Standard Operating Procedure

Can the Delhi Police fix its record on crimes against women?

01 November 2013
In the Adarsh Nagar police station in north Delhi, Usha Sanghwan (left) listens to a woman seeking protection from domestic violence.
SHARBENDU DE FOR THE CARAVAN
In the Adarsh Nagar police station in north Delhi, Usha Sanghwan (left) listens to a woman seeking protection from domestic violence.
SHARBENDU DE FOR THE CARAVAN

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ON THURSDAY, 18 April, a five-year-old girl, suffering from internal bleeding, severe dehydration, and wounds inflicted to her neck, face and anus, was rushed to Swami Dayanand Hospital in Shahdara, East Delhi. Three days before, the little girl had been abducted and repeatedly raped by a neighbour and his friend. In statements to the Delhi Police, the two men later admitted that, in an attempt to control bleeding brought on by the assault, they inserted pieces of a wax candle, and a 200-millilitre plastic vial meant for hair oil, into their victim’s vagina. When the bleeding wouldn’t stop, panic set in, and the attackers attempted to kill the girl by strangling her and slitting her throat. Before fleeing from the scene, the neighbour, 22-year-old Manoj Kumar Sah, locked the unconscious girl in his room, in Gandhi Nagar, a low-income colony that flanks Shahdara. The victim’s family lived a couple floors above.

While the little girl lay passed out, her parents, unaware of how close she was, started to worry. It wasn’t unusual for her to play outside unattended, but when she didn’t return home for dinner, they began an increasingly frantic search. After scouring the area for a few hours, they went to the police. Later, the parents told the media that they pleaded with the station house officer (SHO) at the Gandhi Nagar police station to register a first information report (FIR) and begin searching for their child. The police did nothing until the following morning, 16 April, when investigating officers were sent to the apartment building. They stood outside Sah’s room for a few moments, but decided to move on, since the door was locked. The young victim was inside, and Sah was perhaps already nearing his village in northern Bihar, where he was arrested three days later. (His accomplice, 19-year-old Pradeep Kumar, was arrested two days after that.)

Gayathri Sreedharan worked as a journalist in Delhi for five years. She is now pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Chicago.

Keywords: gender protests media Delhi gang-rape sexual abuse police reform Justice Verma Committee law and order rape laws
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