The events that have taken place in Hyderabad (Telengana) and Unnao (UP) in the past two weeks must be a cause of extreme concern to all -- the judiciary, the legislature, the executive, the media, and the society.
Seven years ago, the infamous Delhi Nirbhaya rape case had shaken the consciousness of the nation. The society demonstrated its anger and frustration through a series of protests. The legislature enacted some serious changes in laws relating to rape. The Supreme Court issued several guidelines for trial of rape cases. The executive created a Nirbhaya Fund to create infrastructure for preventing Nirbhaya-like cases in future. The media reported numerous subsequent rape cases with much more intensity. Some religious leaders and other influential people have been arrested on rape charges since then.
But the recent events of Hyderabad and Unnao indicate that not much may have changed on the ground in the past seven years. Stricter law, wider media coverage, fast-track courts, CCTVs, public outrage, etc. have been inadequate in deterring the psychopaths from committing a heinous crime like rape.
Need deeper scrutiny
These two events are extremely significant from more than one viewpoint, and need a much wider and deeper scrutiny at all levels. The judiciary, legislature, executive, media, and society -- all need to seriously contemplate in which direction we are moving as a society.
The Hyderabad rape and murder was as gruesome a crime as anyone can imagine. The perpetrators of the crime must be beyond the realm of humanity and deserved to be punished with maximum punishment.
Jaya Bachchan, a Samajwadi Party member of Rajya Sabha, expressed her anger on the floor of the house and called for public lynching of the Hyderabad rapists. Her party president Akhilesh Yadav, defended her demand by saying "people want quick action against culprits in such incidents, parliamentarians were voicing their sentiments in Parliament.
A couple of days later, the Cyberabad police lynched all the four persons who allegedly committed the rape and murder of the young veterinarian, in broad daylight. (No one believes the encounter theory of police, and even police is not making any effort to convince anyone that it is a genuine encounter.)
If social media is an indicator, the entire country appears celebrating this apparent daylight murder by the police as "the justice duly served". A number of film personalities, sport stars, ministers, legislatures, etc. lauded the act of police. Some legislatures even recommended state honours for the police personnel who reportedly delivered "justice". A few lonely voices who tried to raise the question of constitutional propriety were promptly and forcefully shut down by a barrage of abuses and guilt-inducing outbursts.
For many popular movie stars, it is like the validation of their acts in movies where a few righteous policemen assign the duty of delivering justice to themselves.
In Unnao, a prominent political leader is the prime accused in case of raping a minor girl and subsequently attempting to kill the victim and her father. One co-accused, who was out on bail, tried to kill the victim by burning her alive. At the time of writing this she is struggling for her life with 90 percent burns. The Unnao police who was supposed to protect the victim appeared washing their hands off by claiming that the victim did not specifically request protection from them, as if the duty of the police is to protect people who seek protection from them.
The BJP leaders like Uma Bharti, who commended the act of Cyberabad police, did not seek trial and justice by the UP police in this case. Samajwadi Party leaders also did not say that the accused in this case should also be lynched in public. The film stars like Anupam Kher, Junior NTR, Nagarjuna, Samntha, Rakul Preet, Rishi Kapoor and news anchors may also like to answer if Unnao case accused should also be lynched in public to meet the end of justice.
I have no sympathy for rapists. I strongly believe that all acts of outraging the modesty of a woman must be strongly and expeditiously punished. But the question is whether we want the Hyderabad style of punishment as a template for future cases.
The Indian public has largely appreciated Gangajal and Singham kind of justice, because deep down we all want the truth to prevail and criminals to be punished. Bringing the reel life drama to the real life may however not be the aspiration of the majority.
Game of quick justice
Because, in real life, the Singhams are very few and fallible policemen too many. Once this game of quick justice gains wider acceptance, the deterrence for wrongful confinement, extortion and encounter will end. Today these were four alleged criminals. Tomorrow these will be four innocent youth who resisted a politician's son’s wrongful advances towards their friend or family member.
I believe we need the Gandhi vs Godse debate to take place at every platform -- schools, colleges, assemblies, parliament, markets, and offices everywhere. The debate should happen without any prejudice or inhibition with the idea of settling the issue once for all. We need to urgently decide the template we aspire for our society and country. If it is Godse let's obliterate the facade of non-violence, Gandhi, Buddha, Nanak et. al. and reframe the constitution accordingly. And if it is otherwise, the school curriculums must be changed to provide for training in non-violence, compliance, fundamental duties, honesty, and integrity etc.
I shall refrain from seeking punishment for Cyberabad police officers and all those high-profile citizens who have commended their act of gruesome violence and non-compliance, for I shall be speaking for Gandhi in the debate, if that ever takes place.
Vijay Kumar Gaba explores the treasure you know as India, and shares his experiences and observations about social, economic and cultural events and conditions. He contributes his pennies to the society as Director, Equal India Foundation. Read his columns