AAP government calls special session as Delhi sees spurt in crimes against women

The Aam Aadmi Party-led government in New Delhi on Tuesday announced a special assembly session focused on crimes against women on July 28, with plans to set up a special inquiry committee, headed by a retired High Court or Supreme Court judge. The party seems to be learning that the capital is never in the news for any right reasons when it comes to gender-based crimes and, like the former Congress government, it is pointing fingers at the Delhi Police.

This, despite the fact the chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, often took his predecessor Sheila Dikshit to task for claiming similar helplessness.

Crime against women on Delhi has become a matter of routine; it is only the most brutal and sensational acts that make the news. The recent flurry of action by the Delhi government comes after the horrific murder of a 19-year-old girl last week, who was stabbed multiple times by two brothers, allegedly helped by their mother. Worse still, the girl and her family had been complaining to the police against one of the brothers for two years, all of which went ignored.

Delhi Police’s own figures say that from January 1 to June 30 of 2015, there have been 1,008 registered cases of rape in the city, fairly similar to 1,004 cases from the first six months of 2014. However, reported cases of molestation against women in the same time frame spiked, from 1,980 in 2014 to 2,393 in 2015; eve teasing from 583 to 729; cruelty from husband or relative and criminal breach of trust ie 406/498A of the IPC from 1,403 to 1,672.

Police data comparing crimes against women from 2012 to 2014 show a steady rise in reported cases, from 706 rapes in 2012 to 2,166 in 2014, 727 molestations to 4,322 to give a few examples. The police says that this indicates more people reporting crimes instead of staying silent, instead of increase in crime overall. The AAP, which has been in power since February 14, has been saying that crime itself has increased in the city, using these cases to indict the police and demand the Centre hand the Delhi government control over the force. This has been fiercely resisted by Delhi police commissioner BS Bassi.

Safety for women was one of AAP’s biggest promises in their manifesto and their campaign speeches. It won over many voters and came up repeatedly in the constituency demands during the Delhi Dialogues and the ‘junta ka budget’ people participation programme.

Kejriwal had promised CCTVs in all dark corners, Home Guards in DTC buses, better last mile connectivity to make public transport safer and 47 fast track courts for crimes against women.

Of these, the government has, so far, been able to start deploying home guards, while CCTVs and the fast track courts are yet to be rolled out.

It is difficult to quantify exactly whether these numbers mean an increase in crime or an increase in people reporting them. The AAP government will also have to cognizant of the fact that majority of the crimes against women in 2015 have happened under their noses. Though the government is making all the right noises now they cannot for too long say their hands are tied. Even the DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal says that these figures show only a small number of the actual number of crimes and that many times complaints don’t even become FIRs.

Meanwhile, the tussle between the police and the government looks unlikely to be resolved.

(With inputs from Azaan Javaid)