Women’s safety still a far cry in Kejriwal’s Delhi

17 January 2014 | 2214 IST | Shruti Kohli | NEW DELHI

shruti-kohliMaking Delhi safe for women is not an easy task. On one hand, there is the problem of a huge floating population and porous borders. On the other hand, there is the deeply embedded anti-women approach. And then, there is the monstrous problem of a corrupt and laggard police force.

 

Whenever there will be a rape in Delhi, former chief minister Sheila Dikshit’s remarks, which she made reacting to the protests in the wake of the 16 December 2012 gang rape of a 23-year-old paramedic, will echo in the polluted airs of Delhi, at least over the next half a century if not more. She had expressed her helplessness in controlling sexual crime against women in Delhi because the Delhi Police was not under her jurisdiction. We slammed her for her indifference. The Petticoat Journal was actively involved in the post-rape protests. We had booed Dikshit away when she had come to pay tribute to the victim at Jantar Mantar.

 

Later, when Arvind Kejriwal launched the Aam Aadmi Party, he did the same and while campaigning for the Delhi assembly elections, made big and seemingly workable promises about creating a strong system for women’s safety. The day the party won the trust vote on 3 January, 2014, Kejriwal’s ministers stepped into their new shoes and confidently marched ahead. That very night, his Women and Child Development minister, Rakhi Birla, went on a surprise tour of Delhi and found policemen drunk on duty. She couldn’t take action as the police is not under Delhi government.

 

A couple of weeks after this, Delhi witnessed another gang rape. This time it was a 51-year-old Danish tourist, gang raped by six to seven homeless men. She was staying at a hotel in Paharganj had lost her way and asked a teenager for directions. He instead led her to a park where six men were drinking and playing cards. They (including the minor) robbed her and then took turns to rape her at knifepoint.

 

Kejriwal’s immediate reaction was that he would conduct a study to find out why such cases occurred. After two days, no one knows if the study has even been discussed in the internal meetings or not. However, to top it all, AAP’s other star face, Kumar Vishwas, had reiterated rival Sheila Dikshit and said, “Why are you asking me? Ask the Delhi government. And as it is, what can the Delhi government do when the Delhi Police is under the jurisdiction of the Central government? We have been asking for it to be brought under Delhi government’s control for a very long time.”

 

Kejriwal and Co attacked Sheila Dikshit for being heartless, and while campaigning for the Delhi assembly elections, promised a safe Delhi for women. They never revealed their plan (there was no plan to begin with) to do so. But they made fairytale promises.

 

Today, Kejriwal has a gang rape in his month-old government’s not-so-impressive report card. Nobody, not even a beat constable, has been held accountable after two days of the incident. We can only hope that this would do something to make his team of enthusiasts apply logic and separate activism from governance. For, between the extremism of activism and enthusiasm of power, lies the inevitability and subtle wisdom of planning and logic associated with governance.

 

Surprise raids are a wonderful way of setting the erring officials right. But they must be conducted intelligently else they will boomerang just like the one Somnath Bharti conducted alleging a sex and drug racket in a flat in Malviya Nagar in Delhi. All of us know well that the police are corrupt and negligent. They shun responsibility. They are extortionists. The sex and drug ring that Bharti alleged, may very well be there. But approaching it in a haywire manner will only lead to disrespect. Kejriwal’s men will have to plan their strategy well before sounding the bugle. The ‘aam aadmi’ lifestyle alright but ministers don’t make for a very respectful image when they are found indulging in roadside spats with policemen or anybody else.

 

Kejriwal will have to back his intentions with good planning. Making Delhi safe for women is not an easy task. On one hand, there is the problem of a huge floating population and porous borders. On the other hand, there is the deeply embedded anti-women approach to anything human or not-so-human. And then, there is the monstrous problem of a corrupt and laggard police force.
His minister, Rakhi Birla, must consult experts who have worked in this field for decades to chart out a feasible plan and then use her powers to effectively implement it in Delhi. A dictatorial approach will never work. Kejriwal’s ministers and AAP workers must realize this sooner rather than later.

shruti kohli

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