Recently, the entire nation has been gripped by the death of the father-son duo in Tamil Nadu that allegedly involved police brutality, and the police personnel involved in the case have been accused of harassing and sodomising them that led to their sudden demise. As people are yet to recover from the harrowing news, another heinous crime where a minor girl has been brutally raped by police has come to light. These incidents have exposed the shrewdly hidden truth of police brutality which is very frequent in our country, but only a meagre number of cases gets registered and comes to the light. Such cases bring to question the credibility of the entire police department and renders a very significant question- Are we safe with the police?
While the entire department is trying every possible way to reach the general public and is trying to make the police stations more accessible and friendlier for the general public, such harrowing incidents have affected all the ongoing and future schemes of the department. This has also left the general public in fear, pondering over the question- Are the protectors turning out to be predators instead?
In a very appalling event, a 13-year-old tribal girl from Sundargarh, Odisha was raped by a Police Inspector. The minor girl has stated that she had visited a nearby fair in the Biramitrapur area on March 25 and was stranded owing to the sudden lockdown announcement. Waiting near the bus stop to get a means of transportation to return home, she was spotted by a patrolling police vehicle, and the police personnel assured to drop her back home safely. However, instead of that, she was taken to the Biramitrapur police station where she was brutally raped by the inspector in-charge Anand Chandra Majhi. The next day, she was dropped at her home.
Her suffering did not end there. She was repeatedly summoned to the police station and was gang-raped repeatedly by the police for the next four months. This impregnated the young girl. On knowing of this, the cops in association with the stepfather of the victim conducted an abortion on her at the local community clinic.
When Sundargarh District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) S Jena came to know about the crime, he lodged a complaint with the Raiboga police against the police officers, the stepfather and the doctor who helped them terminate the foetus.
In no time, Odisha DGP Abhay ordered the Crime Branch to take charge of the investigation. After a thorough investigation, the former inspector in-charge of Biramitrapur police station was found to be guilty and was instantly suspended for sexually assaulting and then forcefully aborting the foetus of the 13-year-old minor tribal girl.
Crime Branch of Odisha Police then launched a manhunt to catch the prime accused, who had fled the place after the complaint was registered against him. It was a difficult task to catch him as he disguised himself and was constantly moving from one place to another. However, the Crime Branch of Odisha police successfully nabbed Majhi who was hiding in a mango orchard in Handapa police area, Angul.
Anand Chandra Majhi, the survivor’s stepfather, two local youths from the girl’s village and another unidentified police officer of Biramitrapur Police Station are accused of the crime. A case has also been filed against the government doctor who had performed the forceful and illegal act of abortion on a minor girl. Kavita Jalan, the western range deputy inspector general of police is now overseeing the case further. Majhi has been imprisoned and will be soon produced before the judicial court.
Though all the persons accused of the crime have been arrested, the fact that is difficult to digest is that this heinous crime has not occurred once, but for 4 long months continuously, within the walls of a police station. The place where the minor should have come to register a case seeking justice, turned out to be the very place where she was violated. Apart from that, there are several critical questions that this particular incident raises- Was the police station so isolated that not a single person witnessed a minor girl constantly being forced to visit the station for four long months? Apart from the people accused in this case, were there no other police personnel, especially female police personnel to look into the truth and report this incident at the very first instance? Did no other staff from the hospital know about the termination of the foetus other than the doctor? Were all witnesses turned mute of the fear of the police, or was it that no one was bothered about the plight of the minor girl?
We have to understand that this is just not the failure of the police department alone, but also the failure of the entire society where such a criminal was allowed to perpetrate crime in broad daylight continuously because everyone else had turned mute spectators. It also brings into light the impunity that the police enjoy that helps them oppress the general public with the tool of fear.
The most horrifying part is that she was not raped or harassed in any private or secluded place, but in a public place for four long months. This incident itself is testimony to how unsafe our public places are.
Might it also be that in the nationwide lockdown, due to the lack of the presence of people in most of the public places, a heinous crime like this has gone unnoticed for months? If that is the case, the government should immediately step in and make sure that all the public places should be monitored and each activity of the public servants working in various departments, especially the police personnel, should be minutely scrutinized to avoid abuse of power.
When most of the government offices are now equipped with minimum employees working in different shifts, it is very important to take the required steps to closely monitor these workplaces. This is very essential to give extra security to all the employees who might get victimised by any other co-worker due to the decreased staff strength in various offices.
This gruesome incident cannot be addressed by just punishing the accused, because it involves the very personnel committing a crime, who has been entrusted the responsibility of protecting the society in the first place. In such a scenario, the general public will always think twice before going to the police for any kind of help. They will always harbour the apprehension that instead of listening to them and nabbing the perpetrator, they might be harassed and humiliated by the police. In India, numerous crimes already go unregistered. If the fear-mongering by the police due to such brutal acts perpetuates like this, there will be even lesser reporting of crimes. This will, in turn, lead to more crime and unrest in society. Horrifying incidents like these can disrupt the functioning of the entire civil society.
This incident, therefore, calls for the top brass of the Police department to step forward and take charge of the situation at the earliest. Strict lockdown guidelines highlighting a code of conduct for the police should be rolled out immediately. Strict actions should be taken against the police personnel found guilty of even any minor complaint of abuse of power, to curb the impunity that they enjoy and to also establish faith in the general public. It is only the feeling that they cannot be harmed, which leads a few of them to use their power to oppress the disadvantaged sections of the society. Furthermore, on a long term basis, each police personnel (and this includes all ranks of police) should mandatorily be imparted training regularly throughout their career regarding sensitization towards human rights, as well as the consequences of any report of abuse against them.