Two events that happened over the past two weeks could be the cause of grave concern to many; the police, the judiciary, the legislature, the executive, the media, and we all as a society.
The gang rape of a Veterinary Doctor in Telangana and the four accused being gunned down in an alleged police encounter six days later and just a couple of days later, the sad demise of the 17 year old girl raped in Unnao earlier in 2017.
Exactly seven years ago in the same month of December, another similar event had shaken the consciousness of the nation. The Nirbhaya rape case in Delhi made the society demonstrate its anger and frustration through a series of protests.
The legislature enacted some serious changes in laws relating to rape.
The Supreme Court issued several guidelines for trial of rape cases.
The executive created a Nirbhaya Fund to create infrastructure for preventing Nirbhaya-like cases in future.
The media reported numerous subsequent rape cases with much more intensity.
But it seems that not much may have changed on the ground in these seven years. Stricter law, wider media coverage, fast-track courts, public outrage, etc. have been inadequate in deterring the psychopaths from committing this heinous crime.
Our deep-rooted frustration at the way cases take ages to conclude and culprits getting away for lack of sufficient evidence has made most of us excited and believe that justice was quickly and well served as soon as we heard the news of the Telangana encounter. Many of us started demanding the same punishment for the other rape accused waiting for trial in prisons and more particularly for the accused in the Unnao case when the victim sadly succumbed to her burn injuries inflicted upon her by an accused who was out on bail.
These two events have highlighted the fact that what is needed is a much wider and deeper scrutiny at all levels. The judiciary, legislature, executive, media, and society; all need to seriously contemplate in which direction we are moving as a society.
The Telangana rape and murder was as gruesome a crime as anyone can imagine. The perpetrators of the crime must be beyond the realm of humanity and deserved to be punished with maximum punishment.
People, media and even some politicians called for public lynching of the rapists.
Then six days later the police declared that they killed all the arrested suspects in an encounter.
No one probably believes the encounter theory of the police, and neither is the police making any effort to convince anyone that it was a genuine encounter.
But almost the entire country started celebrating it as justice duly served. A few lonely voices who tried to raise the question of constitutional propriety were promptly and forcefully shut down by a barrage of guilt-inducing outbursts.
The Unnao police who was supposed to protect the victim appeared washing their hands off by claiming that the victim did not specifically request protection from them, as if the duty of the police is to protect people who seek protection from them.
Let’s have no sympathy for rapists. All acts of outraging the modesty of a woman must be strongly and expeditiously punished. But the question is whether we want the Telangana style of punishment as a template for future cases.
Most of us have largely appreciated the Singham or Simba kind of justice, because deep down we all want the truth to prevail and criminals to be punished.
However, bringing the reel life drama to the real life may not be the final aspiration of the majority.
Because we also know that in real life, the Singhams and Simbas are very few and fallible policemen are too many.
Today let us believe and agree that these were four alleged criminals. Tomorrow these could be four innocent youth.
We need to decide the template we aspire for our society and country.
However, for us as the Society to aspire otherwise than glorify the encounter, all others; the police, the judiciary, the legislature, the executive and the media; need to pull up their socks and be ready to embrace a paradigm change.
And till such a change takes place, I shall refrain from seeking any punishment for the Telangana police officers.
And if such change does not happen for the good, perhaps I would be happy to be encountering another encounter, and another.