On September 17, robbers shot dead a businessman in Jyoti Nagar in an attempt to loot him. Four days later, unidentified miscreants shot dead a 59-year-old woman while she was waiting for her husband in their car near East Delhi’s Patparganj locality. On September 26, a 28-year-old youth was stabbed to death during a robbery bid at Sagarpur in Southwest Delhi.
The rising incidents of street robberies and snatching, many of which have taken a violent turn lately in the national capital, grabbed the attention of the nation when the Prime Minister’s niece was robbed by miscreants recently in the posh locality of North Delhi’s Civil Lines.
An incident that grabbed eyeballs
In her FIR, Damayanti Modi, who identified herself as the niece of Prime Minister Narendra Modi said bike-borne miscreants on October 12 snatched her purse containing ₹ 56,000 cash, mobile phones and documents.
The incident took place outside the Shree Delhi Gujarati Samaj Guest House in Civil Lines at 7 am, soon after she got down from an auto-rickshaw. Delhi police on October 13 arrested two suspects in the case and recovered the stolen goods.
The incident, in turn, triggered a blame game between the governments at the centre and the Union Territory in the national capital. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is in power in Delhi, has blamed the BJP-led central government for the deteriorating law and order situation.
“People are concerned about such incidents. The security of citizens is of utmost importance. The country’s capital doesn’t send out a good message through such incidents. The miscreants will not be tolerated and should be given strict punishment irrespective of their caste or religion,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi on Sunday (October 13).
ऐसी घटनाओं से लोग चिंतित हैं। लोगों की सुरक्षा बेहद महत्वपूर्ण है। देश की राजधानी ऐसी घटनाओं से अच्छा संदेश नहीं जाता।
दोषी चाहे कोई भी हो, किसी भी जाति या धर्म का हो, घुसपैठिया हो या अंदरूनी हो, उसको सख़्त सज़ा मिलनी ही चाहिए। किसी का कोई भी अपराध बर्दाश्त नहीं किया जाएगा https://t.co/1TdFioTWtW
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) October 13, 2019
Rubbishing the allegations, the BJP has called the AAP as the “sympathisers” of “illegal immigrants”, who according to the saffron party are at the root of crimes in the city. BJP has also proposed that a National Register of Citizens (NRC) be implemented in Delhi just like Assam to address the worsening law and order situation in the Union territory.
While crime records of Delhi Police show a slump in robberies and murders in 2019 (up to September 30) when compared to the previous years, media reports say otherwise.
According to Crime Statistics of Delhi Police, the number of snatching in 2019 witnessed a phenomenal drop to 4,762 (until September 30) from 9,571 in 2016, 8,231 in 2017 and 6932 in 2018 (the number was 5,034 till September 30).
A Times of India report stated that 1,206 incidents of snatching were reported in the city in January and February alone. While the incidence dropped to 903 between March and May, it rose to 4,762 by September end.
Media reports, however, argue that the numbers are much more than what the Delhi police claims.
A report in the Hindustan Times based on an analysis of crime data between January 1 and September 20 stated that Delhi Police have been registering several cases of snatching as simple theft, which explains the fewer number of cases in 2019 in Delhi Police records. While the cases of pickpocketing and loss of belongings during the same time period have gone up – from 77,563 in 2016 to 138,596 in 2018 – experts say the Delhi Police’s attempt of “technically burking” numbers has led to the discrepancy, the HT report stated.
“Snatching figures will definitely come down if you register all cases as theft. By doing this, you are letting criminals have a field day. There is a clear distinction between theft and snatching,” the report quoted LN Rao, a former deputy commissioner of Delhi Police as saying.
India’s crime capital
Why is snatching on the rise?
A report by Indian Express attributed the alleged laxity of police to register appropriate cases to the fear of being harassed by the National Human Rights Commission and the lack of an appropriate legislation that allows criminals to misuse loopholes in existing laws.
In the report, a retired joint commissioner of police pointed out the force’s (which currently uses gypsies) lack of vehicles to nab miscreants who use fast motorcycles to scoot after a crime. Easy access to weapons, both Chinese and local, is also another concern for the police.
Even as Delhi Police registers almost 20 cases of snatchings every day, the absence of an exclusive law under which police can seize the valuables from the accused when on the move, forces them to file such cases under Section 379 (theft) and 356 (using criminal force to commit theft) of the IPC, stated a recent article in the Times Of India. While one gets three years in jail under Section 379 and two under Section 356, the jail term for robbery (392) is 10 years.
Police also said that in most cases of snatching, victims do not pursue their cases and many others even fail to identify the snatchers. That apart, the stolen items like jewellery or mobile phones are immediately melted or sold off respectively, leaving no evidence to establish the case, the TOI report stated.
The report also mentions a structural change in policing set up as another reason behind the laxity in police operations and the rise in street crime. The Inter-State Cell, a crime cell for instance, has been left to deal with cases of cheating and forgery.