Women held placards placards during a peaceful protest in New Delhi
Two years before the fatal gang rape of a young woman on a bus in Delhi in 2012 shook India and shocked the world, another young woman in India’s capital was gang-raped in a moving vehicle, this time at gunpoint. The verdict in the trial of the men accused of the crime is expected Monday.
On November 24, 2010, a 30-year-old woman from the northeast Indian state of Mizoram was allegedly picked up at gunpoint on Delhi’s southern ring road at about 1 a.m. The woman was returning from work at a call center in Gurgaon, a satellite city in the National Capital Region, police said.
The five men abducted her in a goods carrier and assaulted her before throwing her out of the vehicle in an industrial neighborhood in Delhi’s west, according to the prosecutor.
They face charges including kidnapping and rape. All five have pleaded not guilty. They were arrested soon after the incident from a northern Indian district called Mewat in the state of Haryana.
On Monday, a fast-track court in southwest Delhi will hand down a verdict to the five men, lawyers involved in the case said. The case was shifted to a fast-track court in April, more than a year after New Delhi cleared dockets to set up special courts for quick disposal of cases relating to sexual assault following the 2012 Delhi rape.
Although they are being tried in a new court, if the defendants are convicted, they will face punishment under old provisions of the legislation on sexual assaults, which were in place before punishments were toughened up in response to the 2012 gang rape.
If found guilty, the maximum punishment for the five men who all take single names – Usman, Shamshad, Kamruddin, Shahid and Iqbal- is life imprisonment.
Under the new law, death is the maximum penalty in extreme cases of rape. In September 2013, a Delhi court sentenced the four men guilty of the December 2012 attack to death. The men are appealing that conviction.
In the case of the 30-year-old victim from Mizoram, the court has heard testimony from 58 prosecution witnesses and 10 defense witnesses, and has recorded hundreds of pages of evidence.
The crime threw light on to the treatment of people from India’s north east who come to the capital for work, especially women.
An estimated 15,000 people travel from the India’s north east to New Delhi every year for better education and employment opportunities. The seven northeastern states share closer ethnic and cultural links with Southeast Asia and migrants from India’s northeast often end up being the targets of casual racism because of their appearance.
According to the results of a 2011 study by New Delhi-based Northeast Support Center and Helpline, 78% of northeasterners in New Delhi said they faced racial discrimination. Of the crimes against northeastern women recorded by the helpline, molestation counted for 34%.
The Indian government has acknowledged several instances of discrimination against people from the northeast and taken steps to ensure their safety. In 2011, the federal ministry of home affairs, made the use of the derogatory slur “Chinki,” a punishable offense with a maximum punishment of five years in jail.
Then earlier this year, after the murder of a 14-year-old boy from the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh- an alleged hate crime- the Delhi police introduced a special helpline to address issues relating to people from the region. At the time, campaigners also pushed for the introduction of an anti-racism law, a suggestion also put forward by a government committee established to look into the issues of racism against people from the northeast. So far, the requests have not been granted.
Activists say people from the northeast continue to have a hard time in the capital, particularly women. Binalakshmi Nepram, a rights activist, said women from the northeast “become victims of a multifold challenge of racial profiling combined with the increase in crimes against women and lack of quick justice.”
“Women from the northeast are still stereotyped as being ‘morally loose’ and ‘easily available,’” said Ms. Nepram.