimately led to her suicide which involved a senior police officer from Haryana. It has been alleged that this man Rathod, who retired last year as DIG of Haryana, had sexually assaulted Ruchika in the early 90s. When Ruchika tried to raise the case, this man helped lodge false cases of cycle thefts against her younger brother which led him to spend quite a few days in prison. Devastated by the whole incident Ruchika committed suicide. Such is the clout of this officer despite his retirement that till date not even an FIR has been lodged against him. A legal battle is going on in the courts which involves parents of Ruchika’s friend who have been witness to the trauma through which she went all those years. It has been their firm resolve that the rapist be nabbed as early as possible. The latest addition to the long list of police personnel whose sexual inneunedos have made headlines is the DIG of Ranchi Mr Natarajan who was caught on the secret camera while seeking sexual favours from a complainant tribal woman.One still remembers the famous observation made by Justice A.N. Mulla of the Allahabad highcourt in the late fifties where he had termed Indian police as an ’Organised goonda force’. Looking at the plethora of cases which have come up recently where one has found the involvement of police personnel in cases of harassing / molesting / raping women it would not be out of place to imagine what would have been Justice Mulla’s reaction to it. He would have been forthright enough to call it a ’gang of molesters’.Is not it time for a reality check for the police ?
Sunday, January 03, 2010
Hero as Molester