The most tragic part of the rape & murder in Hyderabad is the helplessness of the victim when she foresaw what was coming. Her desperate call to her sister and the response that the family got from men in uniform. It has shaken the conscience of the nation as it should. As if one Nirbhaya is not enough. Why must girls and women be made to suffer the most cruel and inhuman treatment before burning them to destroy all evidence against the ‘animals’? Our anguish leads police to detect the case and arrest the accused no doubt, but will the family ever be at peace with itself? Will they not be tormented the rest of their lives while we, as citizens, wear the albatross around our necks?
I recently visited a senior police officer who had invited me and was very keen that I see the latest additions he has made to his office: a state-of-the-art visitor’s room, a wall with all the medals and decorations that police has received from local organizations, a modern, well-equipped conference hall. Though I did make customary encouraging remarks, my mind went to the local police stations that I had visited some time ago as an officer in uniform.
I found an appalling pendency of crime investigation, even of simple cases. The lack of enthusiasm in investigation was palpable. Officers’ weekly diaries showed them spending much of their time doing various bandobast (patrolling) duties. I was also reminded of two young girls meeting me and lamenting that when they sought help from the Police Control Room during one late evening, the officer questioned their being out at what he called was ‘unearthly hours’ instead of sending help to them. I thought of the young techie whose case was refused to be registered by the officer on duty and she was forced to compromise after a month by scaring her of court evidence.
While police modernization is indeed required, the emphasis must be on police response and good investigation. On rational duty hours and duty content. Our focus must first be on the prevention of crime, and then its detection. Citizens need to come forward with information, and police need to appreciate their collaboration by working on their leads instead of turning deaf ears. Community working with law enforcement is the only way to check criminals.
In offences against women and children, cases of rape, sexual assault and molestation, a registry of such offenders and monitoring of their movements by specially trained staff needs to be our top priority. These criminals are psychopaths and a danger to the society. For them, jail is the remedy and not bail. And quick trials, as Madhya Pradesh police and prosecution wing have been doing so successfully with a near 100% conviction rate for offences against women and children.
As senior officers we need to change the response of the first police responder to crime and that means overhauling our police stations. Citizens experience the worst or best of policing at Thanas and not in our offices.
Women have been brought in for making the Police sensitive to citizens. Have we succeeded in doing so? I am distressed. Once, sitting in my chair as Superintendent of Police in Satara district, an old woman in a torn sari had thumped my desk and said, “I want justice and you are on this chair to give me exactly that. Are you listening?” She had shaken me and challenged my very presence in uniform.
Yes, it seems I have been listening but failing to act, or Jyoti and Priyanka would not have lost their lives, leaving me with this albatross around my neck.