[ Tongam Rina ]
As the state was geared up for the festive season of Christmas and New Year, we woke up to the news about the ghastly murder of a young school girl in Empong Village in Namsai who was home from school for holidays. She was at the paddy field, sharing the work load of her family when she was so mercilessly murdered. The sheer brutality of murder and of rape is numbing.
In the newsroom here, I have seen my colleagues, who otherwise are used to ups and downs of reporting including violence, struggling to compose themselves as they file the report on the appalling murder and rape.
According to Arunachal Pradesh police statistics for Jan-Dec 2016, there were 92 cases of rape in the state and 212 cases of crimes against women. The details for 2017 are not yet available on the Police website.
Prior to December 23 murder and rape of the schoolgirl, in July last year, a young woman was murdered in Lekhi village in Capital region. There has been no arrest so far.
The police will admit that if there are no arrests of possible suspects within few weeks of a murder, there are very rare possibilities of ever arresting the culprits. In a state like Arunachal, where the population is so less, it is rather questionable that police, though overworked and struggling for basic amenities, takes such a long time to find out the alleged perpetrators of violence.
Crimes, in all its shapes and hues and brutalities are no longer alien in this tribal state. Some crimes are more brutal than the ones shown on films and one is left wondering about the core ethical tribal values. Accepted that tribal values have eroded and we are just tribal, without any of the values that made us different from the rest but it is alarming how crimes have become an everyday affair.
Today, we have reached a point where violence with varying degrees-right from murder to kidnapping, extortion and assault are accepted and soon a point will come, when we will accept rapes and other crimes as norms. Now, that’s a scary realization but a reality.
As tribal moral values erode faster than we realize, perhaps, it is time for the police to step up and law to step in. The conviction rate in the state in abysmal. At the village level, traditional tribal courts need to be strengthened with fair representation of men and women as well as government representatives.
Amalgamation of tribal way of justice delivery with Indian law is perhaps a possibility given the fact that lot of cases are settled in the state in these courts, often attended by government appointed Gaon Burahs and Political Interpreters. That apart, the number of District and Sessions Courts have to be increased and strengthened. Unless, there is a change in mindset, crimes against women will continue to be the norm in the state but if the state is serious about curbing the crimes against women and children, it certainly has to set up the women’s police stations as promised in 2016.
In the meantime, the state desperately needs an independent Child Rights Commission. The Arunachal Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights is clubbed with Arunachal Pradesh State Commission for Women in the state. Perhaps lack of resources, but the fact that women and child rights have been clubbed together, rather reflects apathy of government towards the welfare and rights of the children and women, the most vulnerable group of people.
[ Tongam Rina ]