She asked for it.
It's all about money.
They have made it a business.
It is consensual most of the time.
This is how policemen - keepers of the law and protectors of innocent - view rape in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR). Although generalising is fraught with hazards, this is one generalisation that can be made. There's evidence to support this.
A month ago, the outrageous apathy of our police towards rape victims was in full display when the Noida Police revealed the identity of a minor girl who was brutally gang-raped in a moving car. If that was not enough, the Noida Superintendent of Police cast aspersions on the girl's character at a press conference. Besides the fact that, by doing so, the police flagrantly violated the law of the land - section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code defines the disclosure of the identity of rape victims as an offence punishable by up to two years of imprisonment - it also gave a peek into the minds of the police and how they see the raped and the rapist.
A few weeks later, the Gurgaon Police outraged civil society by proposing a blanket curfew on working women in the city after 8 pm without prior permission from the Labour Department. This was the first reaction by the police after the report of a brutal gang-rape of a pub employee by six men. The police made no statement about the rapists. Later, however, the police put out a statement asserting they had been misquoted by the media.
Often been called the rape capital of India, the Delhi-NCR region has thrown up numerous such instances of police apathy in rape cases. When asked to explain the rising instances of rape, the cops have invariably blamed the women, an array of extraneous factors or resorted to specious arguments instead of looking inwards and focussing on police reforms. The most disturbing aspect of this is the rank misogyny that underlies it.
Here is a quick reckoner. In 2010, as many as 414 rape cases were reported in Delhi, the highest among 35 major cities in the country. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the conviction rate in rape cases in the capital was a dismal 34.6 percent. In case after case, courts have been acquitting the accused because of flawed first information reports (FIRs), erroneous procedures in collating medical evidence and shoddy investigation. Lawyers and women rights activists have continually been flagging the deep prejudice prevalent in the police against women in general and rape victims in particular, as the single biggest reason for the repeated failure of justice.
But instead of addressing core issues like poor conviction rates, under-reporting of rape cases by victims (studies indicate that for every reported case of rape, more than 50 go unreported), the lack of faith between the victim and the police and the insensitivity of the police personnel towards women, our police and ministers want to ban late-night work shifts or keep women away from unconventional jobs like bartenders.
Have we created a system that instills fear in the heart of offenders, promotes deterrence and ensures that offenders get exemplary punishment? While we may have excellent statutes to deal with crimes against women, do we also have the police machinery to implement the law in its letter and spirit? Are police stations of the NCR being manned by professional and efficient police officers who can deliver justice to hapless women turning up at their doors?
Tehelka decided to investigate the conduct and approach of Station House Officers (SHOs) and their deputies who are in charge of police stations in the NCR. These cops are the first point of contact for any victim of sexual assault when they have to lodge a complaint. The objective was to find out if there was any latent bias among the police personnel towards rape victims.
In a two-week long investigation, Tehelka undercover reporters posing as research scholars, visited 23 stations across the NCR and spoke to more than 30 policemen with experience of 20-30 years. The reporters did not make misogynistic comments or incite the policemen to say or do something they wouldn't have otherwise said or done. The line of inquiry was to be completely neutral and non-partisan. And what we came back with was shocking.
Our two week long investigation reveals that the NCR, which houses some of the leading industries from around the world and where lakhs of women work alongside men, is policed by the cops with a 19th century mindset.
Seventeen senior cops of over a dozen police stations across Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad were caught on spy camera blaming everything from fashionable or revealing clothes to having boyfriends to visiting pubs to consuming alcohol to working alongside men as the main reasons for instances of rape. 'It's always the woman who is at fault' was in essence the argument offered by a majority of the cops. Many of them believe that genuine rape victims never approach the police and those who do are basically extortionists or have loose moral values. Others believe that the women from Northeast could never be victims of forced sex as they are invariably involved in the flesh trade. Even more shockingly, some of them are of the view that if a woman has consensual sex with one man, then she shouldn't complain if his friends also join in. If a woman is doing late hours at the office then she had it coming... and the arguments keep coming.
