IN STOPPING THIS MALADY
1. How Southern Railways tackled Eve-teasing complaint
2. How Chennai Police acts Pro-actively
3. How Keen & Reuben case must be tackled effectively
4. What National Human rights commission must do
About 17 Years ago – This happened.
I was working at Chennai Anna Salai (Mount Road) at that time. I had just then shifted my residence from the city to a suburban locality where I was constructing my new home.
Daily, between my new residence and my office, I had to commute for 30 KM by train by either first class or second class and then by Auto etc
Going in the second class train compartment in that route of Chennai was a new and shocking experience for me. On the very first day of my travel in the second class – I noticed a number of boys flocking from the general side of the compartment to the Ladies side of the compartment, through a door which was open between the two. One end of the compartment was separated and reserved for Ladies but a small open door was there between the two parts.
From where I was sitting – whatever was happening in the Ladies side of the compartment was audible and partly visible too.
The Boys were making lewd comments about almost everybody in the Ladies compartment. As the train stopped and started at each station, the lewdness of their comments was growing exponentially.
At each station, more boys entered in and a few more went into the ladies side of the compartment. While the General compartment was not crowded, there was huge jostling of these boys at the Ladies compartment entrance – and many boys were inside the Ladies compartment.
It was very difficult to hear and digest the obscene comments of these boys. They excluded no one from their comments. From a five year old kid to the eighty year old – all were the butt of their obscene comments.
I called one boy nearest to me and asked him – why not his friends come into the general side – leaving the Ladies side. He laughed at me and then - he also went inside ladies compartment.
I asked some of the passengers sitting by my side – why all of us were silent and why we would not tell these boys – to stop their lewd comments and come back into the general comments.
They replied – sir, this is how things are always. The boys won’t listen to any one. If you insist, you will get beaten up. So, it is better to be silent. It was obvious from their replies that – it was a daily routine which happened always in that train. I asked them – what if your wife, my wife, your mother, my mother or our girl children were also travelling on the other side. They said – nothing can be done. It is our fate. Nobody will do any thing..the government is like this…. the politicians are like this…. this is kaliyug…. It will become still worse in future probably...they are rowdies.. they will retaliate..they will even knife us..politicians and Police will support them only....
I was sick and boiling inside myself with the eve teasing that went on for the 30 KMs of journey. The utter helplessness that the other passengers expressed was unacceptable. I had never felt so helpless and useless in my life earlier. Did I select a wrong place to construct my home?Am I going to see this the rest of my life?
The eve teasing considerably reduced in the last 5 KMs of the journey. But, my day in the office was already spoiled by this journey. In the office, I was totally out of my usual cheerful moods. It was evident to my colleagues, subordinates and superiors. Some of them sat with me and asked me – what happened? I narrated the entire episode of my train journey. Some ladies said that – they also travel in that route only and suffer the same problem daily. Some of the menfolk also said the same.
I didn’t know what to say or do. The same thing continued for next ten days. I travelled in the second class only, almost on purpose, in different trains to my office. I wasn’t really conscious why I was doing it. Everyday – I tried to awaken the conscience of the co-passengers but to no avail. No one responded. All pleaded helplessness.
On the eleventh day – I found it just too much for me to accept. I had to unload my anger and agony upon someone. I took the Telephone Directory, found the southern railway public grievances cell address, and some names of its officers – plus the names of officers of the Chennai division of Railways. For half a day from 10 AM to 1 PM, I drafted a complaint to the public Grievances cell, and sent it to them and to the Chennai Division superintendent. I did not expect them to take any drastic action on the culprits – but I made about 20 suggestions on how the eve teasing can be prevented – by peaceful methods. My letter and suggestions were almost totally Gandhian in spirit. But, my description of the eve-teasing that was going on - was detailed and total. I almost did this - to unload my burden on the railway officers.
I forgot the whole thing for the next ten days. Then, on one day, suddenly, 2 police officers came to my office and were seeking to meet me. They came and met me in my chamber. I asked them to sit and wanted to know why they were seeking me. Internally, I was a little afraid – you see, the reputation of Police in India is not exactly FRIENDLY. It evokes more fear in law abiding public than the law breaking public. There may be many exceptions to this in police force; even they may be the majority; but, their public image is not exactly of friendliness.
But, the Police Officers quickly dispelled my thoughts. They showed a copy of my complaint and wanted to know if I am the one who really made this complaint. I determined instantly – yes. I am going to see the end of it. I don’t know how – but, that was a moment, I remembered Gandhi, the father of the nation – whose courage was exceptional.
I told myself, I will do what Gandhi would have done. At least, my idea of what he would have done. I got into a strong emotion which backed up by courage. I told the two Police officers – all that I had witnessed in the last ten days. I also told them that if any of my or their family members happen to travel in the trains in that route, this would be the same result. No woman is really safe.
I told them, some women may even commit suicide, or leave their jobs or get into a perennial depression on account of this teasing. In short, no city can tolerate such open, unbearable, daily torture of its womenfolk.
