In the State that leads in incidents of rape, the shame-inducing statistics are pushing the administration into action

Time was when Payal (name changed to protect her identity), a standard VII student from Madhya Pradesh’s tribal dominated Betul district, had only school, friends and family on her mind. But her little world changed dramatically in March this year.

The 15-year-old, a resident of Betul’s Majhinagar slum, was abducted in public by a gangster, Rajesh Harore.

Rajesh (32) then took the tribal girl to a shanty and raped her. But that was not all. Two weeks later Rajesh, along with two other men, came to her house. As the helpless teenager watched, they shot her mother dead for having approaching the police.

Payal’s story is just one of the several thousand stories of rape that get scripted in Madhya Pradesh every year.

Away from the kind of media glare that Haryana found itself facing after a string of rapes committed recently, in Madhya Pradesh the crime continues unabated and with impunity.

Over the last two decades, the State has led the country in the number of rapes committed, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data (1991-2011).

Only last year, it recorded 3,406 cases of rape, which means nine women were raped here every 24 hours.

In the first six months of this year (January-July 2012), there were 1,927 cases of rape — an increase of 6.11 per cent over the number of rapes committed during the same period in 2010 and 2011. Overall, the State accounted for 14 per cent of the rapes committed across the country in 2011.

Among cities, the State capital, Bhopal, with 100 rapes, was second only to the metropolises Delhi (453) and Mumbai (221), while the State’s industrial capital, Indore, stood fifth, registering 91 rapes.

Floating population a reason

The statistics tell a horrifying story. But why are so many women raped in Madhya Pradesh every year?

According to the police, the State’s huge floating population is one reason. Also, they say, unlike in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan or Haryana, they never turn away a complainant. Every rape complaint is registered.

Perhaps, another more important reason is the conservative attitude of people in M.P., as in certain other States, towards women.

“In most parts of these States, the girl child is still considered a liability. Women are perceived to be good for only two things — sex and giving birth to a boy. It is almost like they need the women, but not the girls,” says Anuradha Shankar, Inspector-General of Police, Indore.

Not surprisingly, the top five States in terms of the number of rapes — Madhya Pradesh (3,406), West Bengal (2,363), Uttar Pradesh (2,042), Rajasthan (1,800) and Maharashtra (1,701) — also have dismal sex ratios.

While Madhya Pradesh (930), Rajasthan (926) and Uttar Pradesh (908) have sex ratios below the national average of 940, West Bengal (947) and Maharashtra (946) are just on the threshold.

Attitudes within the government too are a cause for concern. At least two ministers of the Shivraj Singh Chauhan cabinet have publicly blamed victims for bringing rape upon themselves by dressing provocatively.

In April, the Urban Development Minister, Babulal Gaur, blamed short dresses of girls for the rising number of sexual harassment cases. Three months later, the Industries Minister, Kailash Vijayvargiya, while commenting on the Guwahati molestation case, advised girls to dress in sync with Indian culture.

He went a step ahead and said that members of the National Commission for Women team who went to probe the Guwahati incident looked like participants of a fashion show.

Low conviction rates

But if provocative dressing by young girls was indeed the reason for rape, more revealing are the statistics that show that rapists have no age preference when it came to choosing targets.

According to the NCRB, Madhya Pradesh registered the highest number of rapes of women above 50 years of age, along with the maximum number of minor adolescent rapes — 1,195 cases.

Of these, 886 girls were between 14-18 years while 309 were between 10-14 years.

Earlier this year, the State Home Minister, Umashankar Gupta, admitted in the Vidhan Sabha that 3,176 minor girls were raped in the State over the last two years. That’s four minor girls a day.

At 6,665 cases, M.P. also had the highest number of molestation cases during 2011. Even as rapes have been rising, conviction rates have remained low with Madhya Pradesh recording an abysmal rate of 23.6 per cent during 2011.

Police say rape is a complicated crime and is difficult to stop since “about 65 per cent cases involve people known to the victim.”

New department

“Earlier this year, when a lot of rapes were being reported from Indore, we did a survey and found that 22 out of the 25 rapes reported were committed by relatives, family members or persons known to the victim,” says Ms Shankar.

The State has been trying hard to get rid of the shame-inducing statistics. A step in that direction is the setting up of the Crime against Women (CaW) branch. Headed by ADG Aruna Mohan Rao, it was set up this June. The unit has four Inspectors-General of Police functioning under the ADG. The IGs, one each in Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior and Jabalpur, are tasked with monitoring cases of crime against women on a daily basis.

Besides, there are four deputy-directors of prosecution (DDP) who monitor all cases in the courts during the trial stage in order to check the abysmal conviction rate.

The new department has also undertaken a ground level study in order to analyse all rape cases, follow-up on pending investigation and identify reasons for low conviction rates. CaW is still in its infancy, but Ms Rao claims it has started showing results.

“There has been an increased level of sensitisation within the police force. Only the constables are yet to be adequately sensitised but we are working towards that. We will assess the results once the specialised branch completes six months of operations,” she says. Even then, only an assessment of how safe women in Madhya Pradesh feel, will provide the true measure of CaW’s success or otherwise. Right now, they live in an atmosphere of fear and insecurity.

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