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Interview With Annie Raja

Interview With Annie Raja

Political will is important for implementation of anti-rape laws: Annie Raja

A national debate has begun after a stunning twist to gangrape cum murder of a vet doctor in Hyderabad, in which four rape accused were shot dead by a team of the Hyderabad Police in the wee hours of Friday, Dec 6.

A day earlier, a rape survivor was set on fire in Unnao in UP while she was going to a local court. The 23-year-old woman, who had filed a rape case against two men from her village in March, is battling for life at the time of filing this interview. All five men, including the two rape-accused, have been arrested by the police. The survivor has suffered 90% burn injuries.

Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) national secretary, Annie Raja, on the rise of rape cases in the country.

IC: What is your reaction to Hyderabad police killing four rape accused in a gangrape cum murder case of 27 year old vet doctor? The police claimed men killed in self-defence.

Annie Raja: It is incorrect to say that justice has been delivered. Justice can happen only when we are able to prevent rape cases. The vet doctor was gangraped and murdered due to poor law and order. Hence the encounter was pre-planned to avert public rage and save image because police was unable to handle uncomfortable questions like reasons behind rise in crimes against women or government failure to implement law.

The rape accused were in the police custody and there was no proof which could confirm that they were the real culprits. The police were in the process of collecting evidence. The suspects were without arms. The policemen are trained to hit bullet below ankle if an accused tries to flee. In this case no such thing happened. This reminds me of a Bhopal jailbreak case in 2016 in which all eight SIMI activists were killed in police encounter. However an FIR must be registered against the police and high level inquiry should be ordered into this encounter. The police cannot encounter in the name of women.

IC:  The violence against women is increasing by the day. Who is responsible for it, according to you?

Women's safety was one of the top agenda of the BJP in 2014 elections. But there is no safety for women in the country. It is a war like situation for them. The most surprising is reaction of several BJP ministers and leaders who came out in support of rapists. Kathua rape case is an example. BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj visited party colleague and lawmaker Kuldeep Singh Sengar, lodged in jail over charges of rape and murder in July. This shows the alleged involvement of BJP leaders or MLAs in crime against women in particular.

Emboldened by the actions of political leaders, people with criminal bend of mind do indulge in the criminal activity. Unnao incident was an example as rape accused attacked victim in a broad daylight and later burnt her. The situation is worsening.

IC: Why do you blame the BJP led NDA government for the rise in violence against women. In 2012 Congress led UPA was in power and Congress was in power in Delhi during the Nirbhaya case.

Post 2014, crimes against women have increased many times compared to pre 2014 days. So has the cruelty. Nowadays women are raped, murdered and burnt. The involvement of more BJP leaders in such crimes has come forth. There is no gender sensitivity among these leaders of the ruling party because of their patriarchal and feudal mindset.

IC: In a recent debate in Rajya Sabha Samajwadi party MP Jaya Bachchan has said the men who raped and murdered a 27-year-old vet in the city of Hyderabad should be "lynched". Another MP, Vijila Sathyananth of the AIADMK, said the four accused should be hanged before December 31. DMK's P Wilson said courts should be empowered to surgically and chemically castrate convicted rapists before they are released from jails so as to check repeat offenders.

I don't agree with these MPs as these suggestions sensationalised the issue. The Rajya Sabha debate focussed on death penalty for the rape accused. It is time to think why rapes are taking place despite stringent laws. Where are the lacunae? Are enough steps being taken to sensitize police and judiciary about women related laws? Merely making existing laws more stringent or suggesting death penalty for a rape accused will deter.

The need is to focus on prevention of crimes against women. Also there is a need to implement stringent laws in a proper way. The budgetary allocation is required for implementation of these laws. The political will and social commitment can help in preventing crimes against women.

IC: Amid growing concern over women’s safety, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has announced free police help to drop women safely home if they are stranded outside between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Do you welcome such initiative?

Attack on women does not happen in night. Unnao incident is latest example. The responsibility to provide dropping to women employees lies with employer of the company in night. The new labour code bills talk about permitting women to work beyond 7 pm and before 6 am subject to safety, holidays, working hours or any condition as prescribed by appropriate government in respect of prescribed establishments and only after taking their consent for night work. In the name of safety and security women will be deprived of job opportunity or right to employment.

IC: What are your suggestions for dealing with crimes against women?

There is a need to have proper system in place so that police can produce all evidence in courts for the courts to give verdict in time bound manner. That's how justice can be delivered without delay. It will create a sense of fear among the criminals. Fast track courts can deliver justice to victims of sexual assault. The government needs to increase budgetary allocation for implementation of anti-rape laws. Therefore, the political will is very important for implementation of anti-rape laws in the country.

(Published on 09th December 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 50)