With spotlight on actress' rape, crime graph unfolds horror story - 228% jump in rapes in 10 yrs
Imaging: Ravi Jadhav
The alleged rape of a Malayalam film actress in Kochi, Kerala, last week has brought the state's shameful track record of crimes against women into focus. There has been a jump of 228.8% in reported rape cases from 2007-16 — roughly a rape every six hours. While molestation cases increased from 2,604 to 4,035 during the same period, cases of kidnapping, sexual harassment, dowry deaths and cruelty by husband have seen little difference (see table).
Dr B Sandhya, additional director general of police (law and order), Kerala, points out that the statistics don't necessarily mean an increase in the number of crimes against women. "Better awareness on reporting crimes, stringent policing and the faith in the police machinery have contributed to more women coming forward to report such crimes."
Two in custody
The actress' alleged abduction and rape by a gang of men on the night of February 17 has put the entire state machinery on its toes. While the prime accused, Sunil Kumar alias Pulsar Sunil, is yet to be nabbed, two of alleged his aides — Pradeep (23), a driver and resident of Kottayam, and Saalem (23), a bus conductor from Eddapally, Ernakulam — were picked up on Sunday from a lodge in Coimbatore.
Kumar, along with two of his other alleged accomplices Manikandan and Vijesh — all of whom are absconding — filed an anticipatory bail application in the Kerala High Court yesterday.
Martin Anthony (24), a resident of Koraddy, Thrissur — the actress' driver on the fateful night (he is employed with Lal Creations Film Distribution in Ernakulam) who is accused of colluding with Kumar — has told the police he was headed to the actress' Thrissur home from Ernakulam when a tempo traveller dashed into his SUV at the Nedumbassery airport signal, and a few men barged in.
They allegedly took over the vehicle and drove a little distance, with the tempo trailing behind, before halting on the way to Kakanad. There, Kumar allegedly entered the SUV and the vehicle resumed its journey to Kakanad. En route, the men allegedly raped the actress and took photographs of her. While unconfirmed reports said the gang intended to use the pictures to blackmail the actor for a ransom of over Rs 60 lakh, the Kerala police top brass refused to divulge much.
Inspector General of Police (Ernakulam range) P Vijayan said, "We are investigating the case from all possible angles. We can't say much at this juncture." On the possibility of a personal enmity between the actress and the accused and the blackmail allegations, Sandhya said, "We are not clear [on these angles] at this point."
Shoddy forensic job?
The police case may be diluted by shoddy forensic evidence collection the day after the alleged crime. The actress was taken by Nedumbassery police to Government Medical College, Ernakulam, but she was examined by the on-call gynaecologist, despite the facility having a full-fledged forensic medicine and toxicology department. The gynaecologist had no past experience with a medico-legal case.
The gynaecologist was tight-lipped. "I have collected all the required evidence and handed it over to the police," she said. Asked if the garments the actress wore at the time of the alleged crime were sealed, along with nail clippings and hair samples, she refused to comment. A senior forensic scientist from Forensic Science Laboratory, Kerala, said, "We had sent a team to inspect the seized vehicles and have collected sufficient evidence from the crime scene. The evidence will be analysed and accordingly, reports will be submitted to the police."
Asked oral swabs, nail clippings and garments had been provided to FSL, the scientist replied directed this reporter to talk to the police. ADGP Sandhya refused to open up on the evidence, saying, "These are part of the investigation, which we will inform the court." Vijayan claimed that sufficient evidence had been procured from the crime scene and through the medical examination of the actress.