A schoolgirl is molested by a mob of men in Guwahati. In Uttar Pradesh, the police chief has to reiterate orders that women should not be summoned alone to police stations, periodically the debate on whether women "invite" trouble for what they are wearing resurfaces on TV
A police station, a pub or a public road, women can hardly call any place safe for them. Crime against women, who constitute about 49% of India's population, is shocking. Data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that there were over 2.13 lakh cases of rape, molestation, harassment, and abduction in 2010--there were 585 such crimes every day that year. And these were crimes which were reported to the police. Experts believe that at least many crimes against women go unreported because of a variety of reasons like social stigma and fear of persecution.
So what really causes a mob to flash attack a teenager and try to strip off her clothes?
"I hold the abysmally poor education system of the government to blame for producing an army, a battalion of lumpen elements," says activist Madhu Kishwar, who is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
"Teachers beat up and terrorise children.
A video grab of mob of men in assaulting and molesting a girl Guwahati.
This system is producing unemployable youth. Nobody who has skills or is gainful will behave like this. These are people whose self-esteem has been crushed beyond cure," says Kishwar.
NCRB data shows that since 1972, when India started maintaining records on rape cases, there has been a staggering 791% increase in reported cases. And while police officials may well cite increasing population and improved facilities for reportage, there were 22,172 rape cases in 2010.
The same year there were 40,613 cases of molestation, 9,961 cases of sexual harassment and 29,795 cases of kidnapping and abduction of women.
Delhi tops the list of metros with the maximum number of rape and molestation cases in India. A senior Delhi Police official, who did not want to be identified by name, says that "even the most illiterate person in Delhi is largely aware of his or her own rights. And almost every case that takes place in large metros gets reported. In tier two cities and rural interiors, it is the opposite."
"We are a sick people," says Bharti Ali, who works with the NGO Haq Centre for Child Rights, while commenting on the Guwahati molestation case. "Most people suffer from one or the other form of mental illness with the lives they lead and mob mentality has always been strong in India."
"Sectarian violence or mob offences are aggravated offences. The law (against mob violence) is yet to be notified but once it is we need to start using it," says Ali.
CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat calls the molestation of the girl in Guwahati a national outrage. "I think it's a national outrage because this happened just two kilometers away, very close to the seat of governance in Assam. And the fact that it could happen on a public place, on a public road for more than 30 minutes, and the police did not come. What is the message, which goes from this that women in India are not safe, the second message, which goes is that the police are not accountable for ensuring the security of citizens, particularly young women, on the streets of this country," says Karat.
Two girls being molested by a mob during New Year celebrations outside JW Marriott, Juhu Mumbai in 2008. HT file Photo
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