The Need to Go Beyond Emotional Outburst
Child abuse might not be heard of often in the Naga society a few decades ago but not anymore. Reports of crime against children, including sexual assault, child trafficking, physical harassment, child labour etc. keep surfacing at regular intervals. The recent report of a minor boy being physically assaulted by a couple in Dimapur shook the conscience of the public, drawing condemnation from several civil society organisations. The police were quick in arresting the culprits on criminal charges of physically assaulting their domestic helper and a case filed. While the shift action taken of the law enforcement was reassuring and praise-worthy, what remains to be seen is if the boy will ever get justice. But the answer is likely “NO”, if one is to go by the past. Justice is not delayed but just not served most of the time in the state. Criminals are set free as quickly as their arrest, especially if they are from influential families. Justice will remain an illusion until this loophole is fixed; the sooner the better. The Naga customary law, which many use as an escape valve, should also not be applied to at least criminal cases. Everybody is equal in the eyes of the law and no criminal should be allowed to go scot-free without being punished according to the law of the land.
It is also vital to deal issues related to minors with extra care. The identity — name and images — of sexual assault victims, including those who have died, cannot be disclosed even in remotest manner. It is also a criminal offence to reveal the identity of children in conflict with law under the Juvenile Justice Act. According to the Act, no report in any newspaper, magazine, news-sheet or audio-visual media or other forms of communication regarding any inquiry or investigation or judicial procedure, shall disclose the name, address or school or any other particular, which may lead to the identification of a child in conflict with law or a child in need of care and protection or a child victim or witness of a crime, involved in such matter, under any other law for the time being in force, nor shall the picture of any such child be published. Defaulters of this Act are punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or fine which may extend to two lakh rupees or both. But it was unfortunate that people widely shared video clips and photos of the minor, who was recently assaulted by a couple in Dimapur, on social media platforms, forcing the police to initiate an enquiry. The police should identify those behind the video circulation of the victim and set a precedent and ensure that it is not repeated. Our society also should go beyond emotional outburst and fight till justice is served to the victims.