The Unnao case highlights the flaws in UP‘s law and order system

Persistent media attention and public anger have finally prompted the Yogi Adityanath government to constitute a Special Investigation Team to probe the Unnao rape case. In the nine months since the survivor, then a minor, alleged that she was raped by BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar and his brother, the case has taken many twists and turns. The latest is the death of the survivor’s father in hospital after he was taken into judicial custody. Autopsy reports showed that he died of shock and septicaemia, allegedly after being beaten (whether by the police or the MLA’s supporters isn’t clear). The father’s arrest came after the survivor attempted to immolate herself outside the chief minister’s residence after failing to secure justice. The fact that the MLA’s brother has now been arrested and the police say they have evidence against him raises the question as to what they were doing all this time when the survivor was trying so hard to just file an FIR. Contrary to the routine procedure in rape cases, no forensic evidence was gathered in this instance and attempts to name her rapist were stymied by the police.

When the Yogi government came to power, it promised that one of its main tasks would be to tackle the law and order situation in the state. The first step for this is to at least ensure that FIRs are filed on time. In the Unnao case, the government seems to have acted only after the onslaught of negative publicity became embarrassing for it. In fact, despite the chief minister’s claims that he has controlled crime in UP, there were an astounding 803 rape cases in the first two months of his tenure. His setting up anti-Romeo squads ostensibly to protect women led to couples being harassed just for being seen together in public.

Instead of focusing on protection, he should also see to it that women get justice for crimes committed against them. The Unnao case should have been prosecuted and concluded by now. The SIT probe, if experience is anything to go by, will take a considerable amount of time to come to a conclusion. Meanwhile, the survivor is no closer to getting justice.