Date: December 16, 2012
Victim: Nirbhaya (Jyoti Singh)
A paramedical student, gang-raped and brutally assaulted by six men in a private bus, was thrown out of the moving vehicle along with her male friend. In their brutal act, the convicts damaged her internal organs using an iron rod. She died a painful death in a hospital in Singapore 13 days after she was viciously attacked.
Nirbhaya's death shook the conscience of the nation and it wanted to change, like never before. This led to the creation of a new law when, in 2013, the Anti-Rape Bill, later called the Nirbhaya Act, came into existence.
The new law mandated death penalty under Section 376A of the Indian Penal Code. It was thought that this law would act as a deterrent and that it would revolutionise the country, as far as the issue of women's safety was concerned.
The Nirbhaya case also became a turning point for the UPA government, as people across the country came out on the streets to protest against its inability to check crimes against women. The main opposition party, BJP, used the people's anger to come up with a slogan that said “bahut hua naari par atyachaar, abki baar Modi sarkar”.
In the 2014 general elections, people threw the Manmohan Singh government out of power and brought in the more "muscular" Narendra Modi government.
A new tough law in 2013 and a "strong government" in 2014 should have checked crimes against women. But has it happened? Are women safe in India now?
Date: May 9, 2017
A new tough law in 2013 and a "strong government" in 2014 should have checked crime against women. But has it happened?
A 23-year-old woman went missing from Sonipat on May 9 and was gangraped and brutally murdered. Her body was found near the Industrial Model Township in Urban Estate, Rohtak, on May 11. Stray dogs had bitten off the face and the lower portion of her body.
An autopsy of the victim showed that the woman’s skull had been shattered and “some sharp-edged objects" may have been inserted into her private parts.
The sheer brutality of the crime in the Rohtak rape is reminiscent of the Nirbhaya incident in Delhi, which triggered nation-wide outrage. Many of the worst aspects of the 2012 murderous rape of Nirbhaya were found to have been repeated.
This is not a sporadic case. Let us look at data from Delhi - the epicentre of the Nirbhaya rape protest movement. The data shows that, contrary to expectations, under a new government and with a new law, the number of rapes has in fact gone up in the capital of India.
Rape cases in Delhi
|2017 (till March 15)
(Source: Delhi Police)
Now let us look at the all India figures. Like Delhi, the national figures of rape too went up substantially in 2015, if compared with the 2012 data.
Rape cases in India
And worst of all, despite having a new law and a new government, the conviction rate in rape cases too has gone down substantially in Delhi, where maintenance of law and order is considered to be better than in other parts of the country. While in 2012 the conviction rate in rape cases was over 49 per cent, it went down to around 29 per cent in 2015.
According to Delhi Police data, the conviction rate in the capital, between 2012 and 2015, went up marginally by 5.4 per cent in 2015.
(Source: Delhi Police)
Laws have been enacted for women's safety. Modern technology has been used to bolster the safety of women and apps have been specially created for the purpose. A powerful, assertive government is in power with majority, one that promises to crack down mercilessly on those that break the law.
The Narendra Modi government also promised to ensure punishment for those who are convicted.
But from Nirbhaya to Rohtak, nothing has really changed on the ground. The need of the hour is to make women safe in India again. The government and law enforcement agencies should accept their failure, introspect about their shortcomings, plug loopholes and make India safe for women because only then will there be proof that "ab ki bar, Modi sarkar" is different from governments of the past.
Only then will the people of India again put their trust in the words of a politician. Till then, it still remains in the realm of hyperbole that women are safe in Modi's India.