HE FOR SHE |  Report

New Media and Community Engagement Strategies for the Police Force of Delhi, India

Executive Summary

Delhi, the capital of India, has one of the highest crime rates in the world. It has been dubbed the "rape capital" of the country. The Delhi Police faces several problems that hamper its policing activities: shortage of staff, especially female police officers, rising religious extremisim, allegations of corruption and lack of citizenry trust in the police. This study looked into the functioning of the Delhi Police using qualitative methods, including interviews with many officials of non-governmental organizations working toward making Delhi a safer city. The study found that there were three main areas of particular concern for the Delhi police: corruption, terrorism and gender-based violence. Recommendations are provided for new media and community engagement strategies that might used by the Delhi police force to contain gender-based violence, corruption and terrorism, as well as to foster better ties with the people.


With a population of 25 million, Delhi, the capital of India, is the second largest city in the world, one of the largest commercial centers of the world, and one of the chief contributors to the technology sector of the global economy (Ellis, 2012; Singh, 2014). Despite its place on the modern world’s stage, Delhi grapples with outdated attitudes and socioeconomic challenges that create a city with one of the highest crime rates in the world, particularly in the form of gender- based violence (“Delhi Police,” 2015). This city, plagued by crime, is policed by officers who face allegations of corruption. According to a survey carried out in Delhi, the Delhi Police is the most likely organization to demand a bribe (“One-third,” 2015). This police force also faces dismal statistics: Delhi is dubbed the “rape capital” of India (“Delhi is,” 2015) and is geographically surrounded by pockets of rising extremism and terrorist activities (“India 2015,” 2015). The brutal rape and subsequent death of medical student Jyoti Singh in 2012 set in motion social media protests from around the globe, bringing attention to Delhi’s rape problem (“Protests in,” 2012).

In view of the problems plaguing Delhi Police, the force needs to improve its policing methods. The Broken System: Dysfunction, Abuse and Impunity in the India Police (“Broken system,” 2009), published by Human Rights Watch, documents a range of human rights violations committed by police, including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and extrajudicial killings. It documents the failings of state police forces that operate outside the law, lack sufficient ethical and professional standards, are overstretched and outmatched by criminal elements, and unable to cope with increasing demands and public expectations.

“India is modernizing rapidly, but the police continue to use their old methods: abuse and threats,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It's time for the government to stop talking about reform and fix the system.” With a police force that continues to practice outdated policing strategies, radical measures must be taken to create a relationship of trust between citizens and law enforcement.

Often, though not always, in less developed nations there is a lack of trust and a need for improvement in citizen safety. To rebuild trust after corruption has dented citizens’ faith in the police and the government, the police force must build on any fragment of existing trust to rebuild relations with people (Goldsmith, 2005). In circumstances of profound police-citizen mistrust, outside assistance is probably inevitable in order to turn the situation around.


Using qualitative analysis supported by quantitative statistics, our team focused our research on findings from the United Nations, non-governmental organizations working in the region, gender-based violence research, and news stories out of Delhi. An interview with Vice President for Human Rights at non-profit organization Vital Voices, Cindy Dyer, who earlier headed the Violence Against Women office of the United States Department of Justice. We also reached out to the Chief of the Delhi Commission of Women, Swaiti Maliwal, and to Delhi- based United Nations Women Communications analyst Rineeta Naik.

With the knowledge we gained from the literature review and interviews, we structured a new media and community outreach strategy framework that could be used by the Delhi Police to attenuate violence against women and rebuild trust and community confidence. We based our strategy on the availability of trustworthy partners already working on these issues in the region, for as feminist and trust expert Annette Baier has noted, “In conditions where there is little or no mutual trust ..., it is hard to see how trust could get started except with the help of a third party, trusted by both the others. Only if trust is already there in some form can we increase it by using what is there to contrive conditions in which it can spread to new areas” (as cited in Goldsmith, 2005, p. 460). The organizations we focused on were: The United Nations, The Avon Foundation for Women and Vital Voices; the latter two are already receiving funding from the United States State Department for their work against gender-based violence in Delhi. These agencies are attempting to help resolve issues of poverty, socioeconomic inequality, and gender inequality in Delhi. The website of the U.S. State Department names some of the contributing factors to Delhi's crime problem. The factors include: socio-economic imbalances, urban anonymity, disproportionate gender ratio, overpopulation, unemployment, poverty, corruption and inadequate policing (“India 2015,” 2015).

