The amendment of the law on rape will be coming before a Parliament, of which many members are themselves facing criminal charges.

The entire nation has had to hang its head in shame over the horrendous incident of gang rape of a young woman on the night of December 16 by six murderous desperadoes who showed themselves to be nothing but beasts in human form.

The powers-that-be have come out with the anaesthetising templates of their tailor-made responses. The Congress President and the Chairperson of the UPA, Sonia Gandhi, has written ‘strong’ letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has issued the usual statement about the Government being “extremely concerned”, promising a slew of measures as if they are new, whereas they ought to have been the staple of any modern public transport system.

The people would have expected that the Governors and Chief Ministers, throughout the country, as one person and with one voice, would have condemned the barbaric crime. In any other democratic country, the Head of State or the Prime Minister would have stepped out of their security cocoons and joined the protesters giving vent to their unbearable anguish as a token of their own sympathy and support.

Instead, persons in power and authority withdrew deeper into their X, Y and Z security cordons and let the police wield their water canons, tear gas guns and lathis at the people who only wanted to convey their sense of solidarity with the gang rape victim fighting for her life.

CONDITIONED REFLEX

Contrast this with what US President Barack Obama did when a police sub-inspector misbehaved with a Harvard professor: He called both of them to the White House for tea and made the police official apologise to the professor in his presence. Or, what British Prime Minister David Cameron did when he unguardedly used a harsh expression about an elderly lady (aam aadmi in our parlance): He paid a personal visit to her home and apologised.

The most predictable conditioned reflex of the Government whenever faced with public anger and outrage on such a vast scale is to set up a Commission of Inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, hoping that, during the many months it will take to submit its report, the anger would have evaporated and there can be business as usual.

Nothing surprising, therefore, in the Government this time too going in for yet another such Commission. Every schoolboy knows that the reports of these Commissions are only advisory and not binding, and will suffer the expected fate of being buried in the dark and dusty catacombs of the secretariat.

The irony is in Shinde’s verbiage about taking “immediate steps for the amendment of the Criminal Law for enhanced and more effective punishment in the rarest of the rare cases of sexual assault such as this.” Apparently, this means that the amendment will be to make rape punishable by death.

But what do his words “rarest of the rare cases of sexual assault such as this” mean? Does he want to convey that the heinous incident of December 16 in Delhi is one of “the rarest of rare cases”?

Can it be that he, as the Home minister, is unaware that, in Delhi alone, rape complaints have risen from from 564 in 2011 to 661 this year?

Or, that about a tenth of Delhi's 80,000 police officers are deployed to protect Delhi’s politicians, diplomats and top officials, with a similar misuse of VIP security prevailing in all the States?

COLD STORAGE

So, his promise of “proactive” police patrolling and vigilance will come a cropper unless he either drastically reduces the scale of VIP security or increases the strength of the police.

Equally ironical is the fact that the amendment of the law on rape will be coming before a Parliament, of which many members are themselves facing criminal charges, including two for crimes against women!

According to the Association for Democratic Reforms, political parties gave tickets in the State elections in the last five years to 27 candidates charged with crimes against women.

On the one hand the Government has put in cold storage Election Commission’s constantly reiterated proposal to debar candidates against whom courts have framed criminal charges.

On the other, it is promising stringent legal action by MPs, many of whom have declared themselves to be accused in criminal cases. Can there be a greater irony than this?

(This article was published on December 23, 2012)
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