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We can no longer be bystanders to crime

LiveMint logoLiveMint 04-06-2017 Shashi Shekhar

Some incidents in the last few days have shaken the country’s sensitive people to their core. Out of habit, we can choose to blame our rulers for this.

But this will be running away from reality; the primary responsibility for preventing such incidents also rests with society.

The first incident is from Pataudi in Haryana. A woman and her grieving daughter were returning from a hospital with the body of her deceased husband. On the way home two tyres of their ambulance got punctured. As soon as the vehicle stopped, some thugs emerged from the fields nearby. At gunpoint, they demanded that the mother and the daughter part with all their money and jewellery. The woman and her daughter kept pleading with them to let them go, but the thugs didn’t relent. The police’s preliminary probe revealed that the robbers themselves had strewn nails on the deserted stretch of the road.

This is a country where people stopped in their tracks when they saw a funeral procession. Leave aside crossing the path of the procession, they would pray for the departed soul and their loved ones. I’ve seen a number of friends do this in my childhood. These included Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

Today, if those who rob people taking their loved ones on their final journey call themselves Indians, we should be angry with ourselves rather than take umbrage over their actions.

Similarly, a video that recently went viral made me gnash my teeth. A few louts had surrounded two young women in Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur district. One of them was filming the others harassing the girls. Didn’t they have mothers and sisters at home, the agonized girls asked these louts. We had witnessed such scenes only in Bollywood movies, but this was real and scary.

Ironically, a campaign was launched on social media that all the louts belonged to a particular religion. Since when did criminals become religious? Did they also conduct a caste and religion post-mortem of those convicted for the 16 December 2012 gang rape in Delhi?

A day before the video went viral, a news from Jevar near Greater Noida was making newspaper headlines. A group of people from Jevar had to step out late at night because they were looking after a female relative who was in hospital. Criminals waylaid them, robbed them of their belongings, dragged the women into the fields and gang-raped them. A male relative who resisted was shot dead.

A similar incident took place in Uttar Pradesh a few months ago. At that time, there were attempts to politicize the incident. Similar attempts are again being made.

Blaming the governments won’t suffice. The monsters who carry out such crimes are all around us. We have to identify these monsters. The more you ignore them, the more emboldened will they get.

Here, we should examine another point. At a time when there is talk of building a world-class highway, there is no attempt to ensure adequate security. Although ensuring law and order is the government’s job, why can’t those who revel in the spike in property prices after the construction of national highways come to the police’s assistance? Why do they remain helpless bystanders?

It isn’t that the malaise is limited to the Hindi heartland. You may recall that two years ago, a mob attacked a prison in Nagaland’s Dimapur to kill a rape accused. Similarly, S. Swathi, a Chennai-based technocrat, was hacked to death in a public place. Clearly, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Kamakhya to Dwarka, there is a rise in such shameful acts of violence.

If we look at it, since Independence, we have discarded the model of village security. We may want to revisit our administrative history and social values.

During the British Raj, a watchman was enough to keep all mischief at bay. Today we have home guards and watchmen apart from the police, along with the department of civil defence. But these are misused to further selfish agendas and political interests.

I would urge those shedding tears on social media or at street-side tea stalls to discard their hollow ways and roll up their sleeves, because the victims of such unfortunate incidents are people like us.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan.

His Twitter handle is @shekharkahin.

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