Lucknow, Dec 31 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's words of support or his father Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav's statements on crimes against women ring hollow in a state that reported over 1,500 rape cases in nine months and where a man facing rape charges continues to be minister.
With the death of the 23-year-old Delhi victim of gang-rape putting cases of sexual assault in the spotlight, statistics reveal that 13,263 cases of rape are also being heard in sessions courts across the state in 2011.
Add to this the fact that Manoj Paras, minister for stamp, registration and civil defence, remains in office despite charges of rape. In his sworn affidavit to the Election Commission in the run up to state elections, he had enlisted rape charges against himself.
This has put a big question mark on the seriousness of the state government's will to crack down on rapists, eve teasers and all those involved in crime against women, said social activist Karuna Saxena.
Though this is ammunition for the opposition, with former chief minister Mayawati saying that Akhilesh Yadav's support to the Delhi rape-victim was a sham, the state of women in Uttar Pradesh is clearly not government specific.
Statistics show that in three months of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) rule and the remaining nine months under Akhilesh Yadav, women and girls in the state continued to be unsafe as ever in 2012.
In the last three years, 4,917 rapes have been committed in Uttar Pradesh. Of these, 39 victims, all minors, were killed.
The rate of conviction is low. An estimated 563 rape cases have concluded in the last three months, with only 40 percent accused being convicted.
Police officials admit that the law is lax and in many cases the witnesses turn hostile.
"We will have to ensure that the rapists fear the law," Director General of Police A.C. Sharma told IANS.
Sharma recommends capital punishment for rapists and says the need of the hour is to ensure that rapists are punished.
Akhilesh Yadav may have offered to take on the treatment charges of the 23-year-old Delhi girl and Mulayam Singh may have spoken of the lack of values in the youth who committed such a heinous crime, but given the macro reality of Uttar Pradesh the issue has inevitable political overtones.
"The message against these rapists and to the police officials to act swiftly and tough has to come from the political leadership," said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Vijay Bahadur Pathak.
"When the entire country was stunned by the Delhi gang-rape, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister and his cabinet were watching Bollywood dancers at Saifai Mahotsava in his native village," he said.
Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh has told Akhilesh Yadav to show the guts to throw out his minister before speaking on the Delhi rape case.
Navneet Sikera, the man behind the successful 1090 women's powerline, launched in November for women harassed on phone through lewd SMS and obscene phone calls, said the the helpline had been flooded with calls from harassed women.
"We knew the problem existed but even we are stunned at the thousands of calls from across the state the helpline receives, reflecting the extent of the problem," he said.
The Uttar Pradesh government has instructed that the National Security Act (NSA) be invoked against rapists. Only the year to come will tell if this will really act as a deterrence.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)