The Disha Rape Case, Hyderabad India

On November 27th in the Indian city of Hyderabad a bright young woman’s life was savagely put to an end as she was gang-raped and murdered by four men. The perpetrators then proceeded to set her body ablaze in a cruel attempt to destroy any evidence of their heinous crime. As per police reports the crime was cold and calculated. Here, Washington Post online has explained that the victim was spotted by the perpetrators in the evening as ‘she parked her scooter nearby and went to a dermatology appointment… whilst she was gone they deflated her tire and made a plan to assault her.’  In addition to causing mass outrage, the crime has bought to the forefront the issue of poor police practice and lack of responsiveness. The police officers concerned have been suspended. As it is prohibited under Indian law to publicly release the names and identities of victims, the media and the Indian public alike have named this courageous young woman ‘Disha which means direction.’

In a country where such brutal rapes are not an uncommon occurrence, the crime has forced politicians to acknowledge and discuss inadequacies in both Indian law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Indeed, “Telegana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao promised an exclusive fast-track court to bring the offenders to book.” Calls have also been made for the enactment of tougher and unforgiving laws for rapists.  The anger, outrage and distress spurred by the brutality have given rise to calls for the enactment the death penalty. This is a sentiment collectively shared by both the Indian public and politicians.

Unfortunately, it is clear that despite it being common knowledge that women and girls in India are vulnerable and at risk of horrific sexual violence, a fact which has been reiterated through statistics and the international and domestic media alike, that Indian police are yet to possibly realize the gravity of the situation and arguably their place as law enforcers. In order to protect the lives of women and girls in the Indian sub-continent, it is important that police protocol be subject to change and reform. Further, it also appears clear that Indian police are in need of further training and development opportunities through which they are better able to respond to reports of crime by worried loved ones, as opposed to turning to the use of bullying antics and victim shaming which allegedly occurred in multiple instances.

Swift legislative action following this unfathomable crime has resulted in the “‘Andra Pradesh Assembly passing the Andra Pradesh Disha Bill 2019 (Andra Pradesh Criminal Law Amendment Act 2019) which awards death sentences to convicts in rape cases within 21 days.” Whilst this is a commendable move as it reiterates that the safety and lives of women and girls are second to none, it is also contended here that the exercise of greater vigilance by the police force would be crucial to the protection of women and girls in the future. On this point, ‘the uncle of the victim’ has also firmly scrutinized the inadequacies present in Indian law enforcement by stating that, ‘Making laws is one thing and implementing them is another. In India, there are many laws but there is a failure at the implementation stage.’  National progress cannot be made without safeguarding the security of women and girls. National progress cannot be fully realized without the presence of a strong and iron-fist like police force and judiciary. It is clear that India as a nation stands strong against sexual violence. However, the same is needed collectively from the Indian police force. India is a growing nation, in need of more female leaders, politicians and academics but how can such come to be when the lives of women and girls are in grave danger and can come to such an unnatural and unjust end.

Nat Kumar