Through new media strategies/tactics bolstered by the expertise and support of the aforementioned non-governmental agencies, the Delhi Police may be able to find new avenues of support and build new relationships of trust with Delhi citizens. This support and trust is crucial for Delhi Police to address the most pressing crime-related issues of the city. It is our premise that by tackling gender-based violence using new media, social media and community engagement we may create a ripple effect of trust that will undermine the attitude of distrust toward law enforcement, erode corruption, and create a community and media engagement strategy that can be used in the future to address other problematic areas of crime in Delhi.

Findings and Recommendations

We first briefly discuss two major problems that the Delhi Police have attempted to address in a limited manner by using new media technology. We then describe how new media, and more specifically, social media could be used by the police to reduce the prevalence of gender-based violence in Delhi.


In India, the ratio of police to population is 141 to 100,000, compared with the worldwide average of 350 to 100,000 (“India 2015,” 2015). The police officers are underpaid and overworked, with many police officers not even receiving one weekend off a month (Chauhan, 2015). They are also distracted with their duties of monitoring public works services. Most police officers are unaware of rape laws, and, in Delhi, there is a serious shortage of female police officers (Singh, 2014).

Police understaffing has led to widespread corruption amongst the police in India. Adding to the public's perception of a corrupt police force, the force has been accused of using their special terrorism investigation cell to frame innocent citizens with unfounded charges of

terrorism (Tiwari, 2015). In an effort to address reports of corruption, the Delhi Police launched in 2014 telephone hotlines and a WhatsApp hotline to allow citizens to report incidents of police corruption. The app also allows citizens to send to the police video or audio clips of harassment or bribery by police officers. In approximately four months time after its introduction, the WhatsApp corruption hotline logged 40,000 reports. These reports resulted in “cases booked” against nine police officers (“Delhi Police,” 2014).


Delhi's geographic location near Pakistan and terrorism-infested regions of Jammu and Kashmir make it especially susceptible to the current trend of extremism growing in the region. Delhi also has a long history of terrorist-driven violence going back to the 1980s (Tempest, 1985).

The National Investigative Agency was created in 2009 to fight terrorism in India. However, the agency has only 865 employees and, since its creation, has only filled 3/4 of its open positions (Ganguly, 2015). Understaffing has negatively impacted the agency’s anti- terrorism efforts; in one instance, a young man accused of ISIS affiliations sought bail because the NIA did not file a charge sheet (“Majeed seeks,” 2015).

In addition, terrorists in Delhi and across the globe have increasingly been using technology in planning and executing terrorist attacks. The Delhi police force has attempted to address this problem using third-party organizations to investigate terrorism online, but they have not made any strides in training their own force or procuring resources to fight terrorism through technology (Ganguly, 2015).

Gender-Based Violence

While corruption and terrorism are areas of most urgent concerns for the Delhi Police force, what has brought recent global media attention and outrage to Delhi is the brutality and pervasiveness of gender-based violence in the city. Because of this, and because the aforementioned three partner agencies --- the United Nations, the Avon Foundation for Women and Vital Voices --- located in Delhi are focusing their work and funds primarily on this issue, our team decided to focus our study primarily on gender-based violence. It is our premise that by tackling gender-based violence we may create a ripple effect of trust that will undermine the attitude of distrust toward law enforcement, erode corruption, and create a community and media engagement strategy that can be used to address other problems in Delhi.

Delhi police have been accused of improper investigation of rapes, including victim- blaming or asking victims to marry their rapists as a way to alleviate their shame after being raped. The attitude of the Delhi police reflects the greater patriarchal myths of Indian society (Rajshekhar & Arora, 2013). Because of this, an estimated 90 percent of rapes go unreported (“Behind the,” 2013). In light of some of the recent outrage and protests over gender-based violence and rape, the police created a 1091 hotline for women (Bose, 2014) and, per the passage of a recent Indian law, must now have a 33 percent female force. While the hotline and quota for female officers are steps in the right direction, more needs to be done. There is still a lack of knowledge amongst police officers about the existence of the women’s hotline (Bose, 2014) and police officers need further training in areas related to security and empowerment for women.

