Shillong, Dec. 23: As New Delhi burns in agony and rage over the gangrape and brutal assault of a 23-year-old, Meghalaya has reported at least 12 cases of rape and attempt to rape this month alone.
Among the 12 cases was the gangrape of an 18-year-old in Williamnagar, East Garo Hills district, on the night of December 13. At least 15 boys were picked up and eight of them are juveniles.
These are indeed staggering figures and as the Meghalaya director-general of police, Kulbir Krishan, on Friday had put it: "It calls for a lot of soul-searching on how to prevent these incidents. These are alien to our culture and to Meghalaya."
He had also made a promise that the chargesheet against the perpetrators of the Williamnagar incident would be an "excellent" one, besides assuring that police would have the case heard in a fast-track court.
Between January and June this year, the state police have reported a total of 91 crimes against women and out of these, 60 are related to rape. As many as 890 cases of rape were reported between 2002 and June 2012. (See chart)
But the conviction rate is gloomy and offers little to cheer for the victims and nothing to fear for the perpetrators of such heinous crimes.
Speaking in the Meghalaya Assembly in March this year, legislator James Sangma brought to light the low conviction rate against cases of rape.
In 2007, out of 82 registered rape cases, perpetrators were convicted in only eight cases. In 2008, out of 88 cases, only 11 cases resulted in conviction. In 2009, there were only seven convictions in 112 cases while in 2010, out of 149 cases, there were only four convictions.
Another shocker in Meghalaya is crime committed against children. Statistics from 2003-2011 reveal that there were a staggering 436 cases of rape involving children in the state. (See chart)
For years now, social organisations and women's groups in the state have been demanding speedy trial of all rape cases to ensure that justice is delivered at the earliest.
"Not much has changed as most of the fast-track courts are not really fast track. They are just in name. Investigation should also be proper and thorough and by police personnel who are concerned," president of the Civil Society Women's Organisation (CSWO), Agnes Kharshiing, said.
The organisation has been fighting for speedy trial of rape cases.
"But if the rage expressed by hundreds in New Delhi is anything to go by, the government should waste no time to ensure that justice is delivered at the earliest," Kharshiing said.
The state government had earlier announced the Meghalaya Victims Compensation Scheme, which says that a rape victim will be entitled to Rs 50,000 as compensation from the state government.
It also states that Rs 25,000 should be paid for loss or injury causing severe mental agony to women and children in cases such as human trafficking and abduction.
Yesterday, Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said in New Delhi: "To ensure a strong law to deal with crimes of this nature, the government will take immediate steps for amendment of the criminal law for more effective punishment in the rarest of rare cases of sexual assault."