Nilanjana S. Roy in NYT:
On July 9, a teenage girl in Guwahati, in the northeastern state of Assam, stepped out of Club Mint on the crowded G.S. Road after an evening out with her friends. Part of what happened next was recorded by a television crew that arrived on the scene after receiving reports of an assault.
A group of 10, perhaps 15, men surrounded the girl, beating and stripping her for the next 20 minutes. By the time the television crew and the police showed up, the mob had grown to about 40 men. There was an immediate demand by the public that the girl’s attackers be found and prosecuted. After questions were raised about the television station’s recording and broadcasting of the assault footage, two of its reporters resigned on Tuesday.
The widespread anger over the incident — and sympathy for the girl — are genuine, and yet few seem to recall the outcome of a similarly horrific case on New Year’s Eve 2008 in Mumbai. Two women were alleged to have been attacked by 14 men as they left the Marriott Hotel with their friends. When the police arrived, the mob assaulting the women as they lay pinned down on the ground had grown to more than 50 men. In the years since then, victims of such attacks may receive more public support, but not necessarily more justice. The suspects in the 2008 case are free on bail, and the case has yet to be resolved.
Rape and sexual assault are among the fastest-growing reported crimes in India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. Rape also has a plunging conviction rate, with only 26.5 percent of reported rapes successfully prosecuted in 2010. And the response from the authorities across India has been strikingly obtuse. As public anger grew over the Guwahati attack, the police responded by declaring that bars in the city should shut down by 10 p.m. The announcement was widely seen as an attempt to distract attention from their own shortcomings in handling the case. More:
The death of Kali
Samar Halarnkar in Hindustan Times:
First, the moral failures of emerging India. The girl fails every test of the hypocrisy that governs public logic: she goes to a bar; she gets into an argument with some men, possibly shaming a man trying to film her; she walks out alone. The mob outside passes every test of public immorality: on the shamed man’s urging, men – seemingly normal men with jobs and no criminal records – drag the girl by her hair onto the street; many watch, no one intervenes, except for an older man; 20 men join the assault. A journalist at the scene, perhaps the same man who bickered with her, instead of calling the police, calls in a camera crew. The girl is barely home before her trauma is broadcast on television.
Second, the governance failures. The first calls to a local police station go unanswered, and the station house officer is suspended for dereliction of duty but only after national attention. The search for suspects does not get underway after the broadcast of the assault. It starts nearly two days later, after the video goes viral and posters of the assailants appear in Guwahati. Only after the video hits national television do the police chief and a deputy make public statements, deeply insensitive ones (chief – the police are not an ATM machine dispensing instant service; deputy – a “stray incident hyped by the national media”). The government reacts to the outrage with strange, tired logic, ordering a 10 pm shutdown for Guwahati’s 127 bars, never mind that the assault occurred just after 9 pm. To calm the victim, the National Commission of Women (NCW) sends a representative, who promptly reveals the girl’s name. The chief minister does the same, even emailing photos of his meeting with the girl to the media. Later, the NCW chief cautions women to be “careful” of how they dress because “such incidents are a result of blindly aping the West”, and the CM now sees the assault as “a conspiracy” against his government.
We know that India is the land of Sita, Draupadi, Lakshmi and a pantheon of divine sisters. We also know it is no country for women. We point to all the wonderful things that the Gita, the Koran, the Bible and the Granth Sahib say about women. Then we, Indian men, set unwritten limits for our women, and if they do not stay within those limits, we perpetrate the worst abuses against them. Almost any woman is fair game, but if the woman appears independent, confidant and articulate, she must not escape. If Kali – the goddess with the big attitude – lived among us, she would be an especially tempting target. More:
The dark shadow of impunity
Sanjoy Hazarika in The Hindu
For decades, the northeast rightly prided itself on the equality it shows to women compared to many other parts of India, forming part of a “unique” image. The recent incident and others show that the social fabric is not just under stress but is being torn apart, especially in its urban centres, where new trends extolling violence and lawlessness have taken root.
Take the following events: On November 27, 2007, a young Adivasi woman, who was involved in a protest march demanding rights, was stripped and chased in broad daylight through the streets of Guwahati by groups of thugs who filmed her. The media, as in the recent case, also filmed the horror and broadcast it. The leering faces of the perpetrators were captured on camera. There was an outcry then too. The young woman, who was saved by an elderly man who wrapped her in a cloth, was 17 years old at the time. Only three persons were arrested although dozens were involved.
Four major incidents have been reported since then, including the most recent assault on the teenager on July 10. Three of these took place in Guwahati. How many remain unreported one does not know. More: