Sub-Inspector Roop Lal in Gurgaon even asked if women didn’t have a mind of their own. He explained his hypothesis: “Birthday ke sambandh main party do… aur woh akeli ladki hai, un teeno ke saath jaa rahi hai, aur dekh rahi hai ki saale daaru bhi pee rahe hai saath main. To yeh bilkul ladies ko pata hai is baat ka, ki kya hoga. Jab wo khud hi party karne lagi hai, to wo rape nahi keh sakte. Rape kaise kahoge? Daaru ke sang unke saath baith rahi hai… to dimag to tere main bhi hai, jab tu chatra hai kisliye party mang rahi hai, kisliye inke saath jaa rahi hai? (If a girl asks for a birthday party and is alone with 2-3 boys and sees they are drinking, she knows what is likely to happen. When she herself goes for such a party, she can’t complain of rape. How can you call it rape if she is sitting and drinking with them? You are a student and have brain of your own. Why are you going out with them?)”
“IT’S ALL about money.” If this is not enough to shock you, a majority of the policemen said rape is used as a blackmailing tool to extort money. More than 17 officers spoke about a supposedly dirty nexus of money, mal-intent, compromises and sex.
Satbir Singh, Additional SHO of Sector 31 Police Station, Faridabad has completed 27 years in service and investigated around 20 rape cases. He believes half of all rape charges were false. He was unapologetic about questioning the intent of rape victims when they came to file complaints: “One lakh. Two lakh. Fifty lakh. Logon ko ye pata chal gaya hai ki ye achcha paisa kamaane ka dhanda hai… business hai. Income source dhoond liya hai logon ne. Aam baat hai… kharcha nahi hota. Money nahi hote.Gharwale kharch ke liye paise nahi dete.Wo phir razabandi se kaam chalta hai(People have understood this is a lucrative trade for women; it’s business. They’ve found an income source. It’s common; you’re short of money, your parents don’t give you money to spend. You make compromises).”
Vijay Kumar, a young sub-inspector working under Satbir Singh, also shares similar views. Amazingly, so does Rajbala, a young lady investigating officer at the station. “90 percent to aise hi hote hai…” she said, as SHO Satbir talks about money being the biggest factor behind rape cases.
Sector 29 Police Station, as it’s SHO Jagdish Prasad points out, registered 10 rape cases from 2005-2010. Conviction happened in two of them. Here too, it’s troubling to see two young, 20-something English-speaking Sub-Inspectors, Naveen and Vipin, have deep prejudices against independent women. “It’s all for enjoyment,” said Vipin at one point, supporting his senior’s argument.
This kind of gender stereotyping is not limited to the outskirts of the NCR. In the heart of Delhi, Inspector Sunil Kumar, SHO of Ghazipur Police Station was similarly judgmental: “Someone will say I will give you Rs 1,000 or Rs 2,000 but afterwards they give Rs 500. Then it becomes rape. And no one in the world will listen to me. I might say she asked for Rs 1,000, I gave Rs 500. But our law says very clearly — if a girl says she was raped then she was raped. No excuses there. It is final.” His tone was sympathetic — to the person charged with rape.
Apart from a general suspicion towards any woman who complains of rape, the class bias was unmistakable in several stations — the argument being insensitive enough to be seen as condoning the act. Rape victims from poor backgrounds are looking for money, and the ones from affluent families are simply wayward and easy: it’s all so neat.
“Oonche gharon ki ladkiyan hain; jinke saath setting hoti hai uske saath chali jati hai, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 rupiyo ke liye (These girls are from affluent families; they go with anyone who they have a setting with for money),” said Additional Sub-Inspector Vikas Kumar of Sector 29 Police Station in Gurgaon. His colleague and Additional SHO of the station, Rajpal Yadav also had his reasoning for rape cases involving women from affluent classes; “Sharaab bhi peeti hain ladkiyan… log fayda toh uthainge hi. Hookah bar, smack, ganja, nasha, tambakoo (These girls tend to drink… people will naturally take advantage. They do everything from hookah bars to smack to ganja and tobacco).”
