Recently, following the Assam Assembly election the new government has ordered a major reshuffle of police officers in the state. Meanwhile, an IPS officer who was appointed Superintendent of Police of a district in the state on May 14 grabbed eyeballs, as the said officer has been charged in a case involving the sexual assault of a 13-year-old child.
As per reports, a charge sheet was filed against IPS Officer Gaurav Upadhyay as he allegedly sexually assaulted a minor in December 2019, when the latter along with her family visited his place to attend a party. A case was filed against Upadhyay by the alleged victim’s mother who also happens to be a top cop at a women’s police station in Guwahati on 3 January 2020.
The matter was later taken over by the CID (Crime Investigation Department). Apart from the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, Upadhyay has been charged under sections 354 and 354 A of IPC for assault or criminal force to outrage modesty and sexual harassment. Now the case is being heard in a court of the Special Judge, POCSO Act, Assam, in the Kamrup Metropolitan district.
Reportedly, as per the charge sheet ‘sufficient evidence’ has been found against the accused under section 9(a)(iv) and section 9(c) of the POCSO Act, 2012, as well as offences under section 354 and 354 A of IPC.
A 2012 batch IPS officer from Uttar Pradesh, Upadhyay was serving as the police superintendent in Karbi Anglong when the incident happened. He was recently transferred to Chirang last week as part of mass transfers of police officers after the new government took office this month.
The Assam Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta stated that “the charge-sheet is done,” and that the matter was “sub judice”. He further informed that the transfer order was issued by the Home Department and until the court decides the fate of the accused the department has to use his services.
Meanwhile, the president of All India Mahila Congress, Sushmita Dev in a letter to Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, expressed her serious concern over the appointment of the police officer as an SP, who has been charge-sheeted under the POCSO act for sexually assaulting a minor girl.
“It is a matter of serious concern that a police officer charged with sexual assault of a minor is given the responsibility of maintaining law and order of a district in Assam. How can a tainted officer invoke the confidence of the people?” Deb questioned.
The people of Assam expect and deserve a safe and secure Assam while this action proves otherwise, she said.
“I request you to immediately suspend the appointment order of the said officer and ensure justice through a speedy investigation and trial,” said Dev.
Once boasted of as the safest haven for women, Assam has found itself in soup following the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data of 2019 which states that crimes against women in Assam are growing at a faster rate than the national average, and crime rates are higher than the all-Indian average.
There has been a marked increase in three categories of crimes against women – domestic violence, kidnapping and molestation – from 2016 to 2019, according to NCRB data.
The trend of increasing crimes against women in Assam is also noted in gender-based violence data collated in the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS) 2019-20, released in December 2020. Over 30% of women in Assam reported spousal violence in NFHS-5, up from 24.5% in NFHS-4 (2015-16), and 8% of young women reported sexual violence, up from 5.8% in NFHS-4.
While police attributes the increase in crimes to higher reporting due to increased empowerment of women in the state. Activists are of the view that along with the increase in reporting there have also been a steep rise in the crime against women.
However, the data could just be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as most to the cases goes unreported specially in the rural areas.
Although the situation is alarming, what’s more pathetic is when the one who are entitled to provide security to the women, are themselves committing heinous crime.