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Ingrained apathy

Editorial |

It is more than another demeaning example of how Delhi ill-treats women. The multiple stabbing, in broad daylight, of a young woman by a man whose “advances” she had spurned is a collective blot on the people of the Capital — for no one dared to go to her aid until her killer had done what he had set out to do. A CCTV camera recorded the incident in the rather crowded locality of Burari; it confirmed that the city has not been shamed out of its customary apathy by the rape and murder of “Nirbahaya” some years ago, all the outrage expressed then was short-lived. For the camera confirmed that not a single passer-by mustered the courage to go to the young woman&’s help — the subsequent “excuse” that people were too scared to tackle the man who attacked her with one blade from a pair of scissors testifies to both physical and moral cowardice. And merely cements the image of a callous, uncaring, populace.

True that it is no longer possible to say that something like that would never have happened in Kolkata or Mumbai, yet equally true that incidents of the kind cause few in Delhi to lose much sleep. Certainly not the police: who would have been quite satisfied when the woman&’s family agreed to compromise her original complaint against her stalker-turned-slayer. That the cops had a moral responsibility towards providing her “security” would never have entered their mind — this is not Delhi at its worst, simply Delhi as it actually is.

Criminologists would contend that crimes of passion are almost impossible to prevent, the “personal” element being so very pronounced. Yet the young woman&’s killing cannot be seen in isolation from what has brought the city its infamous title as “the rape capital of the country”. Simply because the police accord the common citizen little or no priority — that is the worst manifestation of the VIP culture that cripples the administration of the city. Commissioners come and go, their sole focus is keeping the political leadership happy.

That offers much insight into why there is neither fear nor respect for the “law” — for there are so many who are clearly above the law. And a substantial section of the force is committed to VIP-related duties leaving the city under-policed for the average citizen. This would not be the proper occasion to revive the politically-loaded debate over who should “control” the Delhi Police — Kejriwal & Co. inspire no confidence that they would do a better job than a top-heavy central government and Lieutenant-Governor, and would appear essentially hungry for the power they might enjoy under a revamped system. Delhi and its women just “don’t have a chance”.