Jaipur: Jugal Kishore Bhardwaj, a 70-year-old retired government official, has been reluctant to return to his house in Jaipur’s Brahmpuri area since goons allegedly attacked his family earlier this month, beating up his son and molesting his daughter-in-law.
When police allegedly failed to act on his complaint, the goons returned, leaving his son with fractured legs this time. The reason? He had complained against them for alleged encroachment on government land.
Since then, Bhardwaj has been living with relatives, and an assurance from Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Rajiv Pachar himself has failed to convince him to go back.
However, the assault on the Bhardwajs is hardly a one-off. Rajasthan has been throwing up some bone-chilling criminal cases of late that are shocking as much for their brutality as their audacity.
Last week, for example, two police constables were allegedly abducted by gravel mafia in Dholpur and severely beaten up.
On 6 September, a notorious gangster was broken free from a jail in Alwar district at 9 am. On 14 July, a Dalit woman was allegedly illegally detained and gang-raped by police personnel. On 26 April, an 18-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly gang-raped in front of her husband in Alwar district.
Growing crime in Rajasthan was one of the Congress’ main poll planks during the 2018 assembly election campaign. Ten months into office, the party finds itself fielding the same allegations, with some notes of warning coming from the party itself.
According to the last edition of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data available, for 2016, Rajasthan had the eighth highest crime rate (crime per lakh people) in the country between 2014 and 2016, ahead of even usual suspects Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which came in much farther at 22nd and 23rd, respectively.
State capital Jaipur was second by crime rate among cities with a population of over 20 lakh, ahead of Patna (fourth), Lucknow (sixth), and Ghaziabad (eleventh). Delhi was first.
According to police data from January to August 2019, 17 rapes and 24 abductions were reported in Rajasthan every day, apart from 26 cases of molestation. Police, however, closed nearly 40 per cent of these cases, claiming they were “adam vaku” — a police term for false complaints.
The number of rapes has gone up from 1,800 in 2011 to 4,240 in 2019, so far, according to police data. Kidnappings are up from 2,713 in 2011 to 5,743 in 2019.
Rajasthan is going through “complete anarchistic situation in which everyone thinks himself powerful enough to do anything”, said Dr Rajiv Gupta, former sociology professor Rajasthan University.
Despite increasing literacy, he said, Rajasthan has “not been able to develop critical consciousness and break free itself from shackles of feudalism and patriarchal mindset”
“People have strong religious and caste identities and little respect for women, which explains increasing incidents of mob lynching, caste confrontation and crime against women,” said Gupta.
The police, meanwhile, said the high crime rate was a reflection of liberal FIR registration.
“The government has issued directives that an FIR cannot be rejected. In case of denial, strict action is being taken against errant police officials,” said Additional Director General of Police (crime) B.L. Soni.
Such is the alarm regarding the crime situation in the state that Deputy CM Sachin Pilot, who is also the Rajasthan Congress chief, himself pulled up the state government for the deteriorating law & order situation.
“We should pay more attention to law and order. There have been number of incidents, whether Alwar, Behror or Dholpur. These incidents are disturbing,” Pilot said last month. “They ought not to have happened and should not be repeated.”
The BJP, meanwhile, has seized on the issue to corner the Ashok Gehlot government. Earlier this month, union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat took a potshot at the state government following reports that Gehlot could appoint two more deputy chief ministers along with Pilot. “Why only two or five deputy chief ministers, he could appoint as many as 11, if that improves law & order and ensures safety of our daughters,” he said.
State govt action
Chief Minister Gehlot, who also holds the home portfolio, has been trying to make the state safer.
Strict action, for example, has been taken against police officers for perceived lapses. A special cell has been set up to monitor heinous crime. Led by the additional director general of police (crime), the cell will monitor the case even when it is in court. Heinous crimes will now be investigated at the state-level as well as the range-level.
To sensitise youngsters about crime against women, the government has decided to introduce a chapter on the matter in Class 10 and Class 12 school books from the next academic session.
However, critics say the government needs to clear the rot in the police department.
Former state women’s commission chair and BJP leader Suman Sharma alleged that the Congress government had lost grip over police officers, with the corrupt ones getting plum postings and honest ones sidelined. According to her, transfers and postings are now driven by MLAs’ recommendations instead of merit.
The BJP now hopes to benefit from the public anger in the upcoming panchayat and municipal elections, which are just three months away.
Asked about the current situation, Congress spokesperson and state state general secretary Suresh Choudhary sought to blame the erstwhile BJP administration.
“It will take some time to clear the mess created by the erstwhile BJP government. They allowed the situation to go out of control but suppressed FIR registration, whereas our government has made it categorically clear that FIRs should not be denied,” he said.
“Now, for them to say that crime has increased because corrupt officials are given postings is an utter lie,” he added. “Officials are posted according to their merit and efficiency.”