If the police personnel are to be believed, everything from co-education to migration to cities to being independent and assertive and holding unconventional jobs are reasons for the rise in rape incidents across NCR. So mind-numbing are these admissions that one cannot help but wonder about the plight of the rape victims in mofussil towns and villages if the police in and around the capital is so deeply prejudiced. The Tehelka expose warrants an urgent soul-searching at the highest levels of the police administration and demands immediate corrective steps in the police training and investigation.
Sample what Sunil Kumar, SHO, Ghazipur, East Delhi, had to say. "Go to a pub in South Delhi. Go to Greater Kailash where there is free entry for girls. Jinhone 1,000 rupaiye mein wo karna hai wo wahan jati hain. Daru bhi peeti hai aur aap ke saath sex bhi karti hai... Jis din koi thok dega rape ho jayega. (In these places you'll find girls who want to do 'it' for Rs 1,000. They will drink and also have sex with you. The day somebody uses force, it becomes rape)."
Sub-Inspector Arjun Singh, SHO Surajpur Police Station, Greater Noida, also pins the blame on the victim. "Ladkiya ek seemit daire main, seemit kapdon main nahi niklengi... to apne aap khichaon ho jata hai. Wo khichaon bhi aggressive kar deta hai ki kar do bas (If girls don't stay within their boundaries, if they don't wear appropriate clothes, then naturally there is attraction. This attraction makes men aggressive, prompting them to just do it)."
There's also ethnic bias against those from the Northeast. Try Rajpal Yadav, Additional SHO of Sector 29, Gurgaon: "Yahan pe Darjeeling aur Nepal tak ki ladkiyan business purpose se aye hai... wo jaate bhade pe hain. Baad mein paisa nahi mila to rape case bata diya jata hai (Girls from Darjeeling and Nepal have come here for business purposes. They go with men for money. Later, when the money is not sufficient, it becomes a rape)."
In the two-week long investigation, Tehelka undercover reporters visited five police stations in Gurgaon, six in Noida, four in Ghaziabad, two in Faridabad and six in Delhi. Out of the 30 policemen Tehelka spoke to, 17 were extremely prejudiced, misogynist and shockingly insensitive towards rape victims. Five scored well on the enlightenment card.
Despite the Noida Police facing flak for lewd comments about the victim and her family, Ram Kumar Malik, the investigating officer for the case of the girl raped by Class X students is unrepentant. Tehelka captured Sub-Inspector Malik on camera brazenly pinning the blame yet again on the victim alone: "Is case mein jo real baat hai, ladki vodka peene ki habitual hai. Usne vodka party mangi, 6,000 mein book ho gai. Physical relation ke liye 6,000 mange. Baad mein mukadma likha diya. Yeh real baat hai. Mere pass uske CDR call detail ka record hai; unka purana relation hai (The real issue here is that the girl is a habitual vodka drinker and had asked for a vodka party. She then demanded Rs 6,000 for sex. When the money wasn't paid, she registered a rape complaint. I have her call records that establish she had a relationship with one of the accused)." Pointless to ask him how having a consensual relationship with one boy could warrant a girl being raped by four others.
Malik then turns his guns on the family and character of the girl: "Is ladki ki ma ka pehle hi divorce ho gaya. Aur wo ek Yadavji ke saath beth gayi. Uski umar 48 hai, admi 28 saal ka. Saath mein do ladkiyan. Behekna to tei ho gaya. Nahi ho gaya? (The girl's mother is divorced. She's living with another man from the Yadav community. She's 48 whereas the man is 28. It's inevitable the two daughters will be wayward, isn't it?)
"Ab jab 48 saal ki ma, 28 saal ke purush ke saath so rahi hai, do jawan ladkiyan dekh rahi hain, unko bhi zaroorat hogi. Sex is like hunger," he continues. (Now when two young girls watch their 48-year-old mother sleeping with a 28-year-old man, even they'll be aroused. Sex is like hunger)."
Blaming the victim, however, is not limited to Malik. The attitude was generic and Tehelka found many more subscribers in the system.
