For a nation embittered by the four letter word RAPE which has been rearing its ugly head even more nonchalantly these days with reports about sexual crimes against women emanating from different corners of the country, doing nothing to enhance the confidence people ought to have in a system fortified by new legislations to combat the vile act; the ‘speedy justice’ meted out to the Hyderabad rape and murder victim does come as a big surprise!
However, while crimes against women have attracted widespread condemnation, it is the cases of rape and the viciousness involved which has drawn the most bizarre of responses from various sections of the society.
While demands for death penalty, castration and public lynching of the culprits have been echoing in the high seats of power in the country for quite some time now, they can be conveniently overlooked as expressions of outrage by the lawmakers who should be pardoned for exhibiting their emotions publicly.
But the very fact that such brutal punishments are being thought of as deterrents against the crime do suggest that the administration could, at times of extreme distress, give into public outcry and devise ways and means to punish the culprits in a ‘befitting’ manner.
Was the Hyderabad incident such an act of retribution by the Telangana police!
Or maybe it indeed was an act of self-defence by the police, but the public jubilation over what many perceive as true ‘poetic’ justice is indicative of a collapse of our collective faith in the criminal justice system of the country.
While not denying that every accused is entitled to a free and fair trail, it is the knowledge that the wheels of justice in the world’s largest democracy turn rather slow that has riled the public.
It is not to say that this warrants extrajudicial killings. The police cannot, and should not, turn judge, jury and executioner all at the same time!
However, as an example of the insensitiveness of the government towards as concerning an issue as the safety of the female gender, the inordinate delay in putting in place the harsh laws enacted vis-à-vis crime against women after the Nirbhaya case should merit a special mention.
In any case, if reports of the Hyderabad rape and murder case were gruesome enough, the encounter killing of those accused was no less appalling!
‘Encounter’, as a term in police terminology, has transcended its literary meaning to connote something far more sinister.
Envisaged as a tough measure to wipe out the scourge of the underworld kingpins, encounter-killings gained prominence during the infamous police operations by the Mumbai police to put an end to the gang-wars that had spilled out on to the streets of the metropolis during the eighties and nineties.
But after having etched their names permanently in the annals of Mumbai police history as encounter ‘specialists’, a number of trigger-happy cops suspected to be on the rolls of various criminal gangs operating in the city and its suburbs were soon lending their ‘expertise’ to the highest bidder to help them settle scores with rival gangs.
Mumbai thus had to contend not only with the reign of terror unleashed by dreaded gangsters where every other ‘bhai’ from the ‘gallis’ and ‘mohallas’ that infested the streets of Mumbai fought for recognition; but now corrupt policemen too were making their guns speak a new language of mayhem and terror.
This however did not go unnoticed and very soon with the state taking a very stringent view of their misdeeds, many of the so-called specialists were cooling their heels behind bars awaiting a long drawn out legal battle with the establishment.
Yet, the modus operandi adopted by the law enforcers had sent across a very subtle message. The police could take their policing methods to unethical ends - if the opportunity ever presented itself!
But when one looks at it in another way…
With the wastefulness of the entire exercise of arresting and putting hardened criminals on trial turning to naught with many of them managing to walk free through the efforts of good lawyers who manage to puncture the many loopholes in our legal system, the amplified calls for ‘instantaneous’ justice have only gained momentum in the country.
There have been umpteen cases of crimes against women which have been languishing in the courts of law in the country without many of them reaching a logical conclusion. Maybe the few that do grab national attention owe it to the relentless backing of the media and the perseverance of those who hope to get justice one day!
Ironically, most of the victims continue to be overlooked despite legislative and judicial efforts to bring them to the centre of our criminal justice system.
With the moroseness setting in due to the excessive delay in understanding the plight of the victim, and when all efforts to secure justice appear to fail; this is when the aggrieved public hope for a ‘miraculous’ dispensation of justice!
The jubilance over the ‘Hyderabad encounter’ where providence would have appeared to side with the righteous is an example of the collective wrath of a nation exploding into celebrations over the victory of ‘good’ over the ‘evil’ – a ‘Policeleela’ of sorts!
Therefore public applause at the brutal tactics of the police in ridding the nation of the scum of the society thus becomes a natural vent for all the pent-up fury for the masses.
To put it matter-of-factly, every single individual when it comes to matters of rape has exhibited his/her displeasure over the abominable act in no uncertain terms.
Somehow everyone has wanted to identify with the victim and equate her predicament with that of their own remembering those confrontational situations which often made them feel that they had been let down very badly by a system that lacked the punch to deliver them justice.
Citing the example of the rapists in the Nirbhaya case who await the execution of their death sentences even years after they have been convicted, a majority of the Indians have preferred a quick end of the ordeal for the parents of the unfortunate lass who still await justice for their daughter - this emotion when translated would mean the demand for a Hyderabad-style justice!
But do encounter-killings serve their purpose in a perfectly civilized society where the ‘an-eye-for-an-eye’ dictum amounts to an unceremonial descent to the primitive ages? No matter how vociferous the demand, could such extrajudicial killings be justified as being the need of the hour!
As people will have their own opinions on this subject, arriving at a consensus on the validity of the action of extermination of the rapists by the Telangana police will be an extremely difficult proposition.
But one sincerely feels that empowering the police with such authoritative measures will certainly have repercussions – consequences that will prove disastrous later on!(Published on 16th December 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 51)