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Rohini Episode-Lessons For The Police and society

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Message Bobby Ramakant
Rohini Episode-Lessons For The Police and Society

Rohini Singh is still waiting for justice to be done after being brutally physically abused by the police constable Subhas Mishra, who entered and ransacked her home and who also misbehaved with her two minor daughters, all because she was asking for protection against the harassment and domestic violence she was being subjected to by her husband.

"Even after the Director General of Police (DGP) Saheb has intervened, I am still being threatened and pressured to withdraw my case against the constable. My husband, who is in jail, has sent a message through my son, who went to meet him there, saying that they are asking him to sign an affidavit in jail saying that the injury on my leg is an old wound inflicted by him and not Constable Subash Mishra. I fear for the life and protection of both my children and myself and I don't know who to approach for support now. There has been a First Information Report (FIR) lodged in my name against the offenders, but until now I have not been given a copy of the FIR despite my asking for it several times. It is my right to know what sections have been included and what statements have been recorded in my name. I am also in need of financial relief to support my children and I request that the government help me get it through the courts, " says Rohini, breaking down.

She was not the only one who spoke to the media at the panel discussion on "The Rohini Episode-Lessons for Police and Society" organized by UNICEF and Media Nest in collaboration with the Saaksham Foundation, an organization working to address Human Rights and violations of women and children. The discussion was organized at the UP Press Club.

Dr Richa Rastogi also spoke about the police harassment she was being subjected to owing to dowry harassment by her husband, who along with the police, has been tormenting her since 2007. "Every time I went to the police, they refused to help me. I even approached the women's commission, but nothing was done."

"Repeated attempts were made on my life by feeding me poison in my food and pushing me in front of a truck, yet when I went to the police for help, they harassed me instead. When I got married my parents spent over 25 lakhs on my wedding, but even that is not enough. They are still demanding money and my life is in danger. But no matter who I have approached for help, even the DGP office, I have received no support as my husband's uncle, who is under secretary in the UP government, calls up the 'thanas' and the officials I approach and pulls rank."

Professor (Dr) Roop Rekha Verma, former Vice Chancellor of Lucknow University and a noted social activist who has been spearheading Rohini's case through 'Saajhi Duniya' an organization addressing women's rights, said,"Rohini's is not the first case in which we are seeing such indifference by the police. In every case that we take up it's the same story. It is a shame that living in a democracy we still have to face such atrocities and human rights violations at the hands of the law enforcers. But if we want to approach the judiciary its the same story, long drawn-out dates and cumbersome paperwork makes it almost impossible to get justice immediately for the victims."

She also questioned the attitude of the police while filing an FIR in such cases,"It's our right to get a copy of the FIR we file, but in Rohini's case we have still not received a copy of the second FIR. We don't even know what has been stated in the FIR or what sections have been included. On the other hand, we had also asked the police to investigate who filed the first FIR in which the accused were shown as unknown persons, as Rohini has never said the offenders were unknown. In fact her signatures were forged on the FIR, which is a crime itself. But the police have still not furnished that information to us."

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and President, People's Union for Human Rights (PUHR), said, "This is a systematic problem. Corruption is rife in the police department and the fact that they can be pressured to work under influence is common. The male dominated patriarchal society we live in also sets the stage for rights to be violated for the weak, the dalits and minorities. Its a colonial mindset the British have left behind and cannot be rectified. But what can be changed is the attitude of the police, the 'policia bhasha' that they use with expletives can be discouraged and their attitude made more humane. Every victim that goes to a thana today is subjected to abusive language and brutal torture; this should not be condoned at all. We don't need an executive council or any legal initiative to change this. The top level police should bring about this change and, if they don't, they should not be excused for it. The world is changing today; human rights is a huge issue internationally, but in UP we refuse to address it."

G Shree Devi, Secretary UP State Legal Services Authority (UPSLSA), who was also among the panelists, made people aware of what their legal rights are in case of such violations. She also offered to take up the case of Rohini Singh and help her get the financial aid for judicial intervention. "The problem is that people are not aware of their legal rights. In Rohini's case, she should have filed her case under the Domestic Violence act. This would have helped her get judicial custody of her children and also the financial relief she wants. The UP State Legal Services Authority wants NGOs to collaborate with us so that we can inform people about the provisions we have made to help them get justice in such issues."

Anjali Singh, Director Saaksham Foundation, said, "In every case of children's rights, women's rights and human rights the first violations occur at the police level when they refuse to go by the system put in place to help these victims. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop a pressure group to stand by these victims to help them get justice immediately and bring the offenders to justice even if they are in the police. It's a shame that in a survey done by National Human Rights Commission in 2008 that out of 94,559 cases of human rights violations from all over India, the UP Police headed the list of offenders with 55,216 cases filed against them. It is shameful."

Augustine Veliath, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Lucknow, said, "From our end, UNICEF is ready to develop an NGO networking list which can be provided to UPSLSA to help educate as many people as possible about their legal rights to protect themselves against human rights violations."

A vote of thanks was given by Subir Roy, Senior Photo Journalist and member Media Nest, he said,"Media Nest's aim is to help people address such issues so that they can seek justice in the cases which are not being addressed appropriately. That's why we have set up this forum and raise such issues every fortnight through Media for the Children's Hour."
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Bobby Ramakant is a development journalist and has been writing on development issues since 1991. Health is one of the key focus areas he writes on. He is also a World Health Organization (WHO)'s WNTD awardee for 2008
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