When the Mumbai police finally cracked the daylight murder of investigative journalist Jyotirmoy Dey and arrested seven persons contracted by the long-absconding underworld gangster, Chotta Rajan, thousands of readers were still restless over the delay in discovering the motive behind the ghastly crime. Many readers of this newspaper, who expressed solidarity through their mails, attributed the breakthrough to the relentless pressure from journalists and the spontaneous support of the public, who were outraged at the brutality involved. While one reader wrote that the police must go beyond arresting the alleged assailants and wipe out “the entire crime syndicate responsible for the murder,” another reader expressed the view that “the dismantling of the underworld is equally important.” Yet another feared that “the main killers may never be apprehended” and advised the journalists and whistle-blowers to exercise the utmost vigil, especially when they deal with “the underworld and political corruption.”
One could only hope that investigation and prosecution reach a speedy and successful conclusion. Even as this process proceeds, the State government would do well to honour its own word and put in place effective protection for journalists against their adversaries.
Rising trend in crime against women
Meanwhile, several incidents of violence targeting mostly the deprived sections of the people in different parts of the country are disturbing and disheartening. Growing violence against women is a cause for great concern.
Five recent incidents of violence have been reported in Uttar Pradesh within a couple of days in mid-June. In Kanauj district, a minor Dalit girl was assaulted by two young men in an attempt to molest her; when she resisted, the girl was stabbed repeatedly in her eyes. Doctors said later that the cornea of her left eye had been totally damaged and the chances of restoring her vision were ruled out. In another incident in Basti district, a Dalit girl was reportedly raped. A day later, a 35-year-old woman with two children was raped, allegedly by a gang of three in Etah district. The same day, in Gonda district, the body of a Dalit girl was found in a field. Three persons were said to be involved in the crime and the police did not rule out rape. In another incident in Firozabad district, a girl aged 15 was reportedly raped.
In Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh, a minor girl was reported to have been sexually assaulted and burnt on June 29 by a pastor. The girl died of severe burns at a hospital. The pastor was taken into custody.
In Tamil Nadu, P. Krishnaveni, president of the Thalayuthu village panchayat in Tirunelveli district, was brutally attacked by a gang a few weeks ago. Admitted in hospital with nine stab injuries, the Dalit panchayat chief is recovering. A fact-finding body that visited the victim and the village under her control said that the panchayat president faced discrimination from the day she took charge nearly five years ago. She was not even allowed to sit in the chair allotted to her in her office. Repeated complaints to authorities from the panchayat chief, the fact-finding body said, were of no avail.
Poor conviction rate
These crimes against women happened in three States and were reported by the news media in a short span of about two weeks. It is not as though most other States are free from such violence against women. About two lakh cases of violence have been registered by the National Crime Records Bureau, according to its recent data.
It is well known that discriminatory and oppressive social attitudes, not to mention plain greed and corruption, infect the attitude of the authorities, and especially the police, in many cases when serious complaints go uninvestigated or are poorly investigated. Only when investigation is free, fair, and speedy and only when the conviction rate improves in cases where women are the targets of various forms of violence can crimes against women be brought down. The press has a key role to play in working against any cover-up in this area.