When it comes to victims from economically backward families, the comments get cruder. For instance, Yoginder Singh Tomar of Noida believed rapes happened only among lower castes and lower classes: “Upper caste toh nahi aati. Upper caste ki to mukkadma hi darj nahi hota. Aata hi nahi koi. Hota hi nahi hai. Ab hota hoga toh humaare paas nahi aa rahe hai (Upper caste people never file rape complaints. Rape never happens there. If it happens, it never comes to us).”
THE BAGGAGE of cultural prejudice a policeman carries to the police station is not only unprofessional but also dangerous as it ensures a bias from the very onset of an investigation. This invariably leads to loopholes in the probe and becomes a road-block in deliverance of justice. If investigators are to be believed, their experience of rape cases has given them an understanding that everything from co-education to alcohol, films and comfortable relationships are prime reasons for rape.
“Yahan log bahar se aaye hain… Filmon main dekh rahe hai. Bilkul nangapan saa aagaya hai yahan par. Filmon ko dekh kar yeh sab ho raha hai; nashe ki aadat pad gayi hai. Bahar se aye hue hain woh apne culture koh jo Indian culture hai usko chhod rahe hain (People have come from outside. They watch films and get influenced. There is complete nudity; people have taken to alcohol. Also, outsiders, from outside NCR, have forgotten Indian culture),” is Sub-Inspector Rajpal Yadav’s rationale for rapes.
How can such a police force discharge its constitutional duty of prosecuting sex offenders successfully?
HOWEVER, IN Delhi, TEHELKA found that of the six stations it visited, three had police officers who were professional and sensitised towards cases of violence against women. Additional SHO, Inspector Thakeshwar Singh of Sangam Vihar Police Station, pointed out there were compromises between the victim’s side and the perpetrator’s side but not necessarily due to money: “There’s social stigma attached to a rape victim, making it difficult for her to tirelessly pursue the case.”
The Delhi Police insists it has a gender sensitivity programme in place. There is a rape crisis intervention centre in every district and a women’s help desk in every police station. “There is sensitisation at the induction level as well as promotional and specialised courses on the job. The objective is to handle women in crisis. In these courses officers are apprised with latest court orders,” said Additional DCP Rajan Bhagat, PRO Delhi Police.
Yet inside these police stations and behind those nice-sounding phrases is a much harsher reality. The lack of training and sensitisation is evident. Praveen Kumar, SSP Noida, felt there was need for sensitisation at the working level. “Although there is a module on gender issues for new recruits, there are no training programmes for people in service. There is training at the induction level but not at short intervals since there is shortage of manpower. If those policemen are sent for training who would man the police posts? Public-police ratio has to increase only then can we spare them for courses in gender sensitivity,” he said.
However, Commissioner of Police, Gurgaon, KK Sindhu felt there was no real need for sensitisation as all cases related to women were handled by ladies. The Gurgaon Police chief was of the opinion that women were usually accompanied by men if they had to visit a police station. “Women are inseparable from family in an Indian set-up. There is always a male accompanying them to a police station. Gender sensitivity is part of training and, in cases involving women, the issue is always handled by a woman investigating officer.”
GIVEN THAT these extremely disturbing attitudes exist in agencies that are meant for the protection of harassed women, it comes as little surprise that rapes continue unabated. Six rape cases were reported from different parts of the NCR during the two weeks TEHELKA reporters were out in the field meeting policemen. While the men in uniform have a spectrum of reasons to rationalise rise in rape occurrence, there is little acknowledgment of the fact that perhaps better policing and instilling a fear of the law among the perpetrators could make women feel that much safer.
This prejudice breeds a vicious cycle. It makes investigation slothful and lackadaisical and as a result the conviction rate in rape cases is appallingly low. This, in turn, allows potential sex criminals to get away with anything, even an open-and-shut case of rape. And each time this happens, to the average policeman it only reinforces what he thinks he already knows: “She asked for it.”
Abhishek Bhalla is a Senior Special Correspondent with Tehelka.
G Vishnu is a Correspondent with Tehelka.