Discrimi-Nation I: Northeastern Distress

Our Constitution makes us all equal, but India remains a land of all sorts of discrimination—caste, gender, religion, race. For all its melting pots and cosmopolitan bravado, New Delhi is no different. Thirteen years ago, Alana Golmei, a Ph.D. from Manipur, came to the Capital in search of a better life. Her story:

Every man and woman from the Northeast is distressed with the way they are treated in the capital city. They survive rapes, face sexual advances, brave physical assaults from locals and what have you. The worst-case scenario is for the girls who work late hours, or are employed at spas, massage parlours or other unconventional means to make a living.  My first job here was with a charity organisation in Nehru Place. I would commute from Dwarka to Nehru Place in a jam-packed bus. Men took opportunity whenever there was one to pass lewd comments or touch inappropriately. They would call me names (that I would prefer not to mention here as I still find them demeaning). Some bluntly made jokes about my Mongoloid features.  With poor job opportunities in Manipur and big responsibilities on my shoulders, I had come to Delhi in 2005. That was the time when there was a ban on women employment back home. Despite being a Ph.D in Sociology, I could not find a decent job. No matter how educated you were, in Manipur you would not get more than a ₹4,000-job to begin with.  Like every girl from the Northeast, I stepped out in want of a better financial future. I always wanted to teach. After coming to Delhi, I started applying to colleges. Not being well-versed in Hindi was a major handicap. I would be called for interviews, but the language barrier spoiled my prospects.   Harassment and racial slurs are common. I still believe that men and women from the northeastern part of the country are relatively more stylishly dressed. This is not to do with money or class; it is a cultural thing. And because we have a strong style statement, many people take us to be women of easy virtue.   On the rare occasions that I approached police, I could notice them jeering and sharing jokes about me with other colleagues right in front of me, for I didn’t know Hindi. Such experiences on a daily basis could break any aspiring youth. But the need for a better life and opportunity kept me going.  Two years after moving to Delhi, I met a group of boys and girls who shared their experiences of sexual abuse and racial slurs in Delhi. We decided to form a support group so that others from Northeast do not have to suffer what we did. Or at least, they have someone to approach for redressal of their issues. I soon realised the magnitude of the challenge before the group.   Our support group would constantly face threats from the locals for approaching police. The local community would even resist our intervention and help. People would not give us accommodation on rent; those who did would charge us more than water and electricity bills. Indecent advances were common even at the time of negotiations for housing or work.  Dealing with the police initially proved a huge challenge. They would not take our complaints seriously and more often found fault in our conduct. We often needed to pull strings to push the police take us seriously. But I find satisfaction in what I am doing now. Our foundation helps the community in distress and also assists them in the tiresome process at court or police station to get them justice. Apart from my job as a researcher, my regular day includes holding sensitization workshops with the locals and the police.  Political statements are one thing but we have to make people realise that the Northeast is a part of India and we are Indians, just like them.


(Alana Golmei, 42, is a researcher and the founder of the North East Support Centre & Helpline)

More from Discrimi-Nation
Part II: The Dalit life sentence
Part III: ‘Caste is a dormant volcano’


—With editorial assistance from Lokmarg




‘Kathua Rape Horror Reopened Our Wounds’

By Naresh Kumar

Gudiya still wakes up in the middle of the night, screaming: ‘Bacha lo varna woh mujhe maar daalenge (save me or they will kill me).’ These sleepless nights keep our trauma alive but the media coverage of the alleged gangrape and murder of the eight-year-old Kathua child has reopened our wounds as it reminds us of how our five-year-old daughter was kidnapped and brutally raped by two men who later slit her throat and left her to die. Miraculously, somehow, Gudiya survived.

Also Read: Delhi Court Convicts Two In 2013 Gudiya Rape Case

It took five surgeries to save her life as pieces of a candle and plastic bottle were extracted from her private parts. Her genital area was so damaged by the two monsters that she needed extensive reconstructive surgery.  

In April 2013, five-year-old Gudiya (name changed to protect identity) was abducted and brutally raped—allegedly by two men charged by the police later—in New Delhi’s Gandhi Nagar area. Gudiya had been missing for 40 hours before she was found.

 Five years have passed but there is no justice yet. One of the accused was released by establishing he was a minor with a hand-written letter from a Bihar schoolteacher, while the trial of the case is still going at a district court. Gudiya went missing on April 15, 2013.

My brother and I went to the Gandhi Nagar Police Station where we were made to sit till 3 am. Then the station in-charge curtly asked us to look for her ourselves. After two days of searching, we found her tied up and unconscious in the basement of a building. It was the most horrific sight of my life. No human could have done this.

She was lying naked and bleeding as they not only raped her but pushed inside candles and a bottle. The two monsters wanted to kill her and thus slit her throat. They locked her inside and fled, leaving her for dead. She was first treated at Swami Dayanand Hospital.

