Last Thursday’s gangrape of a 22-year-old photo journalist in Mumbai was the latest in a long list of atrocities perpetrated on women in what is considered India’s thriving commercial capital.
The figures speak for themselves. Last year, rape and child rape cases increased to 8 per cent and 12 per cent respectively over 2011 in the city. Violent crimes surged by 13.1 per cent. The slum dwellers who raped the photographer called themselves “raat ki badshah” (kings of the night). In their perverse kingdom, women and girls were chattel to be violated at will, and discarded without a thought. Cynicism and utter lack of remorse marked the behaviour of the rapists: one of the criminals, Abdul, wanted to capitalise on the Delhi gangrape case by arguing that he was a minor. No regret showed in the drug addict’s demeanour as he stood in the dock of Bhoiwada court, yawning through the proceedings.
Similar kings of the night have made Maharashtra’s rape graph go vertical every year; in 2012, 1,839 rape cases were registered—a 8.11 per cent rise from the corresponding period in 2011. The increase in sexual harassment cases in 2012 was 20.82 per cent compared to the previous year. Mumbai leads the state in sexual harassment; of the 1,294 cases reported across Maharashtra in 2012, 235 were from Mumbai, followed by 85 in Pune. Mumbai police statistics reveal that 3,935 cases of crime against women were registered in the city, while Thane had 203 and Amravati 154.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, on the occasion of the release of the state’s annual crime statistics last Friday, warned that crime has “gone up drastically in Maharashtra in recent times with the prices of gold, silver and precious stones rising.” Home Minister R R Patil gave a statistical spin by attributing it to the police registering more cases. “Our force has done a fine job of registering crime efficiently,” he said there.
The horrifying tales emerging from Mumbai’s dark side have shocked many of its residents. A few months ago, a six-year-old boy was kidnapped by the attendant of his school bus, taken to a hotel and sodomised. A 16-year-old girl was allegedly kidnapped and raped by two men who invited her to a birthday party. A 25-year-old woman’s face was disfigured in an acid attack on a Mumbai railway platform last week. Three cases of fathers raping daughters were registered in Mumbai last week alone. The number of women raped after promises of marriage went up from 35 in 2011 to 63 in 2012.
The ‘India 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report: Mumbai’ blames the rise in crime rate on the city police lacking necessary staff to combat the menace. Mumbai Police has 33,000 officers, or 165 for every 100,000 citizens—20 per cent less than sanctioned. The recommended global standard is 222 cops per 100,000 citizens. Besides rape and other crimes against women, Mumbai recorded a 65 per cent rise in kidnapping, with 149 cases registered in 2013 against 90 in 2012 as well.
Tragically, conviction rates are low in Mumbai; in sexual harassment and molestation cases, only 5.4 and 7.7 per cent respectively have been sent to jail. Rape and murder cases have a dismal conviction rate of 10 per cent. In Maharashtra itself, the conviction rate was a mere 9.2 per cent for 2011, while the national average that year was 38 per cent. “The rate of conviction had gone down to 9.2 per cent in 2011,” Maharashtra DGP Sanjeev Dayal had remarked at the crime report release function. “But it reached 15.1 per cent in March 2013.”
A Maharashtra Criminal Investigation Department report shows that infanticide and female foeticide was up by 267 per cent and 83 per cent respectively in 2012 compared to 2011. In 2012, 2.02 lakh crimes were registered in Maharashtra. The report reveals that in Mumbai alone, compared to last year, robberies are up by 142.2 per cent and culpable homicide by 125 per cent in cases registered under the Indian Penal Code. Thirty eight per cent of all cases registered in Maharashtra’s nine commissionerates are in Mumbai. The city also witnessed the highest number of murder and robbery cases in the state.
Political parties have blamed climbing immigration rates and a burgeoning population for the rise in crime. Mumbai’s crime rate (crimes per 100,000 people) is abnormally high—245, much higher than Maharashtra’s average of 177.
In 2012, 333,680 cognisable crimes were registered in Maharashtra. Mumbai had the highest number of criminal cases: 215 murders, 1131 robberies, 2,500 burglaries, 2,500 breaking and entering, 10,851 thefts, 564 criminal breach of trust cases, 1,827 cases of cheating and 48 counterfeiting cases. The gangrape has outraged Mumbai’s ordinary citizens who vented their frustration on Twitter. “Someone once told me, “No place is safe for women” I had argued calling Mumbai the safest. Today, i take my words back,” tweeted Momita. Kavita Krishnan messaged that “A woman in Mumbai at 7 pm cant do her job anymore without fear of gangrape? Mayb city cops shd focus on rapists instead of pubs?” Mumbai citizens on television said that it is becoming like Delhi, called India’s rape capital. Meanwhile, the capital lives up to its ghastly reputation. Until June 2013, 806 rape cases were registered in Delhi—a 330 per cent increase, in spite of the outcry over the gangrape that shook India.
The sexual predators continue to circle Mumbai’s darkened sky. Last year, a 13-year-old girl was reported raped on a local train. It was not that the train—local trains are considered one of the safest modes of travel for Mumbai’s women—was empty; or the rapist was a strong young man. There were reportedly many men in the compartment the girl was travelling in, and the perpetrator was a drug addict, like those who gangraped the photojournalist. They watched the rape like urban porn coming to life, and turned the rapist over to the cops after he finished. The girl was abandoned on a railway platform. The voice of Mumbai has been identified with its professionals, artists, advertising gurus and of course ubiquitous Bollywood. The rape in Shakti Mills has brought the reality closer home. For Mumbai’s women, it is a night without end.