It is two and a half years since news came about a 17-year old girl being subjected to rape in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh. One of the accused in the case, which had caused quite an uproar at that time, was a BJP member of the state assembly Kuldeep Singh Sengar. The national media and human rights bodies took up the case, and it became a topic of heated debates and controversy, but before it reached the trial court, the father of the victim died following an assault while in custody. There was also an attempt to kill the girl with a vehicle hitting her.
Despite the presence of evidence of the role of Kuldeep Sengar in both the cases, it took the direct intervention of the highest court for the case trial to proceed as due. When the trial was over and the country was awaiting its judgement, another piece of news came from Unnao: in Sindhupur, of the same istrict, the accused in the case who had come out on bail, had endangered the girl's life by putting her ablaze. They did this after attacking and rendering her totally immobile while on the way to the court. There is not much new in this, in Yogi Adityanath's UP: on 17 July last in Sonbhadra of eastern UP, 10 tribal farmers were shot to death by a gang of goons under the leadership of the village chief.
It is only another face of the same incidents that we saw in Telengana. The police have now shot and killed all the four accused in a case of gang rape and murder of a veterinary doctor. The police hold that they were firing at the accused in self-defence when the accused tried to run away. But since this police version looked implausible, the National Human Rights Commission has a registered a suo motu case.
This is only the latest in the series of 'extra judicial killings' happening for long in our country. Scores of people have been killed in fake encounters in our country – both undertaials and others - on allegations of 'extremist' and 'Maoist' connections. In the state of UP alone, over 70 people were killed in this manner in the last two years. The government rationale that works behind such acts is that any one who raises his fist to the sky - in a manner unsavoury to the establishment, deserves to be killed.
But in the Hyderabad incident, things are a little different in that all the four accused were arrested soon and in police custody. There was conducive circumstances for getting the accused in custody for more days, gather more evidence and get them maximum punishment prescribed by law. That is what those who raise their voice for the victim also wish. Still, within a moment the police team led by Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar, dashed all such hopes and fired bullets at the accused. Their motive is not cear. If it was for self-defence, it has to be deemed as a serious security lapse. It needs to be probed whether they had other intentions. In any case, with the police enforcing law in a manner out of line with the democratic path of rule of law, justice was denied to the victim herself.
The incident also accurately reflects the 'natural law enforcement' of the jungle raj our country has slipped into. It is when we keep juiciary and rule of law - which form the fundamental foundations of democracy - away from the equations, that 'jungle raj' kicks in where the the hunters themselves will be ones to make trial and enforce justice. That is the 'system' a fascist government would welcome, because it will suit its march forward by eliminating all voices of dissent. And that is what the mob lynching incidents in different parts of the country also point to.
At least on some occasions, we find our collective conscience following such frenzied mobs. Don't those who express joy over the Hyderabad incident in some way represent such mob? Do we have to conclude from the statements of those like Mayawati and from the dance of celebrations, that such law enforcement through the gun is the solution the country wants? If that is the remedy, the number of 'encounter deaths' is bound to increase further. This is not to forget the emotional state of the victim's close relatives. Their reaction that the accused deserve to be killed, also reflects all their rage.
But if we take into account certain facts beyond this emotional dimension, we can only denounce such murders. At the same time, it is also a fact that in most of the cases of rape registered in the country, proper trial does not take place. There is a popular perception that even if people are booked in such cases, they will not be convicted. This feeling will ony lead to people's loss of trust in law and justice. The way to regain faith in rule of law and thereby to get out of jungle raj is to remedy this deficiency by establishing fast track courts and by such other measures.