Grave lapses in police functioning

The alleged gang-rape and death of a Dalit teenager from UP’s Hathras district has  turned the spotlight on grave lapses in police functioning.  In Hathras many aspects of the police’s treatment of the victim, her family, media and protesters have been reprehensible.
The suspension of the SP and other police officers there shows that the state itself accepts this. But will their suspension prevent the next Hathras from happening? After all, there are structural flaws in the police that lead to two mutually reinforcing trends: Criminalisation of politics and politicisation of crime. Unless these flaws are addressed, India’s constitutional vision will not materialise for many people. The Hathras episode has, once again, exposed the vulnerable state of women in India, especially those from marginalised social groups, and the challenges in ensuring their safety and obtaining justice.
Justice JS Verma Committee, which recommended amend-ments to the criminal law to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault against women.  On the positive side, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, amended the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, on laws related to sexual offences. But cases such as Hathras are a reminder that ensuring social, institutional and structural changes on the ground will be more difficult than making changes on paper.
In recent decades, a middle class has emerged within Dalits, thanks to education and government jobs through the reservation. On the other hand, an underclass has emerged from within upper castes. This segment, simmering with anger, blames Dalits, the Constitution, and Ambedkar as reasons for their fall. Remember at many places in Uttar Pradesh, Ambedkar statues are caged with iron rods.
In the past when ‘caste society’ chased Dalits, the government sheltered them. Today UP CM Adityanath seems to be representing caste society more than representing the government. Caste society and government have dissolved into one, a complete subversion of the electoral mandate.

- Prabhakar Purandare

Other Editorials