The rape of a 48-year-old British woman in the early hours of Thursday at Canacona has made Goans hang their heads in shame once again. The rape took place as she, deciding not to wait any longer at the station after her train to North Goa was delayed, decided to walk back to her hotel. This is what Goa has given to a woman who has been coming to the state frequently during the past decade and surely thought Goa was safe even to travel in the wee hours of the day. This is yet another case of predators prying on unsuspecting female tourists and attacking them. It is a matter of concern that despite several cases of rape the police have failed to establish an atmosphere of security, though they managed to arrest the suspect within 12 hours. The rapist has been identified as Ramchandran Chendayellappan from Tamil Nadu and a habitual offender. He had just a couple of days earlier allegedly robbed a tourist couple from Mumbai in Pernem of cash, ornaments and other electronic items worth Rs 32 lakh.
The echoes of the tragic incident will keep sounding for years. The chilling case of rape and murder of Scarlett Keeling, a British teenager, is still fresh in Goans’ memory. The mystery behind her death has remained unsolved till date as the two persons accused of allegedly killing her have been acquitted by the court for lack of evidence. Thereafter, another British national Denyse Sweeney was found dead in 2012, and the case remains unsolved. In March 2017, a case of rape and murder of Danielle McLaughlin, holding British-Irish nationality was reported in Canacona. Though police arrested Vikat Bhagat, a habitual offender whom Ms McLaughlin had befriended, for her rape and murder, the trial is yet to be completed. Earlier this year a local girl who had gone to the Betalbatim beach along with her boy friend was gang-raped by some criminal elements from Madhya Pradesh. One of the alleged rapists escaped from police custody earlier this month and has since remained elusive.
Rape is a heinous crime, whether it is committed against a tourist or a resident. The society and police have to look at rape as a crime against women, regardless of where she is from. Tourism and in-migration have added to the risks of both tourist and resident women. Even migrant women are not safe: One of the cases was reported in Canacona taluka in which security guards raped a six-year-old daughter of a migrant labourer for months before they were held. Young migrants who leave their families behind to take up jobs in Goa are mostly hardworking and law-abiding, but elements from among them have arisen who have committed heinous crimes such as rape. There have been cases of criminals who have committed crime in their home state taking refuge in Goa under a disguise. Some of such wayward elements prowl for soft targets for rape and robbery and strike them at the first opportunity. The migrants work in an unorganized sector, where they are not expected to abide by discipline or code of conduct, as in establishments in the organized sector. The contractors who bring them from other states and the contractors who hire them on daily wages have always shrugged away their responsibility of keeping the migrant labourers under a system of discipline and close watch. Beyond the work they extract from them and the wages they pay them there is no accountability for them.
In the latest case, it was technology (CCTV cameras) installed in the area where the crime took place that helped in identifying the culprit and cracking the case. Now that the police have nabbed the rapist they must build a strong case so that he gets the maximum punishment. Rape cases fall apart in police hands owing to shoddy investigation. The latest case should be taken up in a fast track court. The police must not fail as they did in the Scarlett case. The rape of the British woman will make not only the female domestic and foreign tourists but also Goan and migrant women feel unsafe in Goa. The police must work hard to make women feel secure. The police have strictly enforced tenant identification for landlords who lease out their accommodation to tenants. Likewise, the police should enforce worker identification for labour and job contractors who bring and employ migrant labour. Technology (computerization, CCTV cameras) and intelligence must be improved to increase surveillance to prevent violent attacks on women.