Banda has Stories to Tell
In 2013, the conviction rate for rape cases in India was registered at a mere 27.1 percent. The poor conviction rate for sexual crimes has been the centre of discussion for a long time. However, any dialogue is incomplete unless attention is paid to reporting and registration of such cases: only this can ensure investigation and possible justice. Over the last two months, two cases of agitation by families in the Banda district of Uttar Pradesh tell us why systemic reform and police action should be a significant focus of any debate concerning conviction in cases of crime against women.
A Dalit woman’s family has been fasting to protest since May 5 in Banda’s Kamasin block. The family is protesting the police’s failure to arrest the man who allegedly raped a woman from the family. Even after ten months of lodging the complaint, no arrest has been made in the case. The woman’s family says they are now being pressurized to withdraw the case.
‘On the night of 26 August, 2014, Gyan Singh Thakur, a man from the same village, forcefully entered the house with a weapon … Thakur raped the woman and then beat everyone in the house. Before leaving, Thakur threatened to kill us if we registered a complaint with the police,’ he added. Even after being threatened and tormented, the woman’s family filed the First Information Report (FIR) at the Kamasin police station the next day, on 27 August 2014. Ten months after the complaint, the police have not arrested Thakur. ‘He has threatened that he will rape the girl again if we don’t withdraw the complaint,’ the distraught family member added.
Roughly 40 kilometres away from Kamasin, a similar agitation involving the police has been underway in Tindwari block of Banda. A woman has been fasting at Ashok Laat since June 5 protesting against police inaction in a case of sexual harassment with her daughter. The woman said 60-year old Sarfulla from her village was caught misbehaving with her 14-year old daughter on 19 April 2015. However, instead of registering an FIR, the Pailani police station officials registered a non-cognizable report (NCR).
Unlike the FIR in which an immediate action has to be taken, nothing can be done in an NCR unless there are directions from the judicial courts. When DIG Gyaneshwar Tiwari was asked about the slack police response towards both the cases of sexual violence in Banda, he said he was not aware of the people sitting on protest. The DIG promised immediate action in the cases with arrest of the accused Gyan Singh Thakur and Sarfulla.
Statistics Speak (Source: NCRB Report 2013):
- In UP is among the top three states to witness maximum number of crimes against women – with over 28,000 incidences of violence against women in 2012.
- In 18 percent of the nationwide cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes in 2012 were reported in Uttar Pradesh itself.
- In In UP, the registered rape cases saw a rise from 1963 in 2012 to 3050 in 2013.
The landmark Justice Verma Committee Report on crime against women clearly listed police reforms as a crucial site for a proper investigation and trial in such cases. The 2013 report laid down a series of managerial reforms for cases related to crime against women. This included setting up a rape crisis cell that must provide legal assistance to the victim, training of police to deal with sexual offences appropriately, and increase in number of police personnel, among other reforms. The Committee was constituted to recommend amendments to the Criminal Law for a quicker trial and enhanced punishment in cases of sexual assault against women.
The NCRB has noted that the total number of rape cases registered across the country has witnessed a considerable increase from 24,923 in 2012 to 33,707 in 2013, and the conviction rate in the same year remained low at 27.1%. These cases, however, do not include incidences of sexual harassment, molestation and of course, unreported incidences of violence against women. In the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State, Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju attributed the rise to the enactment of Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013, in which non-registration of crimes against women by Police was made a punishable offence. The Banda incidences, however, have a different story to tell, about the difficulties that cases of sexual assault are still mired in, and how far from accessing systems of justice.
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