Rape is not uncommon in our country. According to the Crime Control Bureau, Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of rape cases in 2021. However, the horrifying incident in Ujjain on Monday is deeply troubling. A 12-year-old girl, brutally assaulted, was captured on CCTV, bleeding and partially clothed, desperately seeking help from house to house. She reported being followed and expected assistance, but some residents in the cultural capital of MP dismissed her, while others gave her small amounts like ₹50 or ₹20. She wandered the city for nearly two and a half hours, in urgent need of medical attention. Ultimately, an ashram provided her with clothing, and the police registered a case, transferring her to Indore. Doctors there discovered severe damage to her private parts and a ruptured uterus. Through reconstructive surgery, her reproductive capacity was reportedly saved. As of now, she hasn't been able to provide details about her assailant(s) due to the severity of her condition, and it's unclear whether one or more individuals were involved.
The girl has been identified, and once she can disclose the full story, the police should bring the perpetrator(s) to justice. Whoever is responsible deserves no mercy and should face the severest punishment. The police must build a solid case against the culprit. Equally troubling is the unwillingness of people to assist her. She should never have been left to wander the streets in her desperate condition. It was the responsibility of beat constables to aid her and transport her to the nearest hospital. This is a fundamental duty for both the police and citizens. She didn't request money; the small amounts given to her seemed more like an attempt to ease guilty consciences than genuine help. Perhaps, people feared becoming witnesses in a rape case. There are laws protecting Good Samaritans from unnecessary harassment, but this isn't as widely known as the fear of being entangled in a lengthy legal process.
What's evident is a lack of civic responsibility; without it, there's little motivation to help the underprivileged. In a society growing increasingly self-centred, expecting altruism beyond self-interest is unrealistic. Nonetheless, it reflects poorly on the MP police that they haven't yet apprehended the culprit(s), even after several days. It's crucial to remember that this is the same state that took swift action against those who allegedly attacked a procession by demolishing their houses, some of which were built with funds from the Prime Minister's housing programme. Dissuading crime doesn't depend on the severity of punishment but on its certainty. It's not too late for the police to unravel the circumstances surrounding why she left the security of her brother and grandfather's home and ended up in this dreadful situation. Regardless of the circumstances, the individual(s) who violated her body must face the harshest punishment allowed by the law.
Indian society stands at a crossroads where empathy and solidarity are under threat from an increasing sense of individualism. While the failure of immediate bystanders to aid the suffering girl is deeply troubling, it is, sadly, symptomatic of a larger issue — the erosion of our collective conscience. We must recognise that incidents like the one in Ujjain reflect not only on our police force's effectiveness but on our society's moral fabric as a whole. To combat this, we need a multifaceted approach. First and foremost, the law enforcement agencies should intensify their efforts to swiftly apprehend the culprits, sending a strong message that such acts will not be tolerated. Simultaneously, the state must invest in education and awareness programmes that foster a sense of civic duty, encouraging individuals to step forward and help those in need, without fear or hesitation. Furthermore, stringent legal measures should be in place to protect witnesses who provide vital testimony in cases like this. Ultimately, the burden of responsibility lies not only on the law enforcement agencies but on each one of the people. We must collectively work towards a society where compassion, empathy, and a commitment to justice prevail over apathy and indifference, ensuring that incidents like the one in Ujjain become a thing of the past.