Bangalore’s Himmatwali Is Delhi’s Nirbhaya
Bangalore Police have proved their mettle; caught eight gang rapists within a short span of six days of committing the heinous crime; trial completed and all given life sentence within 10 months
Much before ‘Nirbhaya’ of Delhi hit the national headlines for wrong reasons in December 2012, Bangalore’s Himmatwali too suffered a similar monstrous crime on October 13 when she was gang-raped by eight sandalwood smugglers in the wooded area of Bangalore University’s Jnanabharathi campus. But the meticulous and painstaking efforts of a team of seven police officers of the rank of Inspector, including one lady officer, enabled the police to write the success story within a short span of six days of the culprits committing the crime. This success proved that the police, if given free hand, with encouragement from the top mixed with professionalism, can be second to none in cracking the most complex of the crimes. The stealth and speed with which the seven-member Inspector team went about to crack the case and achieved success is something unprecedented in the recent history of Bangalore city police.
Inspectors Balraj, Nagaraj, K.P.Satyanarayana, Geetha Kulkarni, Baale Gowda, Kodandaram and S.K.Malthesh were the team members constituted by the then DCP (West) Siddaramappa to crack the gang rape case, which had hit the national headlines. The tragedy had international ramifications too with the victim—Himmatwali—being a Nepali national, and a student of National Law University, which is situated just beside the wooded area of Jnanabharathi Campus, off Mysore Road.
Police sources told Uday India that Siddaramappa’s decision to have a lady Inspector (Inspector Geetha Kulkarni) as a part of the investigating team was very thoughtful. “Many confidential matters pertaining to the tragedy, which the victim would otherwise not have shared with the male officers, was ferreted out by Geetha Kulkarni. These informations gave us concrete lead and enabled us to arrest the gang of criminal besides helping us to take the case to its logical end,” a senior police officer said.
The two tragedies of Delhi and Bangalore—Nirbhaya and Himmatwali—are almost similar except that Nirbhaya died without seeing the criminals having convicted whereas Bangalore’s Himmatwali is very much around to all the eight rapists having handed over life sentence. In the case of both Nirbhaya and Himmatwali, the culprits threw out their boyfriend, while committing the crime.
Except that the boyfriend of Himmatwali, who was the witness to the crime, there was no other evidence like what was found in Delhi gang rape case. In Delhi, the crime was committed inside a bus, where there was another witness, who was forced to de-board the bus, whereas Bangalore’s crime was committed in a wooded area in the late evening.
“In that way, Bangalore’s case was more complex. Moreover, there was no media upheaval in Bangalore’s case as was witnessed in Delhi, with the entire nation seething with anger. So, the fact that our officers and other personnel cracked the case within six days and arrested the culprits, deserves a special mention,” Home Department Principal Secretary, Jyothi Prakash Mirji said.
Mirji, it may be mentioned here, had served as Commissioner of Police of Bangalore City and was instrumental in motivating the force and infusing a sense of professionalism in them. He never failed to compliment his personnel, irrespective of their ranks, when the force had accomplished something great. The tradition is being continued by the present Commissioner, Dr Raghavendra Auradkar.
MOTIVATION TO HIMMATWALI
The Bangalore gang rape case would have hit the stone wall and would not have reached its logical end, had it not been for the persuasive efforts of Geetha Kulkarni, who counseled the victim ‘Himmatwali’ to assist the police in tracing the culprits. Sources told Uday India that the rape victim, who had gone back to Nepal, was counseled, persuaded, coaxed and motivated by Geetha Kulkarni. “You are a student of Law. You have to get justice to millions of unfortunate sisters and brothers. If you back out now, will that augur well for you and your profession? Do not worry, I promise you that your identity will not be disclosed at all, at any cost. Please cooperate with us,” Geetha Kulkarni is said to have told the victim.
It was only after repeated counseling, sometimes over phone, that the Nepali girl returned to Bangalore. Face-to-face interpersonal and heart-to-heart talk by Geetha Kulkarni helped the girl muster courage and moral strength. That is the reason the police named him “Himmatwali”. Incidentally, she is from Nepal, the Himalayan Kingdom. After she agreed to cooperate with the police and identified the criminals, the rest of the things were a mere formality. “It was Geethaupadesha from Geetha Kulkarni which proved to be the cutting edge in the entire sordid episode. Otherwise we would have hit the stone wall, if the victim had not cooperated,” a senior officer said on the condition of anonymity.
