Recently New Delhi hit the headlines again for another gang rape. Chances are you are stumped by the gang rape of a Danish tourist — the new rape laws passed after the public outrage over the December 16, 2012 gang rape were meant to curb the rape crisis.
Strengthening the rape laws early last year was just a way of pacifying India’s middle class which had gone berserk after the infamous Delhi gang rape. There was nothing wrong with the rape laws of India. It was poor law enforcement, police apathy and most importantly society’s inability to view women as equals that contributed to the high incidence of rapes. Not surprisingly, the new rape laws have only acted as placebos and have had no effect on the rape statistics. At the risk of being called a male chauvinist, I would like to point out that the only contribution of strengthening the rape laws has been to provide unscrupulous women with a new tool - false accusations to settle scores.
Now that the rape crisis is back in full swing, the ball of making Delhi safer for women is in the AAP government’s court. AAP’s favour rating was swinging like a pendulum from adulation to condemnation (Did you not know that the middle class sees a situation only in black and white?), after it went public about its views on reservations and foreign investments. Now, with its radical tactics like vigilantism and street protests to ‘fix’ the Delhi Police, AAP is headed towards political hara-kiri.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal may have succeeded in forcing a few junior police officers to go on leave, but will that make Delhi safer? And what was the fault of the officers? Being unfortunate enough to be the officer in-charge of the area the gang rape took place and refusing to follow the diktats of a minister. However well-intentioned Kejriwal’s demands to suspend the officers may be, they ironically echo the actions of politicians like Mamata Banerjee and Akhilesh Yadav.
Law minister Somnath Bharti may have had the approval of the unfortunate locals in pressuring the police into conducting a ‘raid’. Police procedures such as the requirement of a probable cause to conduct a raid are the very hallmarks of a democracy that distinguish it from an authoritarian State. Not only is Bharti’s (a lawyer himself) midnight ‘raid’ a crime, coming close on the heels of the Khobragade row, it makes us Indians look like hypocrites.
Instead of negotiating with the Centre to take charge of the Delhi Police or creating a special force under the city government the way Washington DC has, it is disappointing that the chief minister made a hasty decision to take to the streets. The knee-jerk reaction to amend the rape laws during the December 16 agitation has failed to make the city safer. This time again, hasty decisions like street protests and vigilantism are a recipe for disaster. There is no denying that police reforms are urgently needed to make Delhi a safer place. However, such changes must be procured through a democratic and not an anarchic process.
Ash Moorthy is a Silicon Valley-based software engineer and is interested in criminal justice related topics
The views expressed by the author are personal