I am scared...” These were the last words of Dr Priyanka Reddy, a 27-year-old veterinary doctor whose life was tragically cut short after she was raped and burnt alive in Hyderabad. What the young girl suffered at the hands of four ruthless beasts is beyond anybody’s comprehension. Clearly, women’s safety remains a much bandied about slogan in a country where human life, much less that of a woman, has simply no value. Tragedies like Nirbhaya continue to take place with alarming regularity and what is the reaction of our self-serving politicians? The epic, misogynist response of the Telangana home minister, Mahmood Ali, summarises it all: She ought to have called the police on 100 and not her sister! While he clarified later that he was not blaming the victim, but only trying to tell people, especially young women what to do when they feel unsafe, the damage was done. The social media, already outraged, went apoplectic and to the ordinary citizen, it was a classic case of political apathy. A few years ago, one of our so-called national leaders infamously said something like “boys will be boys” while referring to the perpetrators of the crime in a sensational rape case. In our country, more than anywhere else in the world, as much as things seemingly change on the surface, they remain the same. The Nirbhaya Act, women’s commissions — nothing makes the lives of women, especially in our metropolises, any safer. Priyanka Reddy’s horrific rape and murder rub this fact in searingly, once again, as we, ordinary citizens, are once again left to fend for ourselves and convulse with collective fear and shame.
It was like any other day going to work and back for the young doctor who left home that day. On the fateful evening she made a stop at the toll plaza, only a few kilometres away from the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, not knowing that death was lurking there, waiting to strike in a few hours. Little did she know that she would become a victim of the beastly lust of some drunken sexual predators who were plotting their shameless move while she was innocently parking her bike. While the victim left her bike, these beasts set about puncturing her scooty so they could approach her on the pretext of helping her.
In her last call to her sister, Priyanka is heard anxiously expressing her fears. The phone call should send a shiver down the collective spine of the policemen who refused to file an FIR, asking the family to wait, saying the missing girl might have eloped with somebody. Then they refused to file a complaint saying it didn’t fall under their jurisdiction. These are the first responders the state’s home minister would have us reach out to!
Now, what is baffling is the number of tweets the Telangana police put out hours after the horror came to light. City police commissioner Anjani Kumar telling people that the department had innumerable police patrol vehicles which will rush to their rescue no matter where they were in a matter of minutes and his counterpart in Cyberabad, Sajjanar, urging people not to lose their confidence.
How on earth would anyone have an ounce of strength or confidence to go to the police when their response gets as predictable as it did? The irony is that even when the family took the trouble to go all the way to the police station to lodge a complaint in the state of mind that they were in, the cops came up with frivolous excuses simply because they didn’t want to get out of the comfort of their police station on to the streets where a murder more chilling than Alpine winters had taken place. The family ran from pillar to post trying to seek the police’s help while the men in khaki who are supposed to maintain law and order in the city and ensure the safety of citizens conveniently excused themselves saying the case didn’t fall under their jurisdiction. The home minister’s statement capped it all. Why did she call her sister? This timeline of events should explain it if he or his officers, who waste no opportunity to have TV cameras on them, care to follow it.
At least she had her one last conversation with her sibling and probably even provided a clue on her predators. That’s not all. Mahmood Ali goes on to say that there is no match for Telangana when it came to low crime rates. What was he thinking?
Under 154 (1) of the CrPC, the police has to take down every written complaint, failing which one could invite a jail term of about six months to two years under 166A (C) of the IPC Act.
Talking of the fast-track courts that were set up after the Nirbhaya rape to speed up justice in such cases, the Delhi victim’s mother says that justice for her daughter is still pending with the court and not moving forward due to a paucity of judges in the fast-track court. Thus, there is no death warrant yet for the perpetrators of the Nirbhaya rape.
Now we are talking about the cases that are being reported. What happens to those that go unreported? It’s high time the system is given a relook. The takeaway is a lot remains to be done with respect to women’s safety, beginning with a refresher course of sorts in sensitising politicians, police officers at all levels and judicial officers on the subject. It’s about time someone told these ministers and senior police officers who are busy sermonising and looking for photo-ops and media attention all the time, to learn to simply do their job — keeping their citizens safe.