DELHI GANG RAPE: Protests outside Rashtrapati Bhavan

    NEW DELHI (TIP): A large number of women activists and students today marched towards Rashtrapati Bhavan to protest against the gang rape of a young girl in a moving bus and demand stringent action against rapists. The protesters under the aegis of AIDWA, YWCA and JNUSU among others started their march from Rajpath and as they reached Vijay Chowk, they went past the barricades erected at the entrance of Raisina Hills and moved towards Rashtrapati Bhavan and South and North Blocks. Police stopped the protesters near Rashtrapati Bhavan. Carrying placards and shouting slogans, the protesters demanded stringent punishment for rapists.

    Two days ago in a similar protest, around 200 people had gathered near North Block. They dispersed only after home minister Sushilkumar Shinde agreed to meet a delegation of JNUSU students. A girl identified as Swati managed to go near the Rashtrapati Bhavan but was escorted back later. “They say we need permission to enter there. Why do we need permission? When we are attacked and harassed, nobody needs any permission. We are here to raise our voices and for that we need permission,” she said. The protesters at Raisina Hills later marched towards India Gate. A group of people also staged protest outside Safdarjung Hospital and blocked traffic for sometime. The protesters demanded speedy justice for the victim.

    Meanwhile, Delhi Police detained the fifth accused in connection with the heinous incident in a late night raid on Thursday. The police detained the fifth accused, named Raju, in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh. “The fifth accused has been arrested in the rape case. His age is being verified before giving details. If minor, we have to hold back his particulars as per law,” Delhi Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar said on Twitter. With this, five persons have been arrested in the Sunday night incident which sparked widespread outrage across the country.

    Sources said the fifth accused was arrested from Badaun in Uttar Pradesh even as there were reports that the sixth accused has been picked from Bareilly. However, police is yet to confirm it. One of the four accused in the case was “identified” by the victim’s friend during a Test Identification Parade (TIP) at Tihar Jail here. The 23-year-old victim’s male friend, an engineer in a software company, identified Mukesh during TIP, a senior police official said. Out of the four accused, only Mukesh had agreed to TIP when he was produced before a court here. Other accused – Ram Singh, Pawan and Vinay – had refused to undergo TIP.

    According to the official, the positive identification of Mukesh by the friend, who was also beaten up by thegang before the men allegedly raped the girl, is a shot in the arm of the prosecution as it would help them nail the other culprits. Police have invoked the stringent charges of attempt to murder and destruction of evidence against the accused. Investigators had earlier pressed charges against them under sections 365 (kidnapping or abducting), 376 (2)(g) (gang rape), 377 (unnatural offences), 394 (hurting in committing robbery) and 34 (common intention) of IPC.

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    Indian laws against rape are amongst some of the toughest in the world. Owing to regular interpretation of Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the victim’s word is now considered substantive proof to convict the accused and send him to jail for a minimum of seven years. In fact, in one case even the lack of conclusive medical evidence to show that a woman was raped did not prevent the Supreme Court from ordering a jail sentence for the accused. In a deeply conservative society, rape is an emotional subject which perhaps explains why the judiciary has been so recipient to making it easy to secure convictions.

    However, this approach as a crime prevention strategy has little value as it is reactive. It comes into play after a crime has already been committed. Research has shown that though we may like to believe that harsh sentences act as deterrents to future criminals, there is little evidence in favor of this belief. Most criminals either truly believe that they will get away with the crime, or are unable to think through the consequences of crime they are about to commit. The crime prevention premise on which First World criminal justice systems (which includes police, prosecutors, judges) now work is that criminals are deterred by their proximal conditions, and not the prospect of a distant punishment.

    Thus incidents of sexual harassment, and drug dealing in public toilets in London dropped drastically with the introduction of better lighting, and signs warning that plainclothes policemen often used those facilities. Similarly, to prevent cases of rape there is a need to view it as a crime in isolation from the emotional rhetoric that surrounds it. The most influential crime prevention philosophy of the last decade stated that a crime takes place when there is presence of a likely target (i.e. victim), and the absence of a capable guardian (examples : policeman, guard, a responsible elder, or even a good lock). Building on this notion police forces in cities like London, and New York write what are called ‘crime scripts’ of common crimes.

    Simply put, the policemen put themselves in shoes of a criminal and write down a detailed step by step procedure in the commissioning of a crime. Thereafter, they concentrate on ‘script disruption’, where interventions at certain stages of the criminal’s actions prevent him for carrying out his criminal act. For instance: jails in Australia reported several cases of inmates scalding other prisoners with hot liquids. The solution came in the form of thermos flasks with narrow opening that did not allow liquids to be thrown at each other. In case of Delhi too it would not be impossible for police to build a script of rapes that are committed. The ease with which criminals can use means of public transportation to pick up unsuspecting victims comes immediately to mind.

    Moreover, little application of mind would show that crimes against women are concentrated in time and space, or go in conjunction with other crimes. That could serve as a starting point for police in Delhi to frame a strategy on how to best use its limited resources for maximum deterrent effect. It is by using such scientific means that police forces in developed countries have been able to reduce crime rates to lowest than they have ever been. As is the case every time, after this rape case in Delhi too, we hear platitudes about falling moral standards of society, with the blame for the crime being laid on factors as wide ranging as erosion of family values to deindividualization of people in a metro.

    This kind of approach in reality is a disservice to women as it offers no solutions. At this stage it would be pertinent to remember that the instances of perverts making lewd calls to women – which was a common phenomena in 1990s – dropped to virtually nil within a few years not because the Indian male underwent some sort of moral renaissance, but because phones started coming with caller IDs, and in a way disrupted the script.

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