The Police officers listened very attentively. At the end – I told them of the suggestions I had given in my complaint. At this point, they smiled and said – your complaint is OK, but your suggestions are not. They won’t work with such hooligans. Leave the matter now to us. We know how to deal with them. But, we promise to give back to you information on what action we have taken.
They left thanking me. I was still not sure, what they were going to do, and where I stood now.
All of my staff and my colleagues came later and were asking me why the Police had come. When I told them – all of them uniformly, told me, that I had done a big mistake. The Police are unreliable. They may call me now frequently to their office; inquire me before some culprits; the culprits may pick up enmity with me – and so on.
I thought for a while; so be it; let me face up to this challenge. Come what may; I will stand my ground.
Three days passed. On the fourth day, my brother’s son came home and was telling about a big Police action that happened in front of the ladies compartment. I asked the reason. His face was gleaming with satisfaction. He told me his version of the Eve-teasing and how the Police dealt with all the culprits. You all know, how a Police action happens. That was how, it happened in this case too.
My niece came a little later – and she also very happily recounted how Police were acting against eve-teasers in every train. As my other brothers, their children and others were coming home and telling of more stories of Police action on eve teasers, it was obvious that the Police were acting very firmly, on my complaint. But, I had not told my family members about my complaint.
One whole Fortnight of non-stop Police action seemed to have been undertaken. After the fortnight, I received letters from the Public Grievances cell and also the Chennai Division Superintendent – on how action had been initiated on my complaint and how they were determined to ensure that EVE TEASING is rooted out in that section of Railways. They also said - they will undertake monthly reviews of the effect of their action and continue it till the Eve-teasing becomes ZERO.
But, beyond this, the Police never met me. They never called me anywhere. It was evident that they performed their job very consciously and efficiently. My respect for the PG Cell, the railway administration and the Police had definitely climbed a few notches higher.
Let me assure the readers – that till this day, in last 17 years, I had not witnessed a single such eve-teasing incident later. Of course, I travel much less frequently by train now. Yet, I know, that this part of India has many Good Police officers and other officers who can rise to the occasion – if only there is no Political Interference.
I told all this a month later in my home – just could not suppress it from them totally now - and showed them the letter I had sent and the replies the Railways had sent to me.
I remember this when I see the news about Keenan and Rueben murders. Unfortunately, in India, Bad People are united well for Bad causes. But, good people are totally fragmented and almost never willing to unite. When good people come together – it is possible to achieve almost anything in India.
Look at the way team Anna is fighting against Corruption. There is no doubt that, most Political Parties also supported their cause – at crucial times. Swami Ram Devji is also fighting the same cause. He is also most sincere to the cause.
But, it is very easy – for discrediting any one – be it Ram Devji, Kiran Bedi, Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan, or even Anna Hazare.
Now, if there is some small allegation against Swami Ram Devji – Team Anna almost deserts him. What will they do – if some allegations go on coming against each member of Team Anna? The team starts infighting; the team goes; the cause goes automatically. When the crusader does not exist, where is the crusade?
No crusader can be perfect. To err is human. See your own back. You are committing daily errors. We all do commit small irregularities also in some unfounded enthusiasm. Like, we see in movies. The good thief robs the wealthy people (who earn in devious ways) and distributes among the poor. But the law takes on the thief and not on the wealthy people. I do hope team Anna sticks together – and also sticks together with other sincere crusaders like Swami Ram Devji. Team Anna plus Ram Devji Plus other sincere crusaders together is a strong force. Divided – you are like the four Bulls individually eaten away by the Lion.
There are also excellent Individuals in Govt. Team Anna must keep communication with them.Our PM, despite all reported scams in Govt, is one of the most honest men. Keep talking to him. Make him see your side of the truth. Good men must come together - for Good purposes.
In case of Keenan and Reuben – witnesses have come forward admirably. I only hope the Police does as admirable a Job as the Chennai Raliway Police did in the above instance. I would stress one aspect in respect of the Police. Please do not harass the witnesses in the name of Investigation. Do not call them often. Do not call them alone. Do not show them off before the culprits often. The Judiciary must also look at this angle and ensure that the witnesses are not harassed either by police or the culprits. Please Give them all encouragement and Protection from the Goondas and the Politicians. Let everyone be serious about getting Justice Done. But, this is not enough.
The Police must become Pro-active about eve-teasers. Chennai Police used to set up decoys from amongst the women Police, and catch the eve-teasers. Police in all cities must do that. Mumbai and Delhi must do it extensively. Only pro-active detection of Eve-teasing can really stop it. Not by handling the cases, as they come up in a big way to every one’s notice.
Law must be Pro-active. Not just – re-active. The National women’s Rights Commission must take up this aspect very seriously. Eve-teasing on Indian Roads can be stopped totally. If only we act Pro-actively. 99% of men would be happy if women are happy.
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