Yes, Ruchika's Death Must Not Be in Vain

January 16, 2010

Ruchika’s Death Must Not Be in Vain

The rape and suicide of Ruchika Girhotra in 1990 has received volumes of attention in the Indian media unlike most rape cases in India (here is a short time line of the case).  But, Vir Sanghvi’s column in the Hindustan Times convinced me to post.  Some key grafs from the column:

… Besides, I don’t even think that Rathore is the real problem. He is merely a symptom of the sort of systemic rot, depravity and corruption that led to Ruchika’s death and to the hounding of her family. It suits those who run the system to allow Rathore to be the fall guy — after all, he is a truly loathsome character — because it prevents us from looking further and doing anything about a system that preys on the weak and works to the benefit of those in authority.

Let’s look at the Ruchika case with some detachment. Nobody can deny that what Rathore did — grabbing Ruchika and groping her — was both revolting and disgusting. But equally, let’s accept that this incident by itself is not unusual in today’s India where officials rape defenceless women with a sickening regularity. Nor is it enough to explain our outrage at the circumstances of the case.

The reasons we are upset are as follows. One, the police refused to register the molestation complaint. Two, Rathore was protected by Haryana’s notoriously corrupt politicians. Three, false cases were filed against Ruchika’s brother. Four, her brother was repeatedly tortured by the police. Five, Rathore arranged for goondas to abuse Ruchika each time she left her house. Six, he forced her school to throw her out on a flimsy pretext. Seven, the case took years to come to any kind of conclusion. And eight, even now, with all this publicity, justice has still not been done and Rathore is still smirking.

Given that these are the reasons for our anger, our efforts should be directed towards revamping the system so that such abuses of power cannot recur in future.

This is not easy to do. But equally, it is not impossible. We need, first of all, to fix some kind of accountability on the police. The officers who filed the false cases against Ruchika’s brother and who tortured him are still at large. Many continue to occupy positions of influence. No doubt, they also continue to misuse their power in the same sort of ways.

He is exactly right– Rathore’s a criminal that abused his position of power (then Chief of Police in the state of Haryana) and raped a 14-year old girl who later committed suicide.  But, the real crime is the system that permits police virtual impunity against the powerless, especially women.  As Sanghvi points out, there needs to be systematic changes to India’s system of justice or “Ruchika will have died in vain.”