To say the molestation of a teenager by a mob in Guwahati last week was ‘shameful’ would be a gross understatement. The incident has really shamed the world’s largest democracy where women’s rights should be taken as granted. The 16-year-old victim paid a heavy price for raising her voice against a lewd remark from a guest at a friend’s party.
The man decided to avenge his humiliation by beating up the girl and tearing her clothes off in full public view. But that was not all. He was soon joined by about 30 hooligans, who assisted him in seeking his ‘revenge’. The biggest shock of all was that not even a single person out of the many present at the site came to the victim’s rescue. Only one person had the courage to inform the police.
The incident has once again put the spotlight on the safety of women in India, in general, and those from the North-east in particular. In 2011, according to the data from the National Crime Records Bureau, the number of cases of various crimes against women — like rape, harassment, molestation — stood at a staggering 2, 28,650. The Guwahati incident is not to be seen in isolation.
In January this year, a girl was molested outside a mall in the National Capital Region. This underscores the need for better policing and a strict implementation of laws. But apart from that, we need small measures that can go a long way. For a start, we could ensure that roads and streets are well-lit; that there are enough police personnel on the ground; that roads and other public areas are barricaded at night to check against hooliganism and drunk driving. On top of this, we definitely need women officers in police stations to address complaints by victims of rape and molestation. The victim under no circumstance should be made to go through the agony she has suffered already.
But all this can happen only when the authorities take their duties seriously. Assam Police chief Narayan Chowdhury has not at all helped the case with his remarks. Rather than taking responsibility for the incident and his staff’s failure to prevent last week’s outrage, Mr Chowdhury chose to cover up for what seems clearly a crime.
Responding to the slow pace of nabbing the perpetrators — only four have been caught despite the fact that all the perpetrators can be identified from the video of the incident, which has gone viral on the internet — Mr Chowdhury stated that the police are not an ATM machine and can’t deliver instant justice. The home minister has chided the police chief for his irresponsible remarks. But the damage has been done. Mr Chowdhury should realise that such a callous approach by the authorities towards their duties is what emboldens criminals.