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Rape in culture crucible of capital
- Embassy staffer kidnapped and tormented in car while leaving film festival

New Delhi, Oct. 15: A European embassy staffer was raped in the capital last night after being kidnapped in her car from the venue of the International Film Festival of India.

The 35-year-old European was forced into her car by two men in the parking lot at Siri Fort, the complex of auditoria that is the central venue of the film festival. She was leaving after watching a celebrated film.

The assailants drove the Toyota Qualis till Safdarjung Enclave in south Delhi, about 5 km from Siri Fort, where they abandoned the woman and the car.

Fear stalks women in Delhi after a spurt in sexual crimes. Everything about this city that should have been exemplary has been raped, literally.

• Last week, four men from the President’s Body Guard raped a 17-year-old college student in Buddha Jayanti Park, beat up her boyfriend and gave her Rs 100 to go home.

So much for the exemplar of the army and the ceremonial duty of guarding the head of state!

• On September 23, a 15-year-old was assaulted by a doctor in a hospital in posh Vasant Vihar.

So much for a locality that is an exemplar of south Delhi and a profession that claims to be the noblest!

• Last night, a diplomat leaving the International Film Festival was raped.

So much for gracious Indian hospitality and an event that claims to showcase India to the world!

• There have been more than 340 rapes in Delhi, more than 350 cases of “molestation” this year.

So much for a capital that claims to be an exemplar for the country!

Delhi’s women are helpless. There are any number of them working in the city’s myriad offices, returning home late. Last year, two women driving in the late evening on the Chiragh Delhi flyover, just south of Siri Fort, were accosted in the middle of the bridge by another car.

One assailant held them hostage while another called an accomplice on the cellphone, got themselves a bigger vehicle and drove around the city raping one of the women. The other had managed to flee.

“What do you do about it'” exclaimed a Western diplomat, shocked at what has happened to a colleague last night. “We always give our staffers advice on what precautions to take. If it can happen like this, it can happen anywhere.”

Anywhere and Siri Fort are not the same. Siri is not some deep ravine in the wilds of the Chambal. It is here, in the heart of the city, a landmark in south Delhi, where the beautiful people flock to catch the latest in culture, to visit its many restaurants in The Village complex.

This afternoon, there were some 100 cars at the venue. Where the European woman’s Toyota Qualis was parked last night, a bus ferrying delegates to and from the film festival venue waits.

It was not much different at 10 pm on Tuesday night. There were about 50 cars in the lot when Danish director Lars Von Trier’s romantic melodrama Breaking the Waves ended at one of the four auditoria.

Just hours earlier, India had honoured another European woman in the main hall, the graceful Liv Ullman, with an award for lifetime achievement in the world of cinema. “I believe”, Ullman said in her short acceptance speech, “we live in a global village and our lives are intertwined”.

Policemen in khakis are scattered about Siri Fort’s two parking lots today. They were on duty last night, too. Five policemen have been suspended and a departmental inquiry is on.

The police commissioner, Radhe Shyam Gupta, and Delhi’s Lieutenant-Governor, Vijai Kapoor, visited Siri Fort this afternoon. They do not visit every spot after a rape.

“This is a very serious matter and not just because it has happened at the film festival”, Kapoor said.

The external affairs ministry described the rape as a “most unfortunate incident”.

Before the European woman was kidnapped, there was another attempted burglary at the parking lot. A woman was assaulted.

“It is very unfortunate but I do not know about the rape,” director of the film festival, Neelam Kapoor, said.

“I am not sure whether she (the European woman) had come out after watching a film or was leaving one of the restaurants,” she added.

No arrest has been made so far. The victim is understood to have given a description of her assailants to the police. They were said to be “English-speaking youths”.

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