Digest what Jangsher Singh, SHO of the DLF Phase-2 Police Station, who is investigating the recent rape case of the 23-year-old pub worker, says: "Isme kuch nahi hai. Chote chote bacche the... Do baar ladki ne baat ki ladkon se. Compromise karna hai toh compromise karlo. Ladki ne khud bol diya... money toh hai hi yaar. Money ke saath sauda kiya jaata hai (This case is nothing. They were young kids. The girl spoke twice to the boys about striking a 'compromise'. It's all about money. It's only with money deals are stuck)."
Jangsher makes it plain there was more than a hint of consensual sex in the Gurgaon gang-rape: "Cooperation hai. Bahut kam hai main manta hoon; one ya two percent jisme nahi hota...consent main hi hua yeh (The girls cooperate. I believe it's very rare that there will be no cooperation... this case too had the girl's consent)."
Disturbingly, in an endlessly frightening reiteration, the Gurgaon gang-rape case appears in the conversation of the Gurgaon Police only as a leitmotif of the girl's culpability. Tehelka captured conversations with the SHO as well as the additional SHO of Sector-29 Police Station, who otherwise have nothing to do with the ongoing investigation. Commenting on the girl's character, SHO Jagdish Prasad said: "In the recent DLF case, the girl is 27-years-old, the boys are 18 to 20-years-old. They are kids. She was dancing with these kids in the bar... I am telling you she induced them... the girl came and gave her phone number to them."
The big question that comes out of this is: if the police in the Delhi metropolitan area - with its exposure to modern idioms and supposed sensitivity to individual rights - nurtures such a mindset, what about the average cop in the hinterland? The thought is terrifying: is rape India's most under-reported crime? Does anybody seriously believe that less than 25,000 women get raped in India each year?
The officers Tehelka encountered do not fulfill the basic standards of policing, which requires officers to investigate a case without any cultural, class or gender bias. Rather, the contrary seems true. Empathy for a rape victim seems an impossible task. But in its place, there isn't even neutrality. Everywhere, the dominant belief was that the woman was in the wrong and had invited assault upon herself. Tehelka's investigation, then, is not about individual viewpoints. It reveals a damagingly contorted psyche.
Can you dress for rape? A great number of policemen believe that what a woman wears is one of the reasons for rape. A conservatively dressed woman is safe, but if her clothes are "suggestive", then she's asking for it. This is the norm.
"Agar koi bhi bacche ko kisi ladki ka sha- reer kapdon ke andar se dikhega to usme uttejna paida hogi...Ladkiya jo hai unko yahan tak yahan tak (He gestures to mean that women should cover their entire body, then carries on speaking)... Skirt pehenti hai. Blouse dalti hai; poora nahi dalti hai. Dupatta nahi dalti. Apne aapko dikhawa karti hai. Baccha uske taraf akarshit hota hai (If a girl is wearing transparent clothes it will encourage lewd thoughts in any kid. Girls wear short skirts. They wear a blouse that leaves nothing to the imagination. They don't wear dupattas. They flaunt their bodies. The kid naturally gets attracted to her)," says Satbir Singh, Additional SHO of Sector 31 Police Station, Faridabad.
Making a general sociological observation, Sub-Inspector Arjun Singh, SHO of Surajpur Police Station, Greater Noida, also said: "Yeh (girl) itne kapde pehni hui hai; wo isiliye taaki log mujhse akarshit ho aur mere saath kuch na kuch kare. Isiliye ho jaati hai" (She is dressed in a manner that people get attracted to her. In fact, she wants them to do something to her.)"
Do rapes really happen? Many policemen are not even sure. Recognition of a crime as heinous as rape is something the police in the NCR do not appear to have come to terms with. Policeman after policeman insisted "real rape" cases were rare.
Tehelka asked Yogender Singh Tomar, Additional SHO, Sector 39, Noida, if it was easy for a rape victim to approach the police. His answer left us shocked: "Aasaan nahi hota uske liye. Bezzati se sabhi darti hai. Akhbaar baazi se bhi darti hai. Asliyat main wahin aati hai jo dhande main lipt hoti hai (It's never easy for the victim. Everyone is scared of humiliation. Everyone's wary of media and society. In reality, the ones who complain are only those who have turned rape into a business)."
