Public memory is fickle. So is their reaction to different episodes of similar nature. Take for example, the rape and murder of a 30-year-old Dalit woman at Perumbavoor in Kerala on April 28. The brutality of the incident is a chilling reminder of the 2012 gang rape case in Delhi but the public reaction to it has been nothing like what we saw in Delhi.
This unnervingly indifferent reaction to the case, however, should not worry us excessively; instead, what should worry us much, much more is the ‘time-lapse’ in the reaction of the local police to the repeated demands of the victim’s family for security cover.
According to news reports, the victim’s mother, a daily wage labourer, had given written complaints to the police that her daughter, a law graduate, was being stalked and harassed by a relative of a panchayat member and that both had got death threats from the man. At the time of going to press, the police have not been able to arrest the culprits but the government has removed a police officer from the team investigating the case.
The initial lackadaisical approach of the police raises a critical question: Did the police look the other way because the victim was a Dalit? And a rhetorical one: Why are political parties playing politics over the rape and murder when what they should be doing is push the police to bring the culprit to book?
The BJP on Tuesday attacked the Congress, saying its vice-president Rahul Gandhi was quick in rushing to different states over Dalit issues but has refrained from making a comment on the incident. While we know such cases are ‘live’ ammunition for the Opposition during an election season, parties should desist from petty politics; instead, they should pressure the police to nab the culprits. It’s just another case of the pot calling the kettle black: If it was the BJP on the backfoot in the Rohith Vemula case, in Kerala, it’s the Congress.
Caught in the storm, the Kerala chief minister went into damage-control overdrive: He tweeted that the government will give Rs 10 lakh compensation for the “Perumbavoor mishap victim’s family” and a government job to the victim’s sister. Instead of making promises that will take years to bear fruit, it would have been better had the CM not softened the nomenclature of the crime (“mishap”), explained to us why the police failed to stick to the rule book in the first place and ensured a through and quick probe. For a victim’s family, a closure is always more important than a cash handout from the very State that has failed to do its primary duty of ensuring their security.