Being a woman and moving around in Akhilesh Yadav's Uttar Pradesh seems to be a mortally scaring thought.
While union home ministry records show that rape cases in India's most populous state of over 200 million people, which sends the largest number of 80 lawmakers to the national parliament, have seen a quantum jump of 55 percent over the previous year, the state government and the police force, possiblyl the largest in the country and pathetic by all standards, continues to drag its feet in one-line statements and knee-jerk reactions of setting up teams and taking the PR route of CM blasted officials, probe is in the right direction.
Sadly, the ground reality is drastically different.
Sample this: The nude, bloodied and badly brutalized body of a 32-year-old woman was found Thursday morning in the premises of a government primary school at Balsinghkheda Mohanlalganj near Lucknow, at a place just a few kilometres from where former US president Bill Clinton was to arrive. None of the senior officials rushed to the spot.
For policemen, the recovery of bodies is a routine thing, says DIG (Lucknow) Navneit Sikera who while talking to IANS said he failed to realize the proportion of the crime when informed of it early Thursday morning.
I thought it is just another intimation of a dead body being recovered, he mused while also justifying his absence from the crime scene for well over 24 hours.
For a man who endlessly speaks of his 1090 women's powerline initiative, Sikera offers a feeble explanation - he was busy supervising the high-profile visit of Clinton as was the nodal officer for the security liason!
His beaming and smiling pictures on the Clinton-Akhilesh Yadav meeting sadly bore testimony to his misplaced and hyped concern about women's safety.
Even as horrifying pictures of nude woman and blood splattered all around were online doing the rounds and on applications like Whatsapp, all district police officers, barring the inspector and sub-inspector of Mohanlalganj were busy with the high-profile visit and other errands.
Little has anyone explained so far why the police did not even have the basic decency and duty of wrapping up the victim in a sheet of cloth and preventing mobile phone users take her pictures with complete impunity to laid down norms. And now police said they will arrest people found posting these pictures on social networking sites.
The crime scene was not secured and curious onlookers and angry villagers were allowed to trample upon crucial pieces of evidence. Rains completed the callous handling of the ghastly crime.
The police also botched up on initial leads as forensic teams, dog squads and fingerprint experts were brought to the crime scene many hours later. No wonder that so far the only lead with the police are that more than one person was involved in the crime.
Sunday the police even reversed its earlier theories and said that the crime was committed by one single person - a sex-obsessed private security guard, and that there was no gang rape, neither rape.
And the severe wounds on the body of the victim, that shook people inside out, ADG Sutapa Sanyal, overseeing the probe, told media persons were inflicted by the motorcycle key!!
As if the police flip-flops were not enough, comments made by Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, his brother and UP's PWD minister Shivpal Singh Yadav and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Agarawal added insult to injury.
Turning the debate into statistics, Yadav said UP had lowest crimes against women and justaxposed it to the 21 crore population. His brother and MP too attributed such crimes to rising population!
As heart-rending details of the incident emerge, the anger only grows for many women activists in the city. The rape victim was a widow who tragically lost her young husband a few years back to a kidney ailment. She donated him a kidney but failed to save him.
She then got a job of Rs.4,500 as a lab technician in place of her husband - a job which enabled her to bring up her 13-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter. The father of the dead woman broke down many-a-time after identifying her body.
She never had happy times in her life, he recounted as tears rolled down his wrinkled cheeks.
Worried about the future of his grandchildren and horrified at the fate of his daughter, he said he had often asked her to leave the job and come home, only to be told that she had a dream to realize!
Little did she know that this was Uttar Pradesh, a land where dreams turn into nightmares in no time. Investigations reveal, she was lured by security guard Ram Sevak Yadav masquerading as a property dealer. The victim was desperately looking for a flat on rent for her children.
State Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Laxmikant Bajpai said that since the May 28 Badaun incident, more than 208 rapes have taken place in the state.
While incidents like this shake the collective conscience of the society for some time I am aghast at the fact that despite repeated cases, the state government seems to be living in a denial mode, Bajpai said.
Madhu Garg, a prominent woman rights activist in the state capital, said her head hangs in shame and her heart goes out to the victims and their families.
This is the limit of brutality and numbs your senses on how animal instincts take over someone, she said while recalling how badly the Balsinghkheda Mohanlalganj victim was injured, had bled and had mutilated private parts.
Doctors who conducted the post-mortem examination said they were shocked to see the injuries, which clearly were much more than those to Nirbhaya, the Delhi gang-rape victim.
What is even more shocking is the attitude of police, said Roop Rekha Verma, a prominent social activist and former vice chancellor of Lucknow University.
In many instances, the police does not even register cases, she said.
Government officials, however, said that all was being done and that a separate cells for dealing with crimes against women were being created in all districts and that security was being stepped up. This seems too little in a vast state like Uttar Pradesh, muse others.
While some may feel that I am swayed away by the latest incident, I must admit I am.
Anyone who saw the crime scene would have been.
But I am also a concerned parent, a family man whose heart shudders everytime women of our family step out of the house.
I, like many other concerned people, want the government to send chills down the spines of criminals and allow peace-loving citizens to move around freely and without fear!
(Mohit Dubey is the IANS UP correspondent. The views expressed are his personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])
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