Sub-Inspector Roop Lal of Sector 40, Gurgaon, goes to the extent of making a distinction between a genuine and a fake rape. "Main rape cases, only 10 percent. Bilkul jo zabardasti rape hota hai, 10 percent. Baaki ke toh... (Only 10 percent of rape cases actually involve force; only 10 percent are genuine. The rest is...)." He leaves his sentence incomplete. It's not difficult to understand what he wanted to say.
Roop Lal's crudity is mirrored by other fellow officers. Two senior cops, Rajender Singh, Additional SHO of Old Faridabad Police Station, and Ramesh Kumar, senior Sub-Inspector, are convinced rape cases generally involve consensual sex: "Hote hain par 70 percent aise hain, ki pehle sehmati ho gayi. Uske baad kisi ne dekh liya ya, usne paise dene se mana kar diya, toh woh balatkar ho gaya (There are cases but 70 percent involve consensual sex. Only if someone sees, or the money is denied, it gets turned into rape)."
From the point of view of cops, this begs the question: do rapes really happen? Again, bewildering as it may sound, 17 of the 30 policemen were convinced they rarely do.
Consider young Sub-Inspector Manoj Rawat of Noida's Sector 24 Police Station. "Kya NCR mein rape hote hain? Akhbar mein nahi, fact pe aa jao. NCR mein har cheez mutual understanding se hoti hai. Mera personal view, one ya two percent NCR mein rape hote hain... Apas ki understanding hai, nahi ban paya, jahan 2 tha, wahan 3 ho gaye (Are there any rapes in NCR? Go by facts and not by what newspapers say. Everything in NCR happens with mutual understanding. My personal view is that there are one or two percent rape cases in NCR. If the understanding falls through, the exaggeration begins. Two becomes three)."
When it comes to gang-rapes, the explanation is even more bizarre. While the policemen admit that force is used, again the blame is pinned on the victim. She must have been friendly with at least one of the perpetrators goes the refrain.
Dharamveer Singh, Additional SHO at Indirapuram Police Station in Ghaziabad, said: "Bahut kum, minimum hota hai. Rare hota hai ki ek ladki ko 10 ladke zabardasti pakad le... car mein bhi koi innocent ladki nahi gayi hai. Wahi gayi jo kisi ladke ke saath sambandhit zaroor hai (It's very rare that a girl is forcefully picked up by 10 boys. A girl who gets into a car with boys is never innocent. If she does, she definitely has a relationship with at least one of them)."
Roop Lal of Sector 40, Gurgaon, sought to find a rationale to the occurrence of gang-rape: "Jaise hum log baithe hai, zyaada daaru pee li. Chalte peeli. B********, phekh saala, phir to aise hi hoga. Raat bhar rakh li. Uska jawab kya degi wo apne gharwalon ko, ki jo ek ghante ke liye keh kar gayi hai, aur poori night main kahan gayi thi. To maa-baap to poochenge, bhai bhi poochega. Jinka samaaj hai woh to poochte hai (Say we are sitting and had one drink too many while on the move... it's obvious that it'll happen. Keep her for the entire night. What will she tell her parents? She was supposed to be away for an hour and has ended up being out the entire night. Parents will question, so will her brother. Society will ask questions."
RK Sisodia, Additional SHO of Sector 20 Noida Police Station, had an entirely different opinion on the authenticity of rape cases. He was the only one to say that very few rape cases in NCR are false or questionable in nature. It was almost a surprise to hear him.
Several police officers believe it's a woman's behaviour that is a prime reason and if it were not for "provocation" from her end, rapes wouldn't happen.
When asked about sensitisation in the police, Inspector Sunil Kumar of Delhi Police shrugged away the query, saying rape is anyway the girl's fault, particularly if she is a 'Delhi girl': "If a girl living in Delhi doesn't want this trauma she will not encourage it. Suppose you are two people and I am a girl dating you both. I am flirting with one person and ignoring you, then after I see you jealous, I come to you. Then one day when he (the other person) is drunk, he might come with two-three friends and ask me to join him. I will then go with him with my wish. In a fit of vindictiveness, he will try to have sex with me, with or without my wish. But first, it is my fault because I courted disaster. No rape can happen in Delhi without the girl's provocation."
