Assam often takes pride and claims that the Assamese society holds women in high esteem in comparison to that of other states, especially in mainland India. But then, in reality the picture is exactly the opposite, and dangerously so. Statistics compiled, analysed and released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) clearly state that the rate of crimes against women in Assam stood at 166 in 2018 — which is almost three times more than the national average rate of 58.8; and marginally above the Delhi's crime rate of 149.6. According to the NCRB report, Assam had registered 23,082 and 27,728 crimes against women during 2017 and 2018 respectively. In 2017, the rate of crime against women in Assam was 143.3 against the national figure of 57.9. Delhi came second with a rate of 133.3, followed by Telangana at 94.7 and Odisha at 94.5.
There were as many as 66 cases of rape and murder of women reported registered in Assam during 2018, which was followed by 46 in Madhya Pradesh and 41 in Uttar Pradesh. In 2018, cybercrimes against women were also the highest in Assam with 295 cases. Simply flipping through pages of newspapers published from Assam will show that there are at least two news-items of crimes against women from one district or the other. They include rape, murder, assault, outraging of modesty, abduction, trafficking and so on. While the media in Assam have been highlighting this issue of increasing crimes against women, what is not understood is the lack of response or concern on the part of the government, be it the police and other law-enforcing agencies, the administration, elected representatives and even members of the civil society. About political parties, the less said the better; it appears that for them statistics about crimes against women comes in handy only when criticizing the government. Political parties and leaders are hardly seen taking proactive steps for reducing crimes against women.
What is worse, the Assam State Commission for Women appears to have practically ceased to exist. A visit to the website of the Assam State Women Commission will reveal that there are as many as twelve statutory functions of this body which are supposed to ensure a better deal for women of the state. These statutory functions are – (i) To investigate and examine all matters relating to the safeguards provided for women under the constitution and other laws, (ii) To present reports on working of the safeguards to the State Government annually as well as other times as the Commission may deem fit, (iii) To make reports, recommendations for effective implementation of the safeguards for improving the conditions of the women of the state, (iv) To review from time to time the existing provisions of the constitution and other laws, acts and recommend amendments thereof, (v) To take up the cases of violation of the provisions of the constitution and other laws relating to women with the appropriate authorities, (vi) To look into complaints and take suo-moto notice of matters relating to deprivation of women's rights, non-implementation of laws relating to protection of women, noncompliance of policy decisions, guidelines or instruction ensuring welfare and providing relief to women, (vii) To call for special studies or investigations into specific problems relating to women, (viii) To undertake promotional and educational research so as to suggest ways of ensuring due representation of women in all spheres and identify factors responsible for impeding their advancement, (ix) To purpose gender justice through intervention in case of violation of equality in laws, denial of opportunity and deprivation of women's rights, (x) To give counselling and assistance to women victims of atrocities and women in distress in the state, (xi) Inspect jails, remand homes, women's institutions and other places of custody where women are kept as prisoners or otherwise, and take up with the authorities concerned for remedial action, if found necessary, and (xii) Fund litigation involving issues affecting a large body of women ; make periodical reports to the Government or any matter pertaining to women. The citizens of Assam can hardly recall hearing, reading or seeing any of the above-mentioned activities of the Assam State Women Commission. There is also a State Resource Centre for Women (SRCW) under the State government's Social Welfare department, a centrally-funded organization which is required to work towards implementing gender sensitive programmes, laws and schemes through effective coordination at the state level. The SRCW is also mandated to review and evaluate existing policies, programmes and legislation so that the activities which are cross-cutting and multi-disciplinary nature synergise harmoniously to reach women beneficiaries. But hardly has any of the activities of the SRCW been visible. The end-result: women continue to suffer the most in Assam.