Jungle raj in Bihar?
Women are not safe; national panel
Amit Kumar Pandey
Bihar is in the grip of ‘jungle raj’. One may or may not agree with this conclusion of National Commission for Women member Charu Wali Khanna. But the fact remains that all is not well with women in Bihar, and for that matter in Jharkhand.
Almost every day newspapers come out with reports of rape or gang-rape of girls and women in the twin states of Bihar and Jharkhand. National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) figures for last year show that 56 per cent women in the age-group of 15-49 years in the state are subjected to physical and sexual violence. Bihar ranked second in the country, behind Uttar Pradesh, in kidnapping cases, dowry deaths and dowry-related crimes against women in the year 2011.
The picture in the tribal state is equally shocking. Jharkhand Human Rights report 2001-2010, compiled by the Jharkhand Human Rights Movement, revealed 7,563 reported rapes and 3,398 dowry atrocities n ten years after constitution of the new state on November 15, 2000. The report also cited 174 rapes on tribal women.
The NCRB figures released for Bihar in 2011 shows that there has been constant rise in the incidents of crimes, particularly in the last few years, against women in the NDA government, which has been credited with taking a lot of initiatives for woman empowerment. The recent incidents of gang rape reported from Aurangabad, Vaishali, Patna, Munger, Gaya, Nalanda and other districts have sent chill down the spine of the law enforcing agency. (It is beside the point that the husbands of woman mukhias and sarpanches rule the roost in Bihar, as Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh discovered to his horror.)
The NCRB data suggested that the crime rate against women has escalated from 6,186 cases in 2008 to 10,231 cases in 2011, an increase of about 65 per cent in just three years. While the young girls often complained of eve teasing and lewd comments, women allege of sexual harassment at their workplace. The cases of abduction of girls and women have also shown an upswing in the recent past. Fair sex contributed a whopping 71 per cent of the total kidnapping cases reported last year. Some 3050 cases of kidnapping of girls and women were reported in the state in 2011, an increase of about 104 per cent compared to the cases reported in 2008.The state recorded a total of 4268 cases of kidnapping in 2011 and ranked second in the country, after UP.
Though Opposition parties attributed the reason behind spurt in cases of crime against women to police’s insensitivity, top brass of the state police have a different view. “Due to improved law and order women don’t hesitate in coming out of their houses. They vehemently oppose unlawful activities and complain to the police”, said additional director general of police (headquarters) Ravinder Kumar.
Some 50 per cent women in Bihar are subjected to domestic violence at home. Pregnant women are the worst sufferers, according to the State Commission for Women. The main reasons are the desire for male child, resistance to female foeticide and denial of physical intimacy. The Commission sources said less than one per cent of these cases are reported to police.
According to police records, around 150 cases of violence against women get registered with different police stations every month in Patna district. After the creation of Mahila thana at Patna in June this year, only five cases have been registered. The Mahila thana officials said, “Initially, many women came to the police station, but later they got hesitant and despite all odds, decided to stay with their husbands due to financial insecurity”.
National Commission for Women member Charu Wali Khanna, who was in Patna to probe the gang-rape of a Class XI student at a flat in Rajvanshi Nagar, Patna, said the commission felt there was an emergency-like situation in Bihar. “There is no rule of law in Bihar as claimed by the state administration. Women are subjected to torture, raped and at times gang-raped. The law and order machinery is not only a mute spectator of the crime but is also working in collusion with the tormentors”, she said.
“Going through the complaints that I have received, it is obvious that jungle raj prevails in Bihar. What is shocking is that minor and young girls are the worst victims of the crime”, said Khanna. The stigma of ‘jungle raj’ is sure to touch a raw nerve in the state administration as the label has been used by the current NDA dispensation while referring to the erstwhile Lalu-Rabri regime.
On the Patna gang-rape, she said the police swung into action only after the intervention of the state women’s commission. “I met the victim. She is so traumatised that she needs immediate physiological counselling”, she said and added the girl is not willing to stay in Patna because of the social stigma.
Meantime, a murder accused has alleged that she was raped in a police station after the policemen made her drink tea mixed with sedatives. The woman was arrested on August 14 by Manjhi police. She shared her ordeal with the jail officials. The Chapra prison chief wrote to the civil surgeon for medical examination, which confirmed rape.
And a professor of Patna Commerce College has been put under suspension on the charge of molesting and harassing a girl student for over week. Reports say that the college principal tried to hush up the girl’s written complaint. But agitated students held violent demonstration and damaged college property. This incident brought the Magadh University vice-chancellor to the college. The concerned teacher was suspended and a probe ordered.
Yet another incident has put a big question mark on the role of state women commission in helping the victim women. A 25-year-old woman is struggling for life at the PMCH. She allegedly consumed poison after the commission members refused to receive her complaint against her husband and in-laws only because ‘the letter was not typed and did not carry the requisite fee. Here pops up a big question. Where should harassed women go for justice?