The United Nation’s recently formed Sustainable Development Goals (“Sustainable development,” 2015) focus primarily on gender equality. Goal five specifically focuses on gender-based violence and includes the following targets:

“End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere”

To help realize its gender-related goals, the U.N. established a Fund for Gender Equality and initiated a U.N. Women He for She campaign. Its campaign can be characterized as a solidarity movement that involves men as advocates and stakeholders in promoting gender equality. It seeks to have men and boys as agents of change, and encourages them to speak out and take action in favor of gender equality. The movement can be tailored to suit the local needs of areas where it will be implemented (“He for,” 2014). For instance, in Delhi, India, it would have to take into account the concept of joint families where several relatives and their families stay together in one house.

The implementation of the He for She campaign in Delhi could begin at universities, for instance Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. As part of the campaign, gender equality courses could be offered as a compulsory part of each university’s undergraduate programs. Primary and secondary schools in Delhi could also offer courses on gender equality to students to inculcate gender equality from an early age.

In terms of the Delhi Police, the police force can participate in workshops and training programs offered by the non-profit organization Vital Voices as part of its Gender-Based Violence Emergency Response and Protection Initiative (“Human rights,” 2015). According to Vital Voice’s Cindy Dyer, peer-to-peer training with other international law enforcement members has also been found to be effective. Those Delhi police officers that successfully complete training could then be dispatched as “gender equality” officers specializing in containing gender-based violence. Dyer suggested that a police community engagement strategy could impact both the problem of domestic violence and gender-based violence as a whole in Delhi.

“Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and privatespheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.”

“Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and femalegenital mutilation.”

Further Recommended Tactics

•    An online global classroom could be created to connect officers to other officers undergoing gender equality training. The site could then be used as an ongoing outreach tool and resource for information on gender-based violence issues.

•    Police officers who participate in specialized training in helping to prevent gender-based violence and protect victims should receive certification and an increased pay grade. Partner with UN Women’s He for She and create a He for She Delhi focused campaign.

(See Appendix A for a suggested logo that would localize the He for She campaign logo.)

•    Unveil He for She campaign for Delhi at a major press event and introduce Gender Equality Police Officers to local media.

•    Officers who are gender-based violence trained should tweet regularly with gender equality messages while using #heforshefordelhi.

•    Create Public Service Announcements of a new Rape Reporting Protocol using a reporting telephone hotline and rape reporting smartphone application: Report, Resort,


•    Distribute rape kits to all Delhi hospitals.

•    Create He for She for universities in Delhi. Task university students with social media messaging. University chapters could access the large numbers of student activists who emerged following the 2012 gang rape protests. These students can become online social media activists as well community engagement volunteers to take the message of gender equality to unreached communities.

•    Use gender-based violence trained officers and university students to pass on what they have learned regarding gender equality to youngsters at primary and secondary schools.

•    Recruit celebrity gender equality activists to tweet and use social media for He for She for Delhi messaging and gender equality training.

•    Include U.N.’s sustainable development goal number 5 as part of Delhi Police objectives.

Conclusion: Beyond Gender-Based Violence

While suggestions have been provided on how Delhi police officers can be educated about gender equality and trained to effectively respond to gender-based violence, especially through the use of new media and social media, it should be stressed that such programs have the possibility of impacting other areas of concern. They would serve as first steps toward developing a structure and process whereby the Delhi police can engage with community members to alleviate other crime-related problems facing the city. For example, with the creation of university and non-governmental partnerships as well as outreach to schools and communities, similar channels can be accessed to embark on new crime-fighting initiatives. The Delhi Police’s existing social media efforts are still in the nascent stage and are in need of modern and more relevant branding. Investing in efforts to use new media and social media to combat gender-based violence, together with programs designed to educate police officers on gender equality, could establish a foundation for the Delhi Police to move in a positive direction for creating a new and coherent police brand – a brand that emphasizes that the police are knowledgeable, care, and can be trusted. Nurturing and demonstrating a new commitment to integrity will hopefully undermine some of the corruption that currently exists in the force and thereby increase citizenry trust in the force. This trust could result in an attitude of policing by consent rather than the authoritarian model that has historically driven Delhi’s policing practices.


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Written by: Millicent Smith with research/writing of Abhijit Mazumdar and Charlie Burris at UT's Diplomacy Lab Fall 2015