Friday, July 13, 2012

Guwahati's shame or India's?

Would she ever get true justice?
Would her perpetrators ever be brought to book?
Would she ever be eligible for some peace of mind?

Should this be acceptable?
Should she always walk around covered from head to toe lest she be termed ‘provoking’?
Should she not be allowed to marry a man she approves of?
Should she never be allowed to hang out with friends in the evenings anymore?
Should she be locked up in a house after 7 PM because it’s too dangerous to venture out?
Should she always have to look over her shoulder as she walks down busy streets?
Should she always turn around with fear when she hears the sound of tyre over gravel, unsure of who’s approaching?
Should she always note down motorcycle numbers when she sees men in groups?
Should she always walk in fear and a deep sense of foreboding in her heart?
Should she always keep a lookout for an owner of every shadow that she senses?
Should she give up any expectations of support from bystanders and fellow commuters?
Should she have to sleep in fear and shudder at the sound of every footstep?
Should she just give up and move away from this nation of mute onlookers to a more safer haven?
Should she start hoping for a boy child instead?
Is that the solution?

The questions above will apply to each and every individual in this nation. Man or woman. And the answer to each of the above questions is probably a big, fat, emphatic NO. A word, that unfortunately, carries no meaning and makes no sense to some twisted, criminal, sick, disgusting minds. The recent incident of Guwahati, in which a mob of about 30 men molested a lone teen, even as bystanders stood mutely and the reporter of Newslife video-recorded the entire incident instead of trying to get his crew to intervene proves just that. Cops did not arrive at the crime scene until 30 minutes later. 4 days later only 11 have been identified and 4 have been arrested. Even as the video clearly identifies each and every individual. I find that a little hard to digest. It actually makes me sick to my stomach. The Gurgaon incident which had sparked a major outcry throughout the country sometime ago, has fared no better. No arrests have been made yet. Guwahati witnessed a similar case 5 years back. Same outcome. 5 years and no change yet. 


Law and order in India needs a major upheaval. A huge rewrite. Policies need to be revised in keeping with the times. The derogatory manner in which the culprits behaved, the crude arrogance with which they smiled at the camera, the confidence that they’re untouchable is disgusting to say the least. Much has been said and discussed about this already, in the news, by the media, the blogosphere etc. I will not add much to it.

Instead, I’m going to request each and every woman reading this (men can pass this along if they feel it deserved to be) to stay aware, stay prepared. Keep your eyes and ears open. Unfortunately, because of the blatant ongoing mockery of the law and order departments, the onus to stay safe does shift to a large extent to our shoulders. The below might seem a bit extreme, but better safe than sorry.

