The National Commission for Women (NCW) has taken cognizance of the gang-rape of a minor in Hyderabad and sought a detailed report on the incident. So far, six people have been arrested in the case including the five involved in the act.
The women’s commission has stated that as many as five cases have come to its notice in a span of a week. Expressing concern over the growing number of such incidents, the chairperson of NCW, Rekha Sarma wrote to the DGP to send a detailed report in seven days.
The Hyderabad police is on the defensive as the series of gang-rape cases have been reported soon after the Justice VS Sirpurkar’s panel report said that the accused in a 2019 gang-rape-murder case were deliberately killed by police in a fake encounter. The commission which submitted its report to the Supreme Court last month recommended the trial of 10 cops allegedly involved in the 2019-encounter.
The commission’s report also came at a time when the police was celebrating a dip in crime rate in the city. The Telangana capital reported a 21 per cent dip in the crime rate in 2021 and it was the third successive year to report a fall in the crime rate.
However, what dented the police’s image further was allegations that they were trying to shield one of the accused in the recent gang-rape incident.
The Hyderabad incident, now popular as Jubilee Hills gang-rape, took place on May 28, while the second incident came to light on Monday and occurred on May 31. The other incidents have gone relatively unnoticed and come to light in the wake of the Jubilee Hills incident.
Cops on sticky wicket
The Jubilee Hills case is snowballing into a major controversy, as it is turning into a political war between the ruling the TRS and the BJP.
According to the police, the 17-year-old victim of the Jubilee Hills case was picked up by five people including three minors after she came out of a pub after attending a daytime party. The accused left the pub in two vehicles for a bakery where they changed to an SUV in which the alleged gang-rape took place.
Police launched an investigation based on a complaint lodged by the father of the victim. The charge against the police is that the cops were lax as the accused in the case are well-connected politically and one is the son of an MLA.
But without the entry of BJP MLA Raghunandan Rao, the issue would have ended up in TV debates and statements from political parties. Rao, a BJP MLA from Dubbaka, leaked a video clipping of the incident to show that the son of an MLA belonging to AIMIM was also involved in it.
The clip which found its way to social media went viral, forcing the police to act swiftly in nabbing the accused. The police, however, booked a case against the BJP MLA as well under section 228-A (disclosure of identity) as the clip revealed the identity of the minor girl.
Contradicting the police version that he had revealed the identity of the girl, Rao said it was released only to prove that the son of an MLA from AIMIM was also involved in the incident and police were trying to delink him from the case. Rao demanded that MLA’s son be arrested. Five accused have been arrested and are in police custody now. The police named the AIMIM MLA’s son as an accused in the case on Tuesday.
The investigation gained momentum only after BJP took up the case seriously. The BJP alleged that the TRS was trying to rescue the AIMIM MLA’s son.
The arrest of the first four accused and the recording of the statement of the victim before the magistrate under Section 164 of CRPC were seen as the result of the pressure on police to bring the perpetrators to justice. Police also seized the SUV while forensic experts took the samples that would play a key role in the investigation.
Subdued response from the public
Compared to the 2019 gang-rape-murder case, the response of the ruling party has been tepid in the Jubilee Hills gang-rape case, even though the Opposition has been vocal about the issue. What is conspicuously absent is also an emotional reaction from the public.
Except for the BJP cadre, nobody is visible on the streets as it happened in the Disha case. Why?
According to psychologist KL Niharika, many factors are involved in this. “The absence of pain-provocation, and sympathy-generation events is responsible for the subdued reaction. In Disha’s case, the media has enough material to play repeatedly – mostly material related to the cruelty involved in the crime. In the present case, the survivor is minor and there is a bar on revealing her identity. And she is not in the picture in any form. She did not even lodge the complaint. Such a scenario is not conducive to emotional outbursts. The notions about modern dress and pub might also have played a role in it,” Niharika told The Federal.
The subdued reaction was reportedly responsible for the tardy progress of the investigation in the first seven days.
Noted writer Kavini Aluri expressed apprehension that “politics is hijacking the case in absence of public anger.”
“Instead of demanding justice for the victim, political parties were using the tragic incident to settle scores. The survivor, who is a minor, cannot narrate her tale before the cameras. This should not make the case weak and give room for politics,” he told The Federal.
With more details of the incident coming out, pressure is mounting on the police to nab all the accused in the case. DYFI staged a dharna before the office of DGP on Monday, demanding action against the pub for allowing illegal activities. The youth wing of CPI(M) as well as Jana Sena president Pawan Kalyan have demanded the arrest of all the accused in the ghastly incident.