After the initial surgery, we took her to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences where four corrective surgeries were performed on her in less than a month. Gudiya’s case got media attention as it took place less than four months after the infamous gang-rape of December 16 , 2012.

Politicians, including Sonia Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Vijay Goel, Dr Harsh Vardhan, all came. Only Meira Kumar gave us money and came to inquire about Gudiya again. Everyone seems to have forgotten with time but we live with the trauma every day. Despite getting so much attention from the media and politicians our daughter’s case became another example of the apathetic attitude of government officials towards sex abuse survivors.

When she underwent surgery in mid-July 2013, Gudiya and her mother were kept in the YWCA Hostel at Connaught Place. Since it was a women’s hostel, we were not allowed in. After surgery, we were told to take Gudiya elsewhere. I requested them to give us a day, but they asked me to spend the night in a gurdwara instead.

We have shifted five houses after the incident but the horror of the case still haunts us. Wherever we went people knew our identity and only had bad comments to make. Now, we live in Gurgaon where nobody knows us, so far. Gudiya never talks about the incident and if anyone tries to talk to her, she simply closes her eyes.

Even in the court, she can’t utter a word. We also try to avoid talking about it. She now studies at a private school and dreams of becoming a doctor. She is happy with her school and new friends. While she is good at studies, she also loves to dance.

(Naresh Kumar (name changed to protect identity) is Gudiya’s father) — with editorial assistance from Lokmarg]]>


‘Our society hasn't changed after Nirbhaya’

By Asha Devi

Six years after my daughter was raped and murdered in a moving bus in the national capital on a cold December night, our society has not changed a bit. In fact, the situation has deteriorated as rapists have become more brutal now. They are worse than animals. They crush a five-year-old girl with a boulder after raping her; not even an animal does that. More worrying is the fact that such rapists are being defended by people in government, politicians, lawyers and even cops. In the Kathua case, a cop was involved. Where we will go when the protector becomes the predator? It is so disheartening that to divert attention from the gruesome crime they are also trying to give a communal colour to a five-year-old’s murder. Rape can never be communal. I can’t believe that a rape victim can be identified by her religion. That comes from politics. We have no options left. Our system has made us helpless; we have nowhere to go but to hit the streets for justice. In our country, a father goes to a chief minister’s residence seeking justice for his raped daughter but he gets beaten to death. What can we do now? It is sad to see that the ones who gave the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save our daughters, educate our daughters)’ slogan are now defending their own legislator in an alleged gang-rape case of a minor girl and her father’s custodial death. People now see hope in us but I can’t help thinking how little I can do for them when I have failed to get justice for my own daughter. Nirbhaya died in 2012 and after six years, we are still clueless when the accused will be hanged. Our pain and trauma is their politics, no matter which political party is in power. If they are serious, they should hold a one-day session in Parliament to discuss such brutal rape cases and find a solution. Even these politicians have daughters, mothers, and wives at home. Not even women politicians take up such issues; even they are quiet. TV debates are just more political blame-games. When there is a solution to everything, then why there is no solution for rape? After my daughter was brutalised, the politicians who were in the Opposition then had organised candlelight vigils and marches and had forced the government to make the law more stringent. How many daughters must we lose to get a stringent law that works? I demand that these criminals should be hanged. And, of course, there’s a Nirbhaya Fund. But who is using it and how is it being used? Who’s been benefited? I have got no response from the government so far. It is so shameful that people are questioning rape victims. I feel all these things are being done to divert attention. If they continue to ignore it, more such cases will happen. People in power are sleeping as poor people are getting raped but if they continue to stay quite sooner or later their own daughters will have to pay the price as these rapists are only getting bolder.
(Asha Devi is the mother of the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang-rape victim Nirbhaya, a horror that sparked a nationwide outrage then and led to a strengthening of the Indian Penal Code section on rape) — with editorial assistance from Lokmarg]]>

‘A Harsh Rape Law Is Only The Beginning’

By Sanjeev Jain

It was a gut-wrenching experience the first time I was part of the prosecution in a case relating to the rape of a minor. An eight-year-old girl visiting her grandmother in one of the Capital’s suburbs had been raped by a neighbour. It shocked everybody.

Now it seems to have become one of the usual crimes. It’s an epidemic out there. It just doesn’t stop, having mutated into several common forms now. One such horrible development is more cases of rape of minors, like the Kathua case.

The ordinance okayed by the Cabinet recently is a step in the right direction. Following the outcry after the Nirbhaya rape case of 2012, the law was strengthened to enlarge the definition of rape, bring juveniles above the age of 16 into the pale of the law for such cases, and fast track courts came up. I fully support the introduction of capital punishment where brutality or unnatural offences, especially in case of a minor’s rape, is established.

