Waking from slumber

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There is great irony at play when in the light of calls for stringent action on people involved in cases of various forms of violence on women; such crimes continue to be committed in the state, region and country. While various people get together to protest on one hand or get online to make use of virtual petitions and campaigns marked at making a point about the nature of crimes and violations against women, there are increasing numbers of cases coming into light: some cases so severe and brutal and some so horrendous that it gets to the level of feeling despondent thinking of the state of the society today. If earlier, one heard of rape cases against women, there are increasing number of cases of minor children being raped and being subject to ghastly physical violations. Many blame the projection of violence and titillation in social and cultural medium including films and visual media like magazines and even the internet as a reason for the rise of crimes of sexual violence against women but it is not as if every man watching such ‘titillation’ gets ready to get into the garb of a lust filled villain. Many others helpfully point out that what a woman dresses up in and whom she mixes around with ‘invites’ sexual violence but this take can hardly explain why children who are not even able to speak clearly are being raped too and increasingly so. But whatever the reasoning and the rationale, the one focal area that is emerging from society today is the ongoing reported cases of rapes taking place. The experts can well chip in to study why rapes and other forms of sexual violence are increasing in the state but it’s time that we take a good look at what happens at the police and legal areas of investigations when cases of rapes and such crimes are reported.

Followers of crime based TV shows and various reading literature, ranging from fact to fiction tells us that local police stations where the crimes are reported or where the alleged accused or victim(s) hails from have the strongest feel of the case and the best equipped to investigate and collate information. If the popular TV series CSI shows viewers how the latest forensic science techniques are used to pin down suspects and nail the accused or even to let off people who are innocent, the very popular Crime Patrol TV series on Sony Television highlights how the police work in close tandem with their informers, go in plainclothes and network with various agencies. The later, incidentally draws from real life incidents and is not a fictional series on cops and robbers running riot. Rather, every episode of Crime Patrol even ends with a social commentary on why such crimes happen and how people can get together to stay safe. Interestingly, the episodes sows how crime cases are being cracked open by different state police. The case of a native from the state working at a BPO in Gurgaon in Haryana who was raped and the sensational case of Richard Loitam who was allegedly beaten to death by two of his hostel mates were also dramatized and shown on the TV show which mostly features cases where the police have successfully solved crimes that range from trafficking to case of violence or feuds over property.

But coming to Manipur, we have had occasions where top police officials have gone on record to say that due to the pressing concern of battling against militancy and counter insurgency operations in the state, the police are unable to devote time to social crimes. In case the state police are fighting militancy in the state, there is a) the matter of what the other paramilitary forces are doing in the state considering that they have been called to combat the ‘law and order’ situation and b) the fact that even in cases where the state police is fighting militancy, it is doing a shoddy job which is now in the open after the Supreme Court instituted Commission drilled holes in the investigation of encounter cases. Sometime ago, Manipur Police picked up a rape victim and took her into custody instead of booking the rape suspect. There are rumblings now on the ground that there is a huge time gap in between picking up case materials and sending them for forensic tests. Such calls of discontent over the ways of the state police does not augur well for either the people of the state or for the police department. The shadow of distrust and the lack of public confidence of the people on the police are best symbolized in the wrath of mobs that take charge. It manifests in more cases of violence against women and children on the rise since the accused know that they can get away scot-free. More than anyone else, the police department needs to get its act together to take the lead in fighting the air of despondency and distrust.

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