Cycle of impunity

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Crimes and various forms of violence against women and children in the state has sadly become a routine spectacle that have ended up becoming a vicious cycle of street agitations, joint action committees better known as JACs being formed, a bout of bandhs if the agitations get a bit vocal, a few court appearances and then total silence. The other reality is that such crimes will continue to happen till the time a serious and converted effort is being made to analyze why such cases happen, putting in steps and mechanisms to prevent them from happening, to examine what steps and actions are taken to ensure that the survivors and victims who end up dead get justice on one hand and get mental, emotional, physical, societal and financial support on the other, to ensure that there are efforts taken up to integrate survivors into social and community life and to monitor the progress of police and legal processes. As things stand right now in the state, there is total failure in every area that needs to be in place to make sure that crimes against women are not left to gather dust in some government file dragging its feet and left forgotten even by the families of victims. There is a lack of any attempt to discuss threadbare why crimes against women are on an incline in a state that is often described as a place where women are more ‘empowered’ than others and where ‘high respect’ is accorded to women. In certain circles, the growing grip of patriarchal values and norms is being seen as a strong rationale and force for the growing violence against women and the brutality of the crimes so committed. It would be certainly interesting to look at mapping patriarchal norms and practices with crimes against women and the nature of their brutality in Manipur.

On the police front, there is much that needs to be done. Regardless of the funds that are being pumped in to develop the Police department in the state, it looks like more fund allocation and stress on the ‘development’ bit is being given to building more and more police stations instead of marking out some for sensitizing police officials and staff on duty when they handle cases of crimes against women. The ‘infrastructure’ development bug has not yet bitten an integral area of police investigations: the forensic department in the state which is so poorly equipped that even samples for viscera have to be sent to Kolkata for tests. The point being that the ‘sending of samples for concrete tests and results’ almost always come in the way of a speedy investigation process which then ultimately affects the legal process of filing charge-sheets and proceeding further on to the later legal proceedings. More often than not, the absence of a well equipped and state of the art forensic laboratory in the state gives quite a window to justice being delayed and also denied. One other cause of worry is the role of JACs who have taken on the role of being in the forefront and the ultimate decision makers for matters relating to cases. Without any doubt, JACs have become a necessary evil of sorts unfortunately for even though the presence of a group does help in the immediate aftermath of a crime happening and to egg on protests and agitations, they lose steam and gets spent well before leading the way till the Courts. Earlier on, there have been public spats with families of victims and JAC members over what course of action is to be taken up and whether or not ex gratia is to be accepted and by whom.

The lack of transparency in matters relating to the police and the lack of legal awareness is another cause for concern. Very often, case files gets stuck and given the lack of knowledge and the capability to engage with the police, family members get bogged down by delays and half lies meshed with half truths and lose the energy to take things to their logical end at the courts. Some families also go to the extent of ‘settling matters’ by agreeing to accept money or accepting a social apology brought on by community leaders with a feast thrown in, much akin to how certain parts of the country have elders deciding that rape victims marry the accused without looking at the quantum of crime. The other disturbing thought if course is that without a legal punishment or recourse, the perpetrator of crimes is given impunity of sorts, to continue forth without the baggage of realizing what he has done. This impunity is also aided by the slow legal and police proceedings while the survivors go on with their lives with trauma and various other ailments in the aftermath of their experiences that again go unaddressed in the absence of any psycho-emotional counseling services.

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