In cases where brutality is not established, punishment must still be severe, if not death. That did not really address the issue of police investigation, and more importantly, the appeal process. Even if trial courts ensure speedy trial, the appeal process becomes long-winded.

Look at the Nirbhaya case; this is the one that brought these legal issues to the foreground, but there’s still no closure yet. Now police probes and the trial have been set time limits, as has the appeal process. The higher quantum of sentence in cases of rape where the victim is of tender age, plus the fact that judges are to have a free hand to sentence convicts to prison for life in cases where the victim is below 12 are, in my view, long overdue corrections of the law.

It must be noted that making penal provisions harsher does not directly translate into reducing instances of rape. What it does is to empower the victim and society at large, raising the issue in the national consciousness and sending out the message that the law in the books is in step with the reality in the street. Of course, implementing the changed law will put the police and courts to the test.

Investigation and prosecution will have to rise to a whole new level, and that I chose to remain sceptical about, simply because such things are easier said than done in the creaky-giant systems of our country. And all this will require governments to spend large sums. A couple of things I want to draw attention to is what we lawyers have observed. First, the explosion in rape cases between former live-in partners and between people with active sexual relationships, including those who elope and those indulging in extra-marital sex.

Some lawyers even call these cases Facebook rape because social media is the new source for the growing number of rape cases. In my view, for rape cases figuring people with access and activity on social media, no less than half would be a ballpark figure for relationships gone wrong or where the family of the victim converts elopement into rape to avoid the stigma. I’m no sociologist, but maybe our society at large is not mature enough to handle the power and vitality of social media.

My point is that these cases do not reflect growing criminalisation of society; rather they are a symptom of a social change, a sexual ferment that is muddling to and fro across the lines of the law. With time and clear judgments, this is bound to be minimised. My other point is about rape of minors.

While sexual abuse of minors by family members or known persons is rampant across income levels, almost all of the brutal cases of minors being raped come from lower-income groups. A little child being raped by a neighbour in a slum is the most common kind. Read the papers and this will become evident. This high correlation needs to be addressed.

I would also add the growing amount of substance abuse, alcohol included, to the study of this problem. Most social scientists say there is little or no correlation between porn and rape, but I differ—the combination of poverty, drug abuse and easy availability of porn on mobile devices is an unholy mix. It’s time to cut through the political correctness and address the problems we see on a daily basis.

(Sanjeev Jain is a noted criminal lawyer in the southern part of the National Capital Region who has practiced for over three decades in four districts of Haryana) — with editorial assistance from Lokmarg]]>

Maneka favours death for rapists of minors

The Central government is planning to amend the law to ensure the death penalty for those convicted of raping children aged below 12, Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister Maneka Gandhi said on Friday. “I and the Ministry intend to bring an amendment to the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act…,” Gandhi said in a video message. This comes after the nationwide outrage over the rape of a minor girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir. Gandhi said she was “deeply disturbed” by the Kathua rape case and all other rape cases involving children. A Ministry official said: “We (the WCD Ministry) are working on an amendment and once finalised we will send it to the Law ministry. This is going to happen soon.” The official added that since Parliament is not in session, the government may bring an ordinance to implement the changes, considering the urgency of the situation. States like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have approved a bill for death penalty to those who rape girls below the age of 12. The POCSO Act came into force in 2012 and deals with sexual offences against those below 18 years of age. However, according to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, the Act is not applicable in Jammu and Kashmir and the WCD ministry has not spoken on whether the new law will also cover the state. In the Kathua case, eight people have been charged with the abduction, rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl from the Bakerwal community in Rasana village in January. Investigations have revealed that the girl was held in a temple, drugged, repeatedly raped and finally murdered to scare the nomadic Muslim community out of the village.


Sex with minor wife is rape now


Exception to Rape Struck Down Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code has an exception which allows a husband to have sexual relationship with his 15-year-old wife. The exception states: “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.” This is in conflict with the legal definition of a child in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 0f 2012, which sets the bar at 18 years of age. Another Blow to Child Marriage The exception to rape clause in the IPC has in effect been a proviso that allows child marriages. The legal age of marriage for girls is 18 in India, and breaking this law—The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act—invites punishment. Child marriage remains a social reality in India, however. Unicef estimates that 47 per cent of all girls are married before they are 18 and almost a fifth before they are 15.
  A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta — in separate but concurring judgements — said the exception was “arbitrary, discriminatory and capricious”. Justice Lokur said the exception has no rational nexus with the objective sought to be achieved by the different statutes. Describing as artificial the distinction between minor girl and a minor girl in child marriage, Justice Lokur said it was contrary to the philosophy of many statutes like Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The court also urged the Centre and the state governments to take proactive steps to discourage child marriages. Justice Gupta said the exception carved out in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code was violative of Article 14, Article 15 and Article 21 of the Constitution. (With IANS) // ]]>