More than 1,300 of the 1,723 rape and attempt to rape cases registered in Uttar Pradesh in the last 10 months are from villages and small towns, prompting a worried Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to write to all panchayat heads in the state. Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat had clearly not looked at Uttar Pradesh when he made his comment that there are more rapes in India than Bharat. In fact, in India’s most populous state’s ‘Bharat’ segment, there are so many incidents of crimes against women that Akhilesh Yadav has taken the decision to approach village heads directly.
The letter, which is currently being drafted and is likely to go out by month-end, will ask panchayats not only to educate girls and women but also to tackle reckless young men, a senior official told IANS. With the global spotlight on the vulnerability of women in India, after the Dec 16 Delhi gang-rape the Uttar Pradesh government is also examining its own record.
Women’s helpline 1090 has reported a staggering 200,000 complaints in just four months. Navneet Sikera, deputy inspector general of police (DIG) and in-charge of the helpline, told IANS that crimes against women had ‘nothing to do with geography’ and was ‘all pervasive’. Of the 4,917 rapes committed in Uttar Pradesh in the last three years, more than 3,421 have been reported from villages.
Conviction rates are low. Official statistics reveal that 13,263 cases of rape are being heard in various sessions courts across the state. In the last three months, 563 have concluded with 40 percent accused convicted of the crime. In many cases, officials say, the eyewitness turns hostile, leading to the acquittal of the accused.
In the last one week alone, 70 percent of the rapes, gang-rapes and harassment reported with the state police have come from villages and small towns. In this week alone, three gang-rapes have taken place in the state, all in rural areas — in Sikandararau in Hathras, Dhanapur in Chandauli and Banthra in Lucknow. The Delhi gang-rape of a physiotherapy intern has opened a Pandora’s Box of horrors, say officials. Maybe because more cases are being reported. The horrific details have numbed even the most hardened cops.
In the Dhanapur gang-rape Wednesday, for instance, a 13-year-old girl was viciously assaulted, beaten up and left profusely bleeding in a farm. In Hathras, a Dalit grandmother was Monday raped by eight people who cut her lips when she resisted. The men, who broke into her home, first beat up the husband and their grandson before tying them up. After this, they raped her for hours, beating her with iron rods and cutting her lips.
Rattled by the ‘flood of sexual offences’, state Director General of Police A.C. Sharma has written to heads of educational institutions, informing them about the women’s helpline and other platforms available for women in distress. The Primary Education Council of the Uttar Pradesh government has also decided to enroll, on a temporary basis, judo-karate instructors at Rs.300 per day to teach girls in primary schools self-defence. A letter to this effect has been sent to all higher primary government schools and Kasturba Gandhi girls schools by the state director of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan Atul Kumar. Under the scheme, instructors would impart the judo-karate training to girls in schools for three days in a week. A list of all such schools has to be submitted to the state headquarters by Jan 25.
But activists say nothing much seems to be happening on the ground. According to women’s rights activist Aarti Mishra, police have failed completely in protecting women. ‘It is a shame; rather than ensuring a feeling of security amongst women after the New Delhi gang-rape, we have been left open as easy fodder,’ she said.