Mohammed Azaz, 48, is a worried father. An e-rickshaw driver, Azaz is concerned about the safety of his three teenage daughters. The ban on e-rickshaws does not bother him as much as the compulsion of being holed up inside his one-room house all day with three growing daughters.
Azaz lives in outer Delhi’s Aman Vihar, where endless rows of cluttered unauthorised constructions jostle for space. An area known in police records for high incidences of crime, including rape cases. There are cases of teenage girls eloping with boys on the promise of marriage and stories of incest."There is no privacy. I am the father of three girls. When I had work, I would be out the whole day. Now I am home all day sharing the room with my wife and three kids. The girls are growing. Sometimes it is awkward. I step out each time they have to change clothes or use the toilet," he says.
The Aman Vihar police station covers 24 sq km — one of the largest in Delhi. Large tracts of open fields and congested semi-urban villages fall under its jurisdiction. In 2014, 40 rape cases were registered in the area, the highest in the city.
There is just one police officer for every 4,100 residents. In contrast, the police public ratio for the rest of Delhi is 1:250.
A serial rapist-murderer was arrested from a nearby village sometime back.
Accommodation is cheap. Small factories run from many houses in the area. One can get a room for about Rs 1,000. Migrant workers often bring their families along and work in these factories.
“This is where trouble starts,” an officer says. “The area is congested. The teenage daughters of these workers befriend men who promise marriage and develop physical relationships. Later, they refuse to marry the young girls,” he says.
In 2014, there were 17 cases of elopement, which ‘had to be changed to rape’ because the girls were minors. In at least four cases, the victims got pregnant. “The young women are not well aware about contraceptives. The men refuse marriage. It then becomes rape,” a beat constable says.
Recently, a girl walked into the police station asking the duty officer to take a note in the daily diary that she is 18 and wants to marry her boyfriend but her parents are opposed to the alliance. When asked for a proof of identity, she promised to return with it in some time.
Hours later, an elderly woman walked in with a picture of the same girl claiming that her ‘14-year-old’ daughter had been abducted.
Such conflicting complaints are routine at the station, an officer said.
Out of the 2.95 lakh residents in Kirari Suleman Nagar, part of Aman Vihar, around 90 thousand residents are illiterate (2011 census).
Crammed accommodations add to the trouble with frequent cases of incestuous crime being reported. In 13 such cases, the victims shared the same room with their parents. A 13-year-old rape victim’s complaint reads, “We came to the city two months ago. One night, my father came home drunk and sexually assaulted me. My mother woke up on hearing me scream.”
Sociologist Ranjana Kumari says when people live in crammed spaces, children are exposed to their parents having sex at an early age. “Their urge to experiment leads to rapes,” she says.
At least three cases of boys less than 14 years old raping minor girls were reported in the neighbourhood in 2014.
“My husband’s brother started misbehaving after my husband’s death. We have one washroom adjacent to my room. He would barge in on the pretext of using the washroom and misbehave. One day, he came in and touched me inappropriately,” a woman’s police complaint read.