Woman Cop Would Have Handled Hathras Case Better: Ex-IPS Borwankar

Meeran Borwankar was the first woman IPS officer to head the Mumbai Crime Branch.

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Video Editor: Sandeeep Suman

Had a woman police officer been in-charge, the Hathras case would have been handled better, said retired IPS officer Meeran Borwankar, who served in the Mahrashtra cadre for over 40 years.

Speaking to The Quint, Borwankar, who has held many top positions including Chief of Crime Branch, Mumbai, Chief of Maharashtra Prison Department and Director General, Maharashtra Police, said that presence of women police officers increases the comfort level of victims and and witnesses.

“I was watching a video of the Hathras victim where she is saying that ‘uske saath zabardasti hui.’ I felt if there had been a woman officer, she would have said ‘zabardasti matlab kya’. So I felt, even in the injured state she was, she didn’t want to talk to a male officer on what exactly had happened. So she said something like ‘zabardasti’.”
Meeran Borwankar

She added that it would now be a “herculean task” for the prosecution to prove what ‘zabardasti’ meant and had there been a lady officer, the victim would have opened up more.

The 19-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by four upper-caste Thakur men on 14 September. She succumbed to death after battling for life in a hospital for over two weeks on 29 September.

The incident grabbed national headlines after the family alleged that the victim's body was cremated against their wishes and without their presence. An SIT has been formed by the UP government to look into the matter.

What Did The UP Police Fail to Do In Hathras?

Borwankar asserted that the case should have been entrusted to one of the women IPS officers for investigation. Next, media should have been given free access, she added.

“Media should have been given free access. Again, by stopping the media you are trying to say that there is something to hide. If there is nothing to hide, give free access to media, transfer the case to lady IPS officer of good credentials... Cremation as per the family’s wish. Police should have had no role in that.”
Meeran Borwankar

She also slammed the UP cops for revealing the intricacies of investigation, stating that they should not have spoken about the forensic or medical reports.

“The police should have come out with statements for public information, that we understand the gravity of the crime,” she added.

Why Are So Less Women Officers Involved In Investigation?

According to an independent study conducted in 2019, women constitute less than 7 percent of the total police force. Just 0.85 percent of them hold supervisory positions.

The report also found that women are more likely to be assigned in-house work, rather than on-field investigation. Why are more women officers not allowed to helm investigations?

The answer lies in systemic sexism, says Borwankar, who is the only woman IPS officer who has witnessed the hangings of both Ajmal Kasab and Yakub Memon.

“The department is headed by men at this stage who are not yet open to women being given challenging field duties. I understand the makeup but so is the mental makeup of women who many a times are not ready to accept these duties.”

She said that while they have been given such duties whenever they have asked for it, it has not become regular in the routine distribution of work at police stations.

Borwankar added that given the erratic timings and uncertainty during work, even men are discouraged to join the police force. However, the times are changing, she adds.

“Do you think it will be easy for a woman from Hathras to join the police force even if she wants to? Even men are discouraged from joining police force. But things are changing. Women are standing up for what they believe. But it is a slow process,” she says.

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