Everybody was silent inside the theatre. Soon Ajay Devgan commanded,
“Galat kya hai yeh jaanne se koi farak nahi padta, galat ko sahi karne se farak padta hai.”
The whole crowd broke into jitters, series of applauds raged across the movie theatre. Singham was the fearless police officer who had decided to wipe off crime from the face of the country. I sat speechless, dumbfounded by the growing “anarchy.”
6th December, 2020, the morning was recollective of the movie scene, where 4 alleged rapists of the Hyderabad veterinarian were killed in the encounter. I woke up to a WhatsApp text, “Did you see the news? Justice served.” Twitter stood divided that morning, some lauded the encounter while others disputed its significance in a rule-of-democracy. To add to the confusion, insensitive media commenced flashing headlines “Swift Justice.” It took me some time to comprehend the fifth entity annihilated in the narrative of Friday morning- Justice.
We cannot associate incompetence to the govt for setting up fast track courts with encounters.
Encounters are not the answer to “Too many laws, too little justice.” Post Nirbhaya, in 2013 India set up new anti-rape Bill to curb the growing sexual brutality in the country. In 2018 Indian Journal of Medical Ethics published a research paper stating, poor utilization of Nirbhaya Funds and poor implementation of the laws failed to restrain sexual violence.
In 2017 Human Rights Watch concluded,
“Indian police not only failed to discharge their official duties to promptly register and investigate complaints but abused their power, threatening women and their families to drop or settle their rape complaints.”
A similar anecdote clings on to the Hyderabad rape case, where the police had failed to act on the charges lodged by the families of the victim. Today they are the unsung heroes.
In 1995 the apex court barred “handcuffs” calling them inhuman, and, ironically, today India’s political sector celebrates the eerie encounter valiantly. This celebration stands evident to the lost trust in Indian law and order and the judicial system. India has 19 judges per 10 lakh people according to law ministry data. From the NCRB data, 1,27,800 rape cases lay pending by the end of 2017. Yet the government makes no effort to employ 40% vacant positions in the Indian judiciary. Seemingly speedy trials that PM Modi had promised 6 years back are still far away.
Indeed, the celebration leaves our blood-lust satiated and completely eradicates any existence of the above insights. Today, this is creating a will and precedence for custodial encounters where criminals/ dissenters are murdered with absolute impunity. In a country where nearly 50% of all MPs have criminal charges, after this encounter, we won’t even know if these 4 accused were guilty of the rape, and if the rapist is still free. Not to forget the Ryan School murder case in 2017, where the bus driver was mistakenly convicted with a confession by the police officials which was only exposed in the CBI probe. But do encounter solve the problem? On average 5 custodial deaths happened in India every day between 1 April 2017 to 28 February 2018. However, 2018 saw a 6% spike in crime rate in India. NHRC has registered 1782 fake encounters until 2017, and some of them were not even convicted.
As India exults I believe we have completely misunderstood the cause of sexual violence.
Rape is not just a sexual endorsement, but violence in terms of power and authority. Indian system has repetitively failed to address the social roots of sexual violence. But is it possible for us to unlearn patriarchy, at the nozzle of the gun? The hydraulic model of rape is knit firmly into the very fabric of our societal structures. Learning how to “not rape” is more important than how to “stay safe from rape.”
The commonsensical outcome is that rape, like other crimes, can most effectively be prevented by deterrence. The reason why we have spent so much energy on evading preventative thinking. And that is why today, the celebrations of such encounters serve as a moral wash but not retribution. The problem at the core still lies unaddressed.