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Rape and the Propagandist Media

Another high-profile rape case in Delhi has shook the country’s conscience. Two years ago on December 16, India was shamed and numbed by a horrific incident in Saket. History repeated itself two years later.

While most of Twitter was occupied with a debate on banning a private cab service, my mind was thinking something different. The rape narrative in the Indian media is extremely sensationalist, insensitive, reporting is skewed and often propagandist. I want to give three examples:

i. The much publicised ‘Gede sexual assualt case was chargesheeted within 17 days and within 10 months of the incident; the culprits were given the judgement of being hanged by the court.

ii. In the case of ‘Madhyamgram rape incident’, within 10 months the process of conviction was completed and 20 years of jail term was pronounced by the court.

iii. In the ‘Labhpur gangrape, chargesheet was filed with efficiency and within 10 months, the process of conviction is complete and culprits have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

In other cases reported from Malda, South 24 Parganas & Birbhum, speedy justice has been delivered within 7-14 months of the occurrence of such horrific incidents.

Yet, few months back, the headline of Bengal’s biggest (as of now) vernacular daily screamed ‘Maharashtra beats Bengal in sentencing rapists’. Is rape a competitive sport for them now? Just because Shakti Mills incident was dealt with alacrity by the Maharashtra Government, that speaks for all cases in courts in that State?

The newspaper specifically referred to the two infamous cases – Park Street and Kamduni – while citing the State’s slow justice process. Agreed that the two cases have been delayed for long. But then, unlike other cases where justice is served speedily, these cases were highly politicised by opportunist politicians of the Bengal Opposition. Specially in Kamduni, the family of the victim even accused the “protibadi mancha” of unnecessarily meddling.

Rape Bengal Kolkata

I will not let my blog be a propaganda tool for useless political rhetoric. Here are some hardcore statistics on this issue:

  • As per 2013 NCRB data, Kolkata has recorded the minimum rate of rapes per lakh woman.
  • The rate of rapes per lakh women in Kolkata is 1.10, which is much lower than other metros the rates per lakh women are – Delhi (19.02), Mumbai (4.59) and even much below the national average of (6.39).
  • Very recently, Kolkata has been awarded the ‘Best City in Crime and Safety’ by India Today group.
  • West Bengal has already opened 65 all women Police Stations and many more are in the process of rolling out.

Despite the Centre’s decision to withdraw financial support for fast track courts, West Bengal has continued with many fast track courts to ensure that speedy justice is delivered. In order to extend the facility of speedy trials, 88 fast track courts, 45 courts for woman have either been set up of notified.

Although the NCRB data for 2013 is now in public domain, media loves to quote 2012 data as that shows a spurt in reported crimes against women in the State (although the increase can be explained with better awareness among women. Those who were earlier afraid to report a crime are doing so freely under the new Bengal Government).

This will probably not find mention in the media, as the supari journalists with vested interests only like to discredit and malign the State. But reality and truth shall always prevail.

Politicising rapes: NCW Chairperson should resign

NCW ChairpersonNational Commission of Women (NCW) is a respected organisation that is deemed to be the voice of women, who have been subjected to brutality from the society. It is expected to stand by those who face violence within their homes and without, always upholding the tenet of equality and dignity for women. Sadly, the current Chairperson of the NCW has not only miserably failed in her job, but allowed her political biases to influence the august chair she holds.

Mamta Sharma’s connection to the Congress is well known. She even contested Rajasthan Assembly elections on a Congress ticket (I am not even sure if that is allowed). And indulging in politics as NCW Chief is her forte (which was clearly proved when she visited Kolkata, and was flanked by senior WB Pradesh Congress leaders wherever she went).

For a person who holds the august chair of NCW Chairperson, it is but expected she will be sensitive towards victims of gender violence. It is hence appalling when the NCW Chief blames women for molestation and asks them to “dress carefully” to prevent sexual violence.

Mamta Sharma threw all protocols and conventions to air today when she wrote to (not unsurprising, given her political leanings) WB Pradesh Congress a letter, which had little to do with concern for women and was more of a political tool ahead of Lok Sabha elections. Blaming WB Govt for rising crimes against women in the State, she asked Congress to take steps to ensure safety of women (yes, the same Congress which has presided over rape after rape in Delhi; coincidentally Delhi houses the office of NCW).

Mamta Sharma is wrong on many counts. If one goes by statistics, the National Crime Records Bureau clearly show that the number of rapes in West Bengal has come down from 2536 (in 2009) to 1590 (November 2013). While crimes recorded against women in 2012 in Kolkata were 68, that in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore stood at 585, 232, 94 and 90 respectively.

Secondly, whenever crimes against women have been reported in the State, the administration has always arrested the culprits in the shortest possible time. What better example than the Madhyamgram case (October 26 – FIR lodged, Oct 31 – all accused arrested, Dec 17 – chargesheeted) or the Khidderpore case (arrests made within 24 hours). It is a tragedy that people, who failed to take action after incidents like Bantala, Dhantala, Bhangar, Tapasi Malika, Anita Dewan or Jagori Baske, now shed crocodile tears for the safety of women.

Already, there are 65 women’s police stations in different districts of West Bengal. The West Bengal Govt has set up 80 fast-track courts to deal with these crimes. Every district has a human rights court. The truth is that, due to a free media and greater sensitization due to administrative support, crimes are reported freely by women. This was unimaginable in the previous regime, where rape was a tool of scoring political brownie points.

And to spread social awareness against crimes like these, the Government has started projects like Kanyashree, Atmaraksha and Sukanya for women empowerment. Unlike some priviledged politicians who make a hue and cry over women’s issues during election season, the West Bengal Govt has been tirelessly working for the cause, despite a huge anti-publicity industry based in Delhi.

While politician Mamta Sharma is free to have her own opinion and biases, when she is on the chair of NCW Chairperson, bipartisanship and empathy from women is the least of our expectations from her. If she is incapable of doing justice to her post, she should immediately resign.

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