Tracing crimes

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There is a simple credo that the perfect crime does not exist today given the amount of digital and electronic footprints that people leave in their wake. Our inquiries reveal that Ningombam Satyabhama was a well-qualified young woman and an introvert, keeping mostly to herself and the social circle of her work. In an age where young people go out of their ways to be notices and to ‘connect’ with people, the deceased did not even have a profile on any social networking sites. Reclusive in nature, Satyabhama made the fatal mistake of being caught in a trap of lies and deceit. Even as police investigations are continuing, the matter that is of out most concern is whether Satyabhama’s death could have been first prevented and then solved without public ire bursting at its seams. We will deal with the first area of whether the murder could have been prevented in the first place. The social profiling of Satyabhama as a loner and having a limited social life unfortunately makes her an easy target to be cheated upon. Post her death, the disclosure of her colleagues that she never introduced her male friend with whom she was in a relationship nails the negative intentions of the person involved. The revelation that the accused were using mobile numbers, which were entered under fake names again hints at some form of pre-mediated and pre-planned actions in the case. Even with the fake names that the numbers that Satyabhama mostly dialed, all that the police had to do was to look at mobile tower locations and the time of the calls made. That it took days for the police to finally get on this track is not going to give any public confidence. Even as the police statements are still in a contradicting mode as is evident from IFP’s investigations and analysis, it goes without saying that the sheer public pressure from the public and the false alarms in media circles over the why’s and how’s of the case seems to have caught the police on the wrong foot. There was just the hint of a hastily put together press briefing. As is considered ‘normal’, the houses of the three person named in the media briefing have now been all destroyed and set on fire. There were police vehicles along the route that the procession of the would-be destroying mob reportedly who did not do much by way of trying to block their march. The mood was a ‘this cannot be stopped’ line but it is still a shame that fire tenders were not kept in readiness given the all too familiar after effects of any major crime being named and getting out to the public domain.

There is another stakeholder to this particular case that has not been discussed or talked about at length: mobile service providers. The norm for applying for any mobile service connection is to get an application form, submit Government backed identity proof like a PAN card, a driving license, a passport etc, submit photographs and then have a verification process, after which the SIM cards are dispatched to the address that is given in the application form. In Manipur, getting a mobile connection through a ‘proper channel’ is more difficult and clearly discouraged by the numerous mobile units of small shops dotting roads and small lanes that promise connections in no matter of time and without any verification process. In doing so, they create a major gap for tracking down the persons when the need arises as was evident in the Satyabhama case. Even as the small time vendors run riot on the ground, the mobile service providers become sticklers for rules and regulations when they are approached for assistance officially. For example, call records are not shared on the grounds that such information amounts to breaking the confidentiality of their clients. These call records are given to police investigators but once the media is kept off the purview of these records, there is no guarantee that the investigation would be fair to the truth. There also needs to be a serious re-look into the nature of how SIM cards are readily available in the state for a measly amount of some fifty odd ruppees without verification and how they can aid in the cycle of various other crimes.

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