March 29, 2006

Those migrants again

A week ago, DNA's Sunday headline read: "Rapes show city's loss of character". The article seems to have been prompted by the recent Abhijit Kasliwal case, where a this son of a wealthy industrial family is accused of assaulting and raping a 52-year-old woman late one night.

"Is Mumbai going the Delhi way?" asks the article, and then says:
    Delhi has long been known as India's "rape capital". The figures prove it, with 600 rapes reported in 2005. Now, suddenly, Delhi has competition for the shameful distinction. And it comes from Mumbai, once a haven for women.
With language like that, you'd expect at least three things.

One, evidence that 600 rapes in 2005 is indeed greater than in any other large Indian city, thus backing up that "rape capital" assertion.

Two, evidence that Mumbai was indeed "once a haven for women".

Three, evidence that Mumbai has indeed seen a "sudden" rise in the number of rapes, enough that there are something close to 600 reported rapes in this city every year.

No surprise: the article features none of those three things. But it does have this odd paragraph:
    Earlier, poor women were mostly the targets of rapists. Middle and upper class women could rarely be touched. But now, with women entering the work force in large numbers, they are more accessible. According to Akhila Shivdas, executive director, Centre for Advocacy and Research, "The wall between the haves and the have-nots has disintegrated."
What does this mean? Is that "rarely be touched" anything but mere conjecture? Likewise, the assertion about poor women? What about this "wall" that has "disintegrated", what does that have to do with rapes?

But put all this down to shallow reporting. What gets me in this article are these lines:
    [One reason for the rapes is] the influx of a large migrant population ... Dr Rajat Mitra, clinical psychologist, says Mumbai's character is changing. "With the arrival of a migrant population, the sense of belonging is being replaced by a sense of anonymity. So a rapist feels he can assault a woman and get away with it, as there is nobody to answer to."
Oh, so it's those crummy outsiders at fault, yet again! Yep, and Kasliwal must have influxed into this city just a month or two ago, right? Sure.

Once again, where's the evidence, besides a psychologist's say-so, that "belonging" is being replaced by "anonymity"? That this contributes to rapes? That this replacement is attributable to "the influx of a large migrant population"?

More important, where's the evidence of this "large" influx anyway? As I pointed out here last August, immigration forms a steadily decreasing fraction of the city's growth. It dipped below 50% in the '60s and now contributes less than a third.

So yeah, let's certainly find out if rapes are on the increase. Let's not simply assume they are. Let's certainly look for reasons for such an increase. Let's not simply blame outsiders, and that via some impressive-sounding but completely empty assertions.

5 comments:

prasoon said...

am sure DNA is sponsored by shiv sena or some party under its umbrella n such an article will do nothing more but add fuel to Thakarey's campaign where he wants only Maharastrians to be in Mumbai - i kinda remember something when people from UP n Bihar were being attacked at large.. [i guess i am right?]

Agony Uncle said...

Excellent post! The largest number of rapes in India are not in Delhi or Mumbai, but Madhya Pradesh:

http://www.hinduonnet.com/mag/2002/09/01/stories/2002090100020400.htm

Sure, MP is a state not a city, so Delhi could still be the Rape capital (rather cheap terminology, btw), but anyway, MP gets no mention in rape stories - including a cover story India Today did on rape. That's because most rape victims in MP are dalit women who are not half as worthy of space in the middle-class dominated media as middle-class city women. Class and caste underlie everything in India, including shallow, prejudiced reporting.

Nikhil said...

It is not shallow but terrible reporting. A rape is a crime that cuts across caste, class, religion etc. Why bring stereotypes into this? What will come next? A religious angle. I know of several middle class girls and women who undergo sexual harassment. Was the cop who committed rape an outsider? or those 2 people who raped the South African wannabe movie star?
Rape is a terrible thing. Reporters should execise restraint when they report or discuss such issues

Anonymous said...

Good Job!!! Please continue to track all such erroneous reports. Please also publish an update on the Abhijit Kasliwal case. Lets not forget the two North Eastern Girls who were attacked at the Gateway of India & one of whom later succumbed to the injuries. Was the accused brought to justice?

concerned Woman citizen said...

Good Job!!! Please continue to track all such erroneous reports. Please also publish an update on the Abhijit Kasliwal case. Lets not forget the two North Eastern Girls who were attacked at the Gateway of India & one of whom later succumbed to the injuries. Was the accused brought to justice?