Kumar had painted a scenario a script writer of a soap opera would find hard to concoct. Yet he believed - absolutely believed - this was everyday reality in large sections of Delhi society. Indeed, it appears as though there is almost a sweeping consensus in listing a woman's "indecent" clothing as a primary cause for rape, followed closely by her "behaviour", ranging from what they deemed promiscuous to just plain assertiveness. It's almost as if a woman wearing a sari or a salwar kameez is never raped - though empirical evidence clearly suggests otherwise.
Sub-Inspector Roop Lal in Gurgaon even asked if women didn't have a mind of their own. He explained his hypothesis: "Birthday ke sambandh main party do... aur woh akeli ladki hai, un teeno ke saath jaa rahi hai, aur dekh rahi hai ki saale daaru bhi pee rahe hai saath main. To yeh bilkul ladies ko pata hai is baat ka, ki kya hoga. Jab wo khud hi party karne lagi hai, to wo rape nahi keh sakte. Rape kaise kahoge? Daaru ke sang unke saath baith rahi hai... to dimag to tere main bhi hai, jab tu chatra hai kisliye party mang rahi hai, kisliye inke saath jaa rahi hai? (If a girl asks for a birthday party and is alone with 2-3 boys and sees they are drinking, she knows what is likely to happen. When she herself goes for such a party, she can't complain of rape. How can you call it rape if she is sitting and drinking with them? You are a student and have brain of your own. Why are you going out with them?)"
"It's all about money." If this is not enough to shock you, a majority of the policemen said rape is used as a blackmailing tool to extort money. More than 17 officers spoke about a supposedly dirty nexus of money, malintent, compromises and sex.
Satbir Singh, additional SHO of Sector 31 Police Station, Faridabad has completed 27 years in service and investigated around 20 rape cases. He believes half of all rape charges were false. He was unapologetic about questioning the intent of rape victims when they came to file complaints: "One lakh. Two lakh. Fifty lakh. Logon ko ye pata chal gaya hai ki ye achcha paisa kamaane ka dhanda hai... business hai. Income source dhoond liya hai logon ne. Aam baat hai... kharcha nahi hota. Money nahi hote.Gharwale kharch ke liye paise nahi dete. Wo phir razabandi se kaam chalta hai (People have understood this is a lucrative trade for women; it's business. They've found an income source. It's common; you're short of money, your parents don't give you money to spend. You make compromises)."
Vijay Kumar, a young sub-inspector working under Satbir Singh, also shares similar views. Amazingly, so does Rajbala, a young female investigating officer at the station. "90 percent to aise hi hote hai.." she said, as SHO Satbir talks about money being the biggest factor behind rape cases.
Sector 29 Police Station, as it's SHO Jagdish Prasad points out, registered 10 rape cases from 2005 to 2010. Conviction happened in two of them. Here too, it's troubling to see two young, 20-something English-speaking Sub-Inspectors, Naveen and Vipin, have deep prejudices against independent women. "It's all for enjoyment," said Vipin at one point, supporting his senior's argument.
This kind of gender stereotyping is not limited to the outskirts of the NCR. In the heart of Delhi, Inspector Sunil Kumar, SHO of Ghazipur Police Station was similarly judgmental: "Someone will say I will give you Rs 1,000 or Rs 2,000 but afterwards they give Rs 500. Then it becomes rape. And no one in the world will listen to me. I might say she asked for Rs 1,000, I gave Rs 500. But our law says very clearly - if a girl says she was raped then she was raped. No excuses there. It is final." His tone was sympathetic - to the person charged with rape.
Apart from a general suspicion towards any woman who complains of rape, the class bias was unmistakable in several stations - the argument being insensitive enough to be seen as condoning the act. Rape victims from poor backgrounds are looking for money, and the ones from affluent families are simply wayward and easy: it's all so neat. "Oonche gharon ki ladkiyan hain; jinke saath setting hoti hai uske saath chali jati hai, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 rupiyo ke liye (these girls are from affluent families; they go with anyone who they have a setting with for money)," said additional Sub-Inspector Vikas Kumar of Sector 29 Police Station in Gurgaon. His colleague and additional SHO of the station, Rajpal Yadav also had his reasoning for rape cases involving women from affluent classes; "Sharaab bhi peeti hain ladkiyan... log fayda toh uthainge hi. Hookah bar, smack, ganja, nasha, tambakoo (These girls tend to drink... people will naturally take advantage. they do everything from hookah bars to smack to ganja and tobacco)."