Shockingly, the same gang of eight criminals had committed similar heinous crimes of gang rape in the forests of Ramanagara but none had come to light as nobody dared to lodge the complaint. The victims would invariably be desperadoes who would have wanted to have some fun in the wild, and would not like to become conspicuous for the fear of their families. But in this case, the victim was a student and she mustered courage to fight the battle. “Geetha proved worthy of her nomenclature,” said another officer.
An Inspector of the batch of 1999 belonging to a lower middle-class family from Hubli, Geetha Kulkarni was in NCC during her college days and was an ace shooter. She continues to be an ace shooter even today in the force. Not given for flamboyancy and always keen to maintain a low profile, Geetha Kulkarni is the epitome of the time-tested saying, “We should not speak; Our performance should speak for ourselves.” She has to her credit cracking of some of the most sensational cases within a record time.
A police officer who was a part of the investigating team explained to Uday India how they managed to arrest the culprits, who were nestled in a remote village Meteri Doddi, 28 km deep inside the forest in Ramanagaram district, on Bangalore-Mysore highway. The investigating team found a saw (a sharp instrument used to cut trees) at the spot of crime. It was then made out that sandalwood smugglers could be involved in the gang rape. The investigating team worked on this lead.
“These criminals are essentially sandalwood smugglers. But they had developed taste for rape and robbing of gold and mobiles from the victims. On that unfortunate night, this gang came across this Nepali girl (student of National Law University) and her boyfriend, who were found in an isolated place. They thrashed the boy, dragged the girl to another isolated place and all the eight raped her turn by turn. They left the victim and walked out by taking her mobile. When we tried the victim’s number, it was received by somebody. We were able to spot the tower and after that it was all our way,” an officer explained.
The team of police officers—with Geetha Kulkarni being the lone lady officer—went to village after village posing as social workers, helping the villagers to learn organic farming and also facilitate their rehabilitation in towns, if they desire. “We had concealed our weapons and carried our mobiles. The preparation was so neat and meticulous; we had prepared everything to the last detail so well that nobody could get any clue as to who we are and what we are up to,” another officer explained.
RISE IN RAPE
Alarmingly, there has been a steady rise in the incidents of crime against women in Karnataka, according to statistics made available by the Deputy Chief Minister (Home & Transport) in the Legislative Council.
In his reply to starred question no. 122 posed by B.Ramakrishna, the then Deputy Chief Minister (Home), R.Ashoka stated that the year 2012 saw as many as 565 incidents of rape and 10,789 incidents of various kinds of atrocities on women.
In the year 2008, the number of incidents of rape was 415 where as the number of incidents of atrocities on women was 7698.
However, these numbers increased in 2009 with number of rapes registering being 486 while the number of incidents of atrocities on women was 8839.
In 2010, the number of incidents of rape rose to 554 while the number of incidents of atrocities on women also rose to 9977.
In the year 2011, the incidents of rape was 586 while incidents of atrocities in the same year was 10,528.
The team of “social workers” spoke to the culprits, who were in a make-shift thatched hut, and persuaded them to learn the social welfare schemes of the state government pertaining to rehabilitation. Once they were brought out of their den, they were arrested. The entire operation was so discreet that the culprits never realised that they were actually walking with the police to the lockup first and thereafter to the Parappana Agrahara Central Jail.
While six of them were arrested on October 19—six days after committing the crime—the seventh was apprehended almost at the same place the next day. The eighth man was arrested recently, thus completing the process of arresting the criminals.
The trial was held almost on day-to-day basis, given the fact that the nation’s mood was surcharged with anger in the aftermath of Nirbhaya case in Delhi on December 16. Public Prosecutor S.V.Bhat went about meticulously, arguing how this crime deserves nothing short of death sentence. The police FIR and the charge-sheet was so foolproof that there was no scope for the miscarriage of justice.
Fast Track Court Magistrate Krishnamurthy Sangannanavar awarded life sentence to six of them (one is a juvenile whose case is being heard in juvenile justice court). “Section 376 (ii) (g) mandates to award life sentence,” the Magistrate said in his order. The particular section was amended recently by the Centre, which enables the judicial officer (magistrate or judge) to pronounce death sentence.
The day the sentence was pronounced, Bangalore City Police Commissioner Raghavendra Auradkar complimented all the seven Inspectors, who had brought laurels to the city police force.
By S A Hemantha Kumar from Bangalore