Nirbhaya revisited as juvenile set to walk free


Come December 20, the lone juvenile convict in the Nirbhaya rape and murder case that shook the nation’s collective conscience will walk free unless the Delhi high court acts on the government’s plea to extend his stay in an observation home till all the aspects, including mental health and post-release rehabilitation plans, are considered by the authorities.

“His (juvenile) stay in observation home needs to be extended….,” Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain told the court on Monday, claiming that several mandatory requirements were missing from post-release rehabilitation plan of the juvenile convict.

The Centre’s move also comes in the wake of a secret Intelligence Bureau assessment that claimed that the juvenile might have been radicalized in the observation home. Nirbhaya (name changed) was brutally assaulted by six persons, including the juvenile, in a moving bus in south Delhi. She later succumbed to her injuries in a Singapore hospital triggering protests across the country demanding stringent action against the culprits and measures to ensure women’s safety.

So, what has changed since that fateful night?

According to the data released by National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), as many as 36735 rapes were reported in 2014 while in 2013 the number was 33707. Total crimes against women in 2014 were 337922 while in 2013 the number was 309546, a significant rise that should suffice to give us sleepless nights.

According to the government, an increase of more than 50 per cent was reported in cognisable cases involving juveniles in last ten years.

“As per data collected from states and union territories, an increase of 50.6 per cent – from 25,601 cases in 2005 to 38,586 cases in 2014 – in cases under total cognizable crimes registered against juvenile in conflict with law,” MoS for home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said in the reply to a written question in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The steps taken by Centre and state governments seem to fall way short of what is actually required in view of the rising number of incidents. On December 11 this year, a seven-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a 16-year-old boy in Delhi’s Tigri area, showing how the national capital still remains unsafe for women and children. Last year an executive was raped by a Uber driver in his cab who even threatened to shove an iron rod inside her, invoking troubling memories of brutal violence inflicted on Nirbhaya.

Therefore, the measures like setting up of a Nirbhaya Fund or the stringent ‘Nirbhaya Act’ taken to deal with the menace would not suffice. The need of the hour is to change the mindset of the men in our patriarchal society. When leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav try to justify rape by saying that ‘boys will be boys’ or when Chhattisgarh’s home minister Ramsewak Paikra says that no one commits rape intentionally as it happens by mistake, we need to look within and realize there is something rotten in the society.

The comments like these by our politicians show how deeply embedded patriarchy is in our society and how tough will it be to cleanse the mindsets that blame women for sexual assaults, questioning them for dressing ‘inappropriately’ or for being out late in the night. Alas, women have long been considered as second-class citizens. In ancient India, a Hindu widow would be compelled to immolate herself on her husband’s pyre under an obsolete funeral system, namely Sati. This savagery shockingly continued for several hundred years.

Thus, critical reforms in the education system are required so as to bring about gender sensitization in the children and the process must continue for next three to four decades. At least two generations must be educated in this manner so as to ensure respect and safety for the other half of the humanity. The children educated thus would have an inherent respect for women.

Ironically, India is a land where women have always been worshipped as goddesses. Tomorrow as the nation observes the third anniversary of Nirbhaya rape case, we ought to remember Mahatma Gandhi’s words:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

We must change ourselves to ensure that another Nirbhaya doesn’t even befall this country.

(Image: Quint)