When it comes to victims from economically backward families, the comments get cruder. For instance, Yoginder Singh Tomar of Noida believed rapes happened only among lower castes and lower classes: "Upper caste toh nahi aati Upper caste ki to mukkadma hi darj nahi hota. Aata hi nahi koi. Hota hi nahi hai. Ab hota hoga toh humaare paas nahi aa rahe hai (Upper caste people never file rape complaints. Rape never happens there. If it happens, it never comes to us)."
The baggage of cultural prejudice a policeman carries to the police station is not only unprofessional but also dangerous as it ensures a bias from the very onset of an investigation. This invariably leads to loopholes in the probe and becomes a roadblock in deliverance of justice. If investigators are to be believed, their experience of rape cases has given them an understanding that everything from co-education to alcohol, films and comfortable relationships are prime reasons for rape.
"Yahan log bahar se aaye hain... Filmon main dekh rahe hai. Bilkul nangapan saa aagaya hai yahan par. Filmon ko dekh kar yeh sab ho raha hai; nashe ki aadat pad gayi hai. Bahar se aye hue hain woh apne culture koh jo Indian culture hai usko chhod rahe hain (People have come from outside. They watch films and get influenced. There is complete nudity; people have taken to alcohol. Also, outsiders, from outside NCR, have forgotten Indian culture)," is Sub-Inspector Rajpal Yadav's rationale for rapes.
How can such a police force discharge its constitutional duty of prosecuting sex offenders successfully?
However, in Delhi, Tehelka found that of the six stations it visited, three had police officers who were professional and sensitised towards cases of violence against women. Additional SHO, Inspector Thakeshwar Singh of Sangam Vihar Police Station, pointed out there were compromises between the victim's side and the perpetrator's side but not necessarily due to money: "There's social stigma attached to a rape victim, making it difficult for her to tirelessly pursue the case."
The Delhi Police insists it has a gender sensitivity programme in place. There is a rape crisis intervention centre in every district and a women's help desk in every police station. "There is sensitisation at the induction level as well as promotional and specialised courses on the job. The objective is to handle women in crisis. In these courses officers are apprised with latest court orders," said Additional DCP Rajan Bhagat, PRO Delhi Police.
Yet inside these police stations and behind those nice-sounding phrases is a much harsher reality. The lack of training and sensitisation is evident. Praveen Kumar, SSP Noida, felt there was need for sensitisation at the working level. "Although there is a module on gender issues for new recruits, there are no training programmes for people in service. There is training at the induction level but not at short intervals since there is shortage of manpower. If those policemen are sent for training who would man the police posts? Public-police ratio has to increase only then can we spare them for courses in gender sensitivity," he said.
However, Commissioner of Police, Gurgaon, KK Sindhu felt there was no real need for sensitisation as all cases related to women were handled by ladies. The Gurgaon Police chief was of the opinion that women were usually accompanied by men if they had to visit a police station. "Women are inseparable from family in an Indian set-up. There is always a male accompanying them to a police station. Gender sensitivity is part of training and, in cases involving women, the issue is always handled by a woman investigating officer."
Given that these extremely disturbing attitudes exist in agencies that are meant for the protection of harassed women, it comes as little surprise that rapes continue unabated. Six rape cases were reported from different parts of the NCR during the two weeks Tehelka reporters were out in the field meeting policemen. While the men in uniform have a spectrum of reasons to rationalise rise in rape occurrence, there is little acknowledgment of the fact that perhaps better policing and instilling a fear of the law among the perpetrators could make women feel that much safer.
This prejudice breeds a vicious cycle. It makes investigation slothful and lackadaisical and as a result the conviction rate in rape cases is appallingly low. This, in turn, allows potential sex criminals to get away with anything, even an open-and-shut case of rape. And each time this happens, to the average policeman it only reinforces what he thinks he already knows: "She asked for it."