  • Wear comfortable footwear as much as you can. Running in heels will be difficult. If you're going to a party, carry your heels in a carry-bag. The bag can double up as a weapon if you need to take a swing at anyone.
  • Take the elevators instead of the stairs in deserted buildings. You can always lose weight later.
  • Do not stay on the cell phone in shady parking lots. Updating Facebook can wait.
  • Do not let anyone know if you’re travelling alone. An imaginary husband or boyfriend should always be right around the corner.
  • Always carry a pepper spray. Don’t have one? Fill a perfume bottle with chilli powder and water. The stronger, the better. But be aware, that 15-20% of the time it might not work. There have been cases where men have not been affected even by full face sprays. Unfortunately, a breed of mankind is already immune to it.
  • Lock the car immediately after getting into it. Cosmetic adjustments by looking into the mirror can be done later.
  • Learn some kind of self defence. Kickboxing would be good.
  • Avoid martial arts studios unless you specifically wish to train in the traditional martial arts techniques and are prepared for a long-term commitment. Many women’s self-defense programs teach watered-down martial arts techniques that are complex and unrealistic under the stress of an actual attack.
  • Change routes once in a while, if you have to walk through deserted roads. Do not become predictable.
  • Do not embark on a Women's rights mission against unknown strangers if you're alone. Such animals derive pleasure from attacking such individuals. Women's rights are important but not they do not rank higher than your safety. You can always come back with a bigger group to teach them a lesson later.
  • In case of any untoward incident, stay confident and alert. Try to resist but be prepared to run.
  • Pune police also says: For cabs, avoid sitting in the front seat and avoid interactions with drivers.
  • Keep cell phones always charged and sufficient balance if you need to make emergency calls.
  • Never travel alone. In extreme emergencies, always use public transport as much as possible
  • Do not permit unknown/unauthorized people to travel with you.
  • While travelling alone, inform or SMS the vehicle number to someone you know well before or as soon as your board, for contingencies.
  • Always stay in touch with someone through phone while travelling alone. Call in, a quick 2 minute call, every ½ hour or so.
  • Do not get into unnecessary arguments with strangers especially if you do not have male companions with you. Unfortunate but true. A small group of girls might also be no match for some of these predators. Proving yourself right is required, but not at the cost of your safety or dignity.
  • Never open a door - be it a car, your home or a hotel - unless you’re sure that the person on the other side is someone legitimate.
  • Use your sixth sense. “Sixth sense.” “Gut instinct.” Whatever you call it, your intuition is a powerful subconscious insight into situations and people. All of us, especially women, have this gift, but very few of us pay attention to it. Learn to trust this power and use it to your full advantage. Avoid a person or a situation which does not “feel” safe–you’re probably right.
  • Escape. Always your best option. What if the unthinkable happens? You are suddenly confronted by a predator who demands that you go with him–be it in a car, or into an alley, or a building. It would seem prudent to obey, but you must never leave the primary crime scene. You are far more likely to be killed or seriously injured if you go with the predator than if you run away (even if he promises not to hurt you). Run away, yell for help, throw a rock through a store or car window–do whatever you can to attract attention. And if the criminal is after your purse or other material items, throw them one way while you run the other.
  • Your right to fight. Unfortunately, no matter how diligently we practice awareness and avoidance techniques, we may find ourselves in a physical confrontation. Whether or not you have self-defence training, and no matter what your age or physical condition, it is important to understand that you CAN and SHOULD defend yourself physically. You have both the moral and legal right to do so, even if the attacker is only threatening you and hasn’t struck first. Many women worry that they will anger the attacker and get hurt worse if they defend themselves, but statistics clearly show that your odds of survival are far greater if you do fight back. Aim for the eyes first and the groin second. Remember, though, to use the element of surprise to your advantage–strike quickly, and mean business. You may only get one chance.
  • Feed important telephone numbers including police control room in your cell phones.
  • Do not discuss personal matters when availing public transports, not even with your friends. Someone might be listening.
  • Avoid parties with unknown colleagues, especially ones involving drinks - if you have to attend, make sure you never leave your drink unattended.
  • Be extremely careful if you go in for shared transport. Avoid it if possible. If not, always be alert.
  • For women in IT and BPO, if availing company transport, check the identification of the cab drivers before you take off.
  • If leaving your workplace alone at night, get the night watchman to drop you till your vehicle or the closest bus-stop. If that does not work, have someone pick you up instead if possible.
  • Most companies using cab drop off and pick up have modified their policies to never have a woman employee picked up first or dropped off last. If your’s does not do that yet, talk to your HR about it.
  • Stick together. Stay in crowds.
  • Do not put up with abuse. Be it verbal or physical. From a man or a woman. Family or otherwise.

Of course, in the event of 30 men attacking a lone girl and a whole bunch of onlookers standing by and no one helping, I do not know if staying in a crowd would really help. But it’s better than being on your own. Stay safe.


Note: For items in italics, copyright is attributed to powertochange.com
I would love to hear your views!

42 comments:

  1. Very well written deepa.... we live in bad times, and such men need to heartily punished. Still, better to be safe than sorry.

    Do check out my post on the plight on women in this country here

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    1. Thank you Ash, will definitely do. I wish there's more being done. Even if things were to change 5 years down the line, I will accept that. But I need the assurance that they will.

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  2. It is sad you have to impart safety tips to humans against predators who are also humans, but then are they? Did you read the Colaba housing society at Mumbai has evicted the Chabad House (Jewish movement to which Pak terrorists had laid seige in 2009) and no one else is ready to receive them? Poor folks are putting up at Oberoi Hotel! What cowardice, what shame, what debauchery! Are we humans?

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    1. That's the unfortunate irony USP. Yesterday's newspapers also detailed an account of a man being belted by the police at the station because he had driven the wrong side of the road. Its strange that we impart rigorous punishment for such incidents but crime against women is just another routine? We have become immune to these. We've grown used to the violence. I feel like we're staying in one of those third world countries besieged by violence where it has become OK to feel the tremors of bombings every day. Its the 'chalta hain' attitude that sucks.

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  3. Hi
    Nice tips and a great post . Loved the idea about using chilli spray in perfume bottles !

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    1. Thank you Jaish. I am seriously contemplating ideas on how safety for women can be improved. Considering law and order isn't completely dependable anymore, we might have to think of ways to keep ourselves safe.

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  4. Have to agree with USP. It is shaming to find that the women of the country I live in need to live as though in a state of siege! There are times when one feels that punishments that civilized society has discarded as being barbaric seem to be the only fit judgment!

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    1. I agree with you Suresh. Maybe that's what we need now. We need some kind of barbaric punishments to be meted out to these people. They should be made examples. Court cases will take forever. Something needs to be done about such sickos now.

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  5. I think we need to make a example out of these people. Time to put an end to this...

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    1. True. Unfortunately I don't see that happening anytime soon. Even if the men do get prosecuted, it won't be anytime soon. By then people would have forgotten the whole story, there would be something new to hold their attention and for all we know, they would be let off for lack of evidence (read: eyewitness testimony). Its sad times we live in, am ashamed to say.

