Domestic Violence cases drastically rising in Guwahati
GUWAHATI: The All Women Police Station (AWPS) situated in Pan Bazaar, Guwahati has registered a total of 84 cases in the last seven months, that is, from January 1 to July 30, 2018.
The police station, that only registers cases of women-related crimes, has received 47 cases so far under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty, harassment, mental or physical torture), making it the most commonly reported crime against women.
In a city that has recently witnessed a rise in crimes against women, the AWPS has been playing a pivotal role. Established in 1993, AWPS receives numerous cases on a daily basis – ranging from rape, dowry, Information Technology (IT) Act, threatening, torture and Protection of Child from Sexual Offences (POCSO), to name a few.
“For a rape victim, it's not easy to go to a police station that has so many men in uniform present around her, and open up about the incident. But, in a police station where she knows she’ll be dealing with only ladies, she is a bit more comfortable,” APS Mousumi Kalita, Additional Commissioner of Police (Women Unit) told G Plus.
While the total number of cases registered at the AWPS has remained virtually constant over the years, with 219 and 206 cases registered in 2016 and 2017 respectively, cases under the IT Act has been increasing enormously. While in 2016, only a single case was registered under the IT Act, a total of 11 cases were registered in 2017 and 8 cases have been registered in just these 7 months of 2018.
“Recently, we’ve observed an increase in cases under the IT Act. Cases of boys posting images and videos of girls online and blackmailing them have become very common, especially with couples who had been in live-in relationships and drifted apart for some reason,” informed officer in-charge, Arati Saikia.
Further, there has been a decline in the number of cases registered under IPC section 354A (sexual harassment). The year 2016 witnesses a total of 40 cases of sexual harassment, but it reduced to 26 cases in 2017 and merely 10 cases have been registered this year, although the numbers are expected to rise in the coming months.
Out of the remaining 18 cases registered this year, one is of rape, six are of POCSO and eleven belong to other IPC.
In a recent case registered at the AWPS, a 47 year old woman from Kahilipara has alleged that her husband has been torturing her physically as well as mentally ever since her marriage in 1996.
“Immediately after marriage, my husband started torturing me by physically assaulting me and hurling verbal abuses and mentally torturing me with constant demands for bringing money from my parents,” reads the complaint dated 27th July, 2018.
Officials at the WPS informed G Plus that many similar cases are registered every month. But, not all of the registered cases are true because women have started misusing their rights and it’s often found that the husband and his family members are actually the victims. Hence, as per notice issued by the Supreme Court of India, the cases are investigated and a notice is served under CRPC 41 instead of arresting the accused simply based on the complaint.
All Women PS not equipped to handle complex cases
There are more cases registered at the All Women Police Station than can be handled by the staff. The functioning and set up of the AWPS is very different from that of other police stations in the city. There is an absence of 2nd officer and sheristadar (an officer entrusted with the physical belongings of the station), along with a massive staff crunch that’s leading to inefficiency in crime solving.
If regular staff wasn’t enough, currently, three constables are absent on grounds of maternity leave/child care leave. This has led to additional problems for the police station. Further, a lot of women constables are not willing to work during night shifts. So handling cases during night hours becomes a challenge.
“We are expected to safeguard women, but we’re ourselves not provided with safety of any sorts,” a woman constable stationed at the AWPS informed G Plus.
She further added that neither are the female police personnel provided with safe travel during night hours, nor are there any changing rooms or rooms without CCTV cameras for the women to change into and out of their uniforms.
The infrastructure of the station also acts as a major setback since the boundary walls are very low and there is an absence of washroom apart from the one in the lock up. However, the location acts as a plus point with the Pan Bazar Police Station situated right next door and the Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital (MMCH) just across the road for emergencies.
Speaking to G Plus, Mousumi Kalita said that there are a lot of limitations in the jurisdiction of the AWPS. “The cases registered here do not give a complete picture. We can only register women-related cases – cases that can be registered at other police stations too.
Further, extortion for money and certain IT Act cases also cannot be registered here,” she added.
As per notification from the DGP office, AWPS is only allowed to cater to cases from Kamrup (M) but cases come in from all over the state and sometimes, from other parts of the country too.
“Women in distress approach us to file their complaints. They expect us to listen to their troubles and guide them instead of denying lodging their complaint. So, we register their complaints at AWPS and transfer the case to the concerned police station,” Kalita informed.
Not only does the All Women Police Station deal with cases, they also provide counselling, when needed. Counselling is formally provided at the women’s cell of Pan Bazar Police Station. Moreover, AWPS officials also provide counselling in petty cases.
“In order to keep serving the society better, our limitations must be studied and we must be empowered further. Only then will this AWPS be able to serve its actual purpose,” an official at the AWPS said.