The spontaneous eruption of protests across the country signals that, for the population, the murder of Andrea Bharatt has crossed a line too far.
In Andrea, none of the rationales used for blaming women for their own murders apply. She wasn’t killed because of a poor choice of partner, she wasn’t killed because she wore a revealing Carnival costume, she wasn’t killed because she took a PH car, she wasn’t killed because she was out at night, she wasn’t killed because she was in bad company. No, Andrea did everything right and still ended up dead. We are out of excuses. Having arrived at this point we must now look the real enemy in the eye and settle for nothing less than real solutions and meaningful change.
The downside in calling for more and tougher laws is that it allows our failing institutions to pass the buck and escape responsibility for their repeated failures. In any case, we know from experience that tougher laws come with no assurance of change. Over the past three decades the Parliament has passed a succession of anti-crime laws, each tougher than the last. And yet, here we are. If the denial of bail alone was a sufficient deterrent there would be no murders since murder is a non-bailable offence. And yet, murders continue on an almost daily basis largely because criminals are confident that they can commit murder and get away with it.
They know they can rely on the protection of a system riddled with enough inadequacies, incompetence and corruption to undermine policing and paralyse the courts. For every suspected criminal who will be locked away without bail there will be many more that will walk away without ever being detected.
Yesterday’s report of another set of bones found in the Aripo Valley near to where Andrea’s body was found, which if confirmed to be human, underscores the weakness of crime detection in this country. If a passing motorist reportedly scavenging for scrap iron had not come upon Andrea’s body there is every chance that she, like so many other victims of murder may never have been found. As it turns out, the discovery of her body has led the police to the remains of two others. Hopefully they will be identified to give closure to their families.
The TTPS’ release of the 70-charge rap sheet of a suspect in Andrea’s kidnap/murder has rightly triggered public fury about a court system that leaves it vulnerable to criminals. However, if as has been reported, many of those charges were dropped due to the failure of the police to attend court, then we must question the functionality of the system that leaves glaring loopholes for criminals to escape. This is not a new problem but it persists because it has not been addressed despite its impact in the society.
The hard fact is that none of the problems made glaring by the Andrea Bharatt case is new. Indeed, Government ministries are packed with multiple reports and ignored recommendations for fixing an antiquated system of law and order. This challenge requires more than the illusory quick-fix of legal plastering.