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  6. It's depressing. It's getting harder and harder to defend India. That image of a burgeoning democracy complete with free speech and individual rights is moving farther instead of closer. I hope those people are punished soon and harshly.
    But if I may, there's a minor issue that I think deserves attention. People are sharing the pictures of those men and even the video of the incident on Facebook hoping some of their acquaintances recognize the offenders. While this might have some benefit—it will certainly scare the crap out of future offenders—I'm afraid for those men who have the misfortune of resembling the guys in the video. They will be named and shamed. Even if they're cleared later, an accusation of sexual assault is a conviction as far as reputations are concerned. Perhaps the media and the people should tread lightly and not practice vigilanteism.
    Instead, we must use the internet and the strength of numbers to force law enforcement to take action with due process.

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    1. I agree. I have been a staunch believer in India - accepting its weakness and optimistically hoping that things would improve. But with all such incidents, its getting harder and harder to defend her. Rightly said about the process being followed to nail the guilty. But if the police decides to tread lightly, the masses go up in arms saying its been so long, why haven't there been more arrests? We are a population now running out of patience. We want to see results, fast. Both approaches have got pros and cons. Through the use of internet, we may think that we're helping out nail them too, but in the end it might end up causing more harm than good. Guess, if that works in the perps getting punished, we think of the harm done as collateral damage.

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  7. What affects me the most is that no one comes to help a person being assaulted in open public glare. What can one say? Frankly, I am afraid to drive out at night even with my pepper spray. The situation has come to such.

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    1. Well Rachna, remember the recent article where a Sanjeev Jaiswal, NRI intervened a street fight and got hit in the head with a baseball bat? Losing his memory, unable to recognize his wife and 6 year old daughter for a few initial weeks after that? Well, am glad he got his memory back and I feel good and proud in humanity when he says that if the need be he would do it all over again. He refuses to be a mute spectator. But how many of us would do that? Everyone's worried for their own self. I agree that by oneself, it's difficult to take matters into your own hands, but what about a mass of people? There's power in numbers. If a mob were to intervene, the perps would never even think of carrying out such ghastly acts in plain view. As the old legendary tale goes, you can break one stick by itself. But bunch them all together, they become too strong to be broken.

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  8. We are living in sad, sad times...
    Do read my take on this issue if you get a moment -

    http://reekycoleslaw.com/?p=419

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    1. Just did and left you a comment! Excellent satire! Will keep coming back for more!

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  9. Thank you Deepa for this post-it was badly needed...we certainly need to make an example of these demons but then our stupid laws come in the way--the very same laws which will not ask those who are guilty of dereliction of duty, why they take so long in coming to aid;and mind you this is only the lesser evil for them...one ring from an influential person & even a ghoul who has been recognized will be let off.

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    1. Law and order is becoming a very serious problem in this country. In the name of democracy, Indians are now simply creating havoc, taking law into their own hands and running amok. On one hand there are the never ending womens' security issues. On the other mobs ransacking hospitals if a patient dies, overturning automobile plants and killing management, vandalizing toll booths on the behest of a politician who's aim in life seems to be to incite and provoke - even as the police stand mutely and do not do anything against them. Well, not surprising considering they have better things to do - like do the interiors for their higher-in-command's retirement home. Its a sad state of affairs. Going to the dogs I tell you.

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  10. Sad situation ..
    good tips and i hope such things never ever happen again ..

    We need tips to be given to EACH PERSON , not just woman but to those who stood there to watch this happen , I would not want this to happen to any family but if it was happening ot one of their own would they still stand there watching , enjoying the SHOW..

    I sincerely hope things change .. for the good otherwise we are heading RUNNING downhill towards disaster ..

    Bikram's Open letter to all INDIANS

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    1. Much as I think the mute spectators should be fined/arrested also for being passive participants, incidents like the road rage accident where a bystander intervened, got hit by a baseball bat and lost his memory for a good amount of time also do bring up questions. People hate getting involved because of such risks and all the red tape involved. For this very reason, effective law and order enforcing and nothing else will help it improve. Will read your letter now! :)

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  11. Something like this is India's shame. The police needs to make an example of each and every one of them.

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    1. I just read recently that the media reporter who recorded the entire incident was also taken into custody. Apparently, he's the one who incited the incident and also has ties to the main accused. If this is what the media has now resorted to doing in order to gain fame, then God save us!

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  12. Good timely tips Deepa. I hope things change. Things cannot go like this forever.

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    1. Much as I want it to be a change in the individual's mentality and attitude towards women, I have a feeling that's not going to happen. Effective hard hitting law and order enforcement seems to be the only way out!

