While castes in Indian society and the belief of Indians in the crass, regressive, unscientific segregation of people is an undeniable reality, looking at crime invariably from the angle of the social evil is not only tiring but also rendering injustice to the victim. Whether a clash between Thakurs and Valmikis in Hathras of Uttar Pradesh led to the barbaric rape and murder of a 19-year old girl is moot. Adding the qualifier “Dalit” in references to the victim suggests that the narrator has politics, not justice, in mind. The fractured spinal cord and slashed tongue of the poor girl, who was collecting fodder in the fields with her mother when she was attacked, bear testimony to an act too inhuman to turn public attention away from by sparking off a debate on whether the so-called upper castes are characteristically demoniacal or the questionably lower rung comprise sitting ducks awaiting slaughter. If caste must be the subject of debate for the sake of it, data do not support the assertion that the picture is always so black-and-white. Those who know the incident of Hathras say there was also wrangling over the amount of compensation which, if raised as per the demand, would suppress the case.
The real problem lies in the question whether the people-police ratio can ever be as adequate as to guard every possible spot of crime, as is the issue whether the existing numbers of policemen are doing their job with professional integrity. And then, of course, is the legal challenge wherein even a ‘fast-track’ justice delivery system takes eight years to send the tormentors of Nirbhaya to the gallows. Ergo, making a law or amending an existing one, as the Justice JS Verma-led committee did after the 16 December 2012 incident in Delhi, is not enough. Where is the deterrence for potential criminals?
Notwithstanding the fact that media reports contradict one another in saying that the police forced the victim’s family to conduct her last rites in the dead of the night and that the family was totally unaware when the body was disposed of, the Yogi Adityanath government has set up a special investigation team to probe the allegations besides promising compensation of Rs 25 lakh. One wonders any other state government could do anything more with the unenviable job of running the administration of badlands, the prevailing feudal mindset of ‘might is right’ and the mediaeval attitude towards women in which have remained unaddressed in independent India. Uttar Pradesh, which accounted for 14.7% of all the crimes committed against women in the country last year, makes the task onerous. The world, to be blunt and honest, is not a safe place for women — show crime statistics internationally. The more evolved democracies concentrate on ensuring that the state should never be lax, let alone complicit in the crime. But horror stories like Hathras cannot be stopped by better and more policing alone.