It’s been six days and the police have arrested only six culprits who had molested a teenage girl in Guwahati, Assam. Why do these men attack young girls, especially the ones going to pubs or bars? Maybe it is not a sign of disapproval, but a feeling that they are unable to join the so-called modern circles. Maybe their frustration of not being able to socially or financially qualifying to the affluent and upmarket group makes them to victimize young women.
Maybe it is not a coincidence that majority of the victims belong to this transitional strata, who work in pubs, call centres etc. The pubs and hotels that usually report such crime are not the ones frequented by the rich and powerful, but by youth who are probably the first ones in their families to discover some cheap beer and privacy with their partners! But whatever be the reason, these men forget the simple fact that their own sister or daughter or mother or any relative could be in the similar situation one day and people remain mute spectators… It’s time for people to protest against such heinous acts and help the cops in identifying the culprits.
Maybe this 17-year-old girl didn’t have an idea that she would be attacked by an angry mob when she came outside the pub this Monday night, July 9, 2012. The teenager had gone to celebrate a friend’s birthday at Club Mint on GS Road in Guwahati, Assam. She was singled out and targeted after her friends left at 9.30 pm.
The victim was molested by an angry mob for around 40 minutes on a busy street outside the pub in Guwahati's Christian Basti area. And what’s surprising is the fact that the nearest police station was just one kilometre away from the place where the incident happened. And disgustingly, the police took over 40 minutes to reach the spot!
Plus, shockingly, the whole incident was captured on a camera by a News Live cameraperson and is now viral on the Internet. Nobody bothered to help the hapless girl, who literally went on begging everybody to rescue her from the mob. The entire incident was shot on camera. And wonder about the ethics behind shooting a molestation incident live and airing it? The channel said they did it "in public interest"!
Syed Zarir Hussain, the Managing Editor of the TV channel, said, "Had we stopped rolling the camera, these molesters would not have been arrested. What we did was in public interest. On the night this incident happened, we showed only the molesters. We took a call to show the incident the next day as we realised that the molesters would not have be arrested. Whatever we did, we did for public interest and it is because we showed the video that four people have been arrested."
As many as 13 culprits have been identified with the help of the video and only six have been arrested so far. The first arrest was made only on Wednesday, two days after the incident. And what about the cops who arrived late? A police official has been suspended for dereliction of duty amid ongoing raids in Assam and neighbouring states to nab the remaining culprits.
Then, there is Akhil Gogoi, RTI activist and Team Anna member, who claimed that he has in his possession video footage that proves Gaurav Jyoti Neog, reporter of News Live channel was not just present, but also "planned and directed" the ghastly mob attack. He held press conferences on Friday and Saturday to prove his allegations. He showed the footage, which had a voice asking for the girl being molested to be brought to a well-lit area since the camera had arrived. Gogoi also suggested a forensic test to prove that the voice was Neog's. The voice, he alleged is heard making lewd comments, but that these comments were beeped out in the footage that News Live aired.
On the other hand, Neog rejected Gogoi's charges, though he agreed that he was present that night at the pub, Club Mint.
The National Commission for Women team, which visited the victim at her residence on Saturday, said that the victim reiterated to them that she could see the camera light on her. The team said that the victim told them she knew she was being recorded and kept pleading but he did not help her. The NCW team, also said that they found signs of cigarette burns on her body. "The girl has wounds on her body. The boys who were drunk must have been smoking cigarettes because there were cigarette marks on the girl's body," said Alka Lamba, a member of the special team of the NCW that's probing the incident.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has finally reacted to the Guwahati incident. He has asked the police to take immediate action in the case. He also stated that a Special Task Force (STF) has been constituted to tackle the situation. “No one has the right to molest anyone… I have asked the police to keep a vigil on the anti-social elements," said Gogoi.
Unfortunately, still the culprits are roaming scot-free after the horrific incident, the atrocious crime which has sent shock waves across the entire country with people, politicians and protesters demanding strict action.
Hoardings, with the faces of the culprits who have been identified from the video footage of the incident, have been put up across Guwahati.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau's NCRB latest statistics, Assam is one of most vulnerable places in the country in terms of crime against women. The latest NCRB figures say that the rate of crime against women in Assam was the second highest in the country in 2011 with 36.6 per cent, and the rate represents a jump from the 33.5 in 2010. The NCRB report further said that there were 2,28,650 incidents of crimes against women in the country, out of which Assam registered 11,503 incidents.
To be frank, this is not the first such incident in the recent past, where a woman has been molested in public and people had been mute spectators.
On January 1, 2007, a group of revellers had attacked a young woman at the Gateway of India in Mumbai. Photographs of the woman being groped appeared in a tabloid Tuesday morning. The mob had even torn off her skirt despite the presence of her male companion. The tabloid photographer had claimed that he was atop a temporary watch tower erected by the police when he clicked the pictures. The woman screamed for help but no one came to her aid, not even the cops came to her rescue and the couple managed to get away on their own.
On January 1, 2008, a mob of 70-80 men groped and molested two young women for around 15 minutes on a busy main street in Mumbai’s glamour district Juhu. The women - one in a black dress, the other in a jeans and top - emerged from the JW Marriott with two male friends around 1.45 am, and began walking towards Juhu beach close by. A mob of about 40 got after them and began teasing the women. One of the women swore loudly at the hooligans. But the mob, now 70-80 strong, wouldn’t let go. They trapped the women near a vehicle and a tree, and pounced on them. A man in a white shirt tore off the black dress. Another, in a blue shirt, led the assault. As the women fell on the ground, dozens of men jumped on them.”
On October 20, 2011, Reuben Fernandes, 29, and his 24-year-old friend Keenan Santos after dining at the restaurant, stepped out to have a paan. A drunken man, Jitender Rana, made some lewd comments about the girls in the group, which resulted in an argument. Rana went away saying that he would be back in five minutes. After 10 minutes, Rana returned with a group of friends, armed with sharp weapons and then stabbed Santos and Reuben in the stomach. While Keenan died within a few hours of the fight, Reuben underwent an operation, but died after having a sudden massive internal bleeding in his abdomen.
On January 1, 2012, a young girl was molested outside Sahara Mall in Gurgaon. The police used batons to disperse the assaulters. A cop said: “There was a huge crowd and when we reached the spot the victim was crying for help. Though her friend tried to protect her, youths pounced upon her and started groping her. When we intervened, the youths started attacking us. Earlier, we managed to send some girls in a cab to Delhi.”
Ok, what do the Indian laws have to say about molestation?
1. Section 341 (Wrongful Restraint): Simple Imprisonment for 1 month, or a fine of Rs 500, or both.
2. Section 143 (Unlawful Assembly): Imprisonment for 6 months, or fine, or both.
3. Section 294 (Obscene Act): Imprisonment for 3 months, or fine, or both.
4. Section 323 (Voluntarily Causing Hurt): Imprisonment for 1 year, or fine of Rs 1,000, or both.
5. Section 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty): Imprisonment for 2 years, or fine, or both.
But the question is, are the culprits aware of these laws? Even if they do, how many of them are charged? How many victims get justice?