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  13. THe people who watched are the worst .. because one of them is going to be a molester soon as they see no one comes out to save a person .. This gives them the idea


    Bikram's

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    1. Very true. How can someone stand by watching mutely is beyond me. Guess the latest improvements in policies with respect to bystanders might help. Well, its not an excuse but earlier bystanders would get themselves embroiled in so much legal complications that it had become a deterrent, add it to the threats from the perpetrators and risk to their own lives. But now seems like on that front, they're going to make it easier on people who help victims.

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  14. Deepa, it is just the law and order issue that is the problem. It is also a problem that people think that may be "she asked for it"- after all was she not coming out of a bar? Did not some minister in Kolkata make a statement about the lady who was molested in a cab after she came out of a bar? The idea is if you go to a bar when you must be a whore! If you are alone at night you must be looking for some sex...!!! Really the attitude of people pains me!! Your tips were most useful and practical. I am sharing them with my friends

    PS Thanks for visiting my blog. I had assumed it to be another Deepa I know. Took me some time to figure out that it was someone else :P

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    1. Meera, no law and order cannot alone be blamed for the current situation. It has a lot of do with mentality also. How women raise their sons and daughters. Some of the statements from NCW representatives are sickening to say the least. If the upholders of women rights have such degraded opinions, then do we have any hope? However, cultural psychology changes will take a while as its a gradual process. Generations even. But since we do not have fast track courts or instant arrests the best we can do right now is be armed, be prepared.

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  15. Very sad to see posts like these from you and other bloggers.

    It is not just women who are attacked. We men are also attacked for money. Lonely roads or empty train compartments are not safe for us also.

    Condemning the Guwahati incident is good. Giving awareness is also good. But combining these two and saying like if you women do not take extra care, you could be molested at anywhere at any moment is not good. I do not think India has become such a country where you can't live without pepper spray. It is like exhorting all men to carry guns so that they won't be marauded on road.

    In this post you are saying in India women can't live safely in a soceity. That is totally wrong. You may ask that is not single incident enough? What if it happens to you if you are a girl? The answer is the question what if you are a man and you are waylaid or killed at night while traveling a lonely road? Should you have carried guns with you?

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    1. Agreed. Men are targets too. No denying that. But why would you think that women are not attacked for money? But then women lately have to bear the brunt of sexual assaults too. Also agreed that men could be targets of sexual assaults too but in a country like India, that number might be far less (at least the reported ones) which also brings up an interesting point that not all crimes against women get reported either.

      And honestly, what makes you think this is an isolated incident? The papers everyday show at least half a dozen cases - new ones every day. We've come to a point in time today where the law and order machinery has broken down as far as crimes are concerned. If a mother and her 17 year old daughter can kick and punch a pregnant nurse causing her to miscarry - then I think there's nothing wrong when I say that be prepared to defend yourself. I do not say that start whipping out your pepper spray at every person who talks to you - but at the end of the day I would be rather safe than sorry.

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  16. Unfortunately it is you, a woman who ask women to surrender their enjoyments and be vigilant.

    As a citizen of India, I would like to comment on the Guwahati incident as

    My dear ladies,
    A sad thing happened. It happens once in a while at some part of our country. It is really sad to tell you that you need to be careful when you are alone at a public place. But do not be afraid. Live your life as you like. Do not avoid the company of unknown men if you think you like it. But be aware that some incidents have happened.
    Last but not least, never ever gave up an enjoyable moment in your life because of these incidents. Live the way you want.

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    1. Not true. I do not say 'Dont party' and I will never say that. If you notice, my first point in the list says 'If you're going to a party, carry your heels in a carry-bag.'. I do not say 'Dont go to the party'. But again, as I said, better safe than sorry. This is not a feminism fight, not a fight for equal rights. Its more a call for safety, for awareness. Unfortunately, the sad thing that you mentioned, is more frequently happening and in a lot more parts in the country. Guwahati only got publicized more than the others. One doesn't need to be afraid, but one does need to be careful, aware. And last but not the least, I will repeat this. Do not put up with abuse. Be it verbal or physical. From a man or a woman. Family or otherwise.

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    2. @ Jayan Memom: I think you stay in a dream world or a world so removed from reality that you have no clue as to what you are saying.
      Read this and then you will know what Deepa has written makes complete sense
      http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/Unsafe-in-the-city/Article1-822473.aspx

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  17. Who is he kidding? Do not avoid the company of unknown men if you think you like it???

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    1. Incredulous isn't it! I wish there was a 'Like' button here Farila! Would have did that now for your statement :)

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  18. Deepa..wonderful article. Men will be men. Ignore them.

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    1. Ah Janu, I wish the solution was that simple! Ignore and be ignored, wouldn't that be cool! But unfortunately this simple thing doesn't appeal to certain men!

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  19. Shame on us if we say a girl isn't even safe in a crowd :-[

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