People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 35

September 01,2013

AIDWA-DYFI-SFI Demo in Mumbai Condemns Gang Rape

Mariam Dhawale 

ONCE again our country has been sharply reminded of the horrendous violence inflicted on women. Eight months ago the Delhi gang rape victim lost her life due to the cruelty she was subjected to by the barbaric criminals. Now in Mumbai, thousands of people are again protesting against a government incapable of protecting its citizens, especially women.

Angry outbursts spilled on to the streets against the brutal gang rape of a young photo-journalist in Mumbai. Five anti-social elements who have now been arrested brutally gang raped the photo-journalist and assaulted her male colleague in the dilapidated Shakti Mill compound in Central Mumbai on the evening of August 22. The young professional had gone to these premises with her colleague on a work assignment. The Shakti Mill has been closed since 1981 and now lies in ruins.

On August 24, the AIDWA-DYFI-SFI jointly organised a protest march of hundreds of women, students and youth from Lower Parel to the N M Joshi Marg police station in the same Central Mumbai area against this brutality. Activists of the Coordination Committee of Working Women (CITU), BEFI and Forward Seamen’s Union also participated in this protest. Shouting slogans demanding strict action against the culprits and protection and support to the survivor and her colleague, the march culminated in a demonstration outside the N M Joshi Marg police station.

A delegation comprising AIDWA state secretary Sonya Gill, state president Mariam Dhawale, Mumbai district president Pramila Manjalkar, Mumbai district secretary Saroja Swami, DYFI state secretary Preethy Shekhar, Mumbai district secretary Adv Pradip Salvi, SFI Mumbai district president Trupti Nikalje and Mumbai district secretary Vimlesh Rajbhar submitted a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner of Police Vinayak Jadhav and ACP Vivek Katkade.

Shocking facts about the performance of the N M Joshi Marg police station were revealed when a citizen obtained information through an RTI query. 91 cases of crimes against women were registered in this police station in the period 2006 to 2012. Of the 91 cases, inquiries have been conducted in only 32. Of these 32 cases, there has been conviction in only 8 and acquittal in 18 cases. Inquiries are yet to begin in nearly 60 percent of the cases. The delegation placed these figures before the above officers and demanded an explanation. Was any review ever taken of this dismal performance and what was the action taken? The officers could not give any satisfactory answers.

Later the demonstration was addressed by Sonya Gill, Mariam Dhawale, Adv Armaity Irani, Sugandhi Francis, Pravin Manjalkar, Kusum Suradkar and Sadiq Basha.

Mumbai has had a long tradition of women going out for education and work. Lakhs of women in Mumbai participate in income-generating activities ranging from office-goers to domestic workers. Lakhs of middle class families live in the distant surburbs of Mumbai and in the neighbouring cities of Thane district. Women often have to return home from work late at night. This is a regular phenomenon in Mumbai.

The Mumbai police force and the Maharashtra state government have failed to create the security infrastructure and to institute the required measures to ensure strong deterrence to rising crimes against women. The casual and insensitive approach to a range of crimes against women shown in local police stations, shoddy investigation and abysmal conviction rates have all contributed to the committing of frequent, brazen assaults on women. Shoddy investigations often make it easy for culprits to get bail and walk free at the end of a trial.

In many cases of acquittals, the State has been seen to make only half-hearted attempts to petition a higher court for review. No one is held accountable when such criminals go scot-free. After such acquittals, the victim lives a life constantly under threat. These crimes are also part of the general deterioration of law and order in the state for which the state government and the home minister must be held answerable.

According to figures put out by the State Crime Records Bureau of the Criminal Investigation Department, in 2011, Mumbai got the dubious distinction of having the highest number of rape cases (221) in Maharashtra. Also reported in the city were 553 molestation cases, 162 sexual harassment cases and 191 cases under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act. There has been a 15 per cent rise in rape cases and 14 per cent rise in cases of molestation.

Though Delhi retains its ignominious tag of ‘India’s rape capital’, Mumbai is fast losing its reputation as a city that is significantly safer for women. Mumbai is trailing New Delhi closely, with crimes against women continuing unabated in the commercial capital of the country. Mumbai has recorded 122 percent rise in cases of crimes against women in the first five months of 2013 as compared to the corresponding period in 2012. Every day brings a more horrid story in the city, once known to be safe for women.

An acid attack on a physiotherapist in Worli, the rape of a Spanish national in Bandra, the harassment of a girl in Dombivli, the attack on a young woman in broad daylight in Dadar, the knifing to death of a college girl in Bandra due to a so-called ‘one-sided love affair’, or the assault on an American national in the first class compartment of a local train, Mumbai has been waking up to reports of macabre crimes against women very often. Unfortunately, the rest of Maharashtra has been following Mumbai’s lead in this matter.

The increasingly violent and degrading sexual practices depicted on easily accessible pornographic sites on the internet, the commodification of women’s bodies and glorification of demeaning images in the media, the identification of women’s bodies with sex repeated in song picturisations, advertisements and remixes, all contribute to the increasing equation of women’s bodies with male gratification and certainly lead to the increasing sexual harassment of women and young girls.

Heinous crimes against women during communal riots and caste atrocities have been well documented, especially in the communal riots ignited by the Shiv Sena in Mumbai in 1992-93 and by the BJP state government led by Narendra Modi in Gujarat in 2002. The killing of the young girl Ishrat Jahan from Mumbra in Thane district by the same government in a fake encounter in Ahmedabad in 2004 is also part of the same terrible story. In the horrific caste atrocity at Khairlanji in the Bhandara district of Maharashtra in 2006, two Dalit women – Surekha Bhotmange and her daughter – were savagely mauled and killed. For all manner of reactionary forces, the body of a woman thus becomes a site to take revenge.

The entrenchment of caste and communal identity has resulted in a greater intolerance to self-choice, inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. Young men and women have been killed because they dared to defy existing social codes. The ‘Talibani’ Khap (caste) panchayats run parallel courts ordering ‘honour killings’, blatantly flouting all laws in the land. This phenomenon of ‘honour killings’, too, has begun in Maharashtra in recent years. It is imperative that the State intervenes to uphold the fundamental right of such couples and metes out strict punishment to the perpetrators of such crimes. This has to be accompanied by a deep and widespread campaign to root out the caste system.

With all the talk of growth and progress, the neo-liberal process is actually resulting in a greater and greater devaluation of human life, with women and children, particularly from poor and marginalised sections having to bear the brunt. Globalisation, market economy, maximisation of profits at any cost, growing consumerist culture and commodification, coming on top of entrenched obscurantist, patriarchal and feudal attitudes, has led to an increase in the attacks on women and to their insecurity in domestic and public life.

The AIDWA, DYFI and SFI have resolved to broaden and intensify their campaign against all forms of violence against women and to strengthen the struggle for a just and equal society.