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‘I Was Advised Not To Get The Police Involved’ : A Tale Of Harassment And Passive Complacency!

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By Supriya Sharma:

As I write this, I am neither proud nor happy, I am just disappointed. Disappointed in me, disappointed with the people around me! Delhi has taught me a lot of things ever since I moved here about an year back. It almost turned me into a hard-core feminist. I was told, this is Delhi, get used to the stares and the stalking. It outraged me, often to an extent that I felt like hitting people who would stare at me. I might have been told not to react and to ignore the comments, but not reacting angers me and leaves me frustrated from within.

Violence against women

It has been two months since I shifted in a new apartment that I share with my friend. It was often that we were being watched by a few desperate Romeos in the opposite apartment when we came out in the balcony. We both shared a good laugh about how frustrated guys in Rajinder Nagar are, and how they do not have a life. We never bothered and often conveniently ignored when these three guys in the opposite apartment stared at us or giggled when we came out. Perhaps, that’s where we go wrong!

It happened time and again, the giggling, the singing songs, standing in the balcony and staring. But then, we have been conditioned to be so tolerant that we think that as long as they aren’t directly harming us in any way, why should we react?

One day the power went off and it was way past midnight that my flat-mate heard a sound, of something hitting the door. She was too scared to open the door as it was dark outside, the next day when I got up I saw a tennis ball. We sort of guessed who would have thrown it, but again, giving those guys a benefit of doubt we did not act, as we did not have any solid evidence. Our inaction may have further boosted their confidence. That’s what I realized, when last night again when I came from my balcony and locked the door from inside, I heard something hit the door. I came outside to see what it was, it was a paper-roll and the guys who threw it hid as they saw me come out. After some time, it happened again, another paper roll was thrown, it was at 3 AM this time. These guys were no kids, they were students in their mid 20s.

I was agitated, but my flat-mate and her sister were both fast asleep, so I could not do anything about it then. As soon as I woke up this morning, I told them what had happened and how it is important for us to act upon it. They seemed reluctant and asked me to ignore what had happened. I was still annoyed and rushed to class. I shared this incident with a friend who tried taking a mid-way out of it and asked me to go via the landlord and complain or confront them. Again, I was not convinced because confronting them would give them another opportunity to talk and giggle. I tried asking for opinion from another friend who visited us this afternoon. A very pessimistic view again, he told me there is not much that could be done here and this is how boys are. Again, I told him, I just had to file a complaint because I could not take it anymore.

After talking to 5 odd people about this, all I heard was I would be over-stepping if I call the police, will put myself into trouble and I should let it go. It was late at night after dinner, I told this to a friend I met who was disturbed by this very incident and encouraged me to take the right action, calling the police that is. Influenced by the pessimistic opinions which were thrown at me all day, I tried telling him how calling police might not be a good idea since I have dealt with police before and a lot goes into lodging a formal complaint. I also tried arguing that these guys could probably be kids of some government officials since they were non-serious civils aspirants and could easily buy the police. But then, as I heard myself talk all of that, I felt ashamed of myself. Because it showed how little I trust the system. I felt ashamed of the fact that I let other people’s trivial opinion and cowardice influence me. I immediately got back home, and as I went out to dial 100 (again from my balcony this time), those three guys immediately popped out of their rooms. But then, it was the last time they could do that.

My faith in Delhi police was reassured (to an extent, as there are many angles to this story too), the patrolling police reported within 20 minutes of my call. They heard me out and immediately went to those guys’s apartment and arrested them. The Rajinder Nagar ASI followed in another 10 minutes and registered a complaint. The police made us feel secure and assured us that we would be safe. (Yes! We need assurance that we would be safe in our own homes!)

I had a word with the police as to what action would be taken, and he gave me his number saying I could call him anytime/anyday if I was suspicious about anyone. And that I need not worry, the guilty would not escape easily.

I wanted to thank my friend, who was the only one who believed in the system and supported me when I decided to call the police. As I spoke to him on phone, while I was in my balcony, I felt at home. I felt secure, in my own balcony. I realized how I had forgotten that it was my right to use my house-space the way I want to, and how easily we take abuse for granted in this country and fail to stand up for ourselves, for the right that is our very own!

You must be to comment.
  1. J

    Bravo, Supriya! I have spent about one year in that locality, can understand how pathetic those guys can be. Im so glad to be reading this piece. Hope this one incident would spread around and act as a deterrent to others as well. *Thumbs up*

    1. Supriya Sharma

      Thanks. I was told by the police that this locality is still one of the safest in Delhi!
      I just hope each one of us adopts a zero tolerance approach and speaks up against any form of abuse in order to nip it in the bud!

  2. Sonu

    You were lucky. In many cases police refuses to take any action or give any assurance. The other side turns out to be an influential one giving you no scope in going ahead with your case. It is then, the faith in this system starts declining. Kudos to your courage ! 🙂

    1. Supriya Sharma

      Its not about being lucky. Police (especially Delhi Police) takes these matters very seriously, ever since the Nirbhaya case. I have dealt with Police before this, where it took me 3 hours to convince them to file an FIR, but things have changed now *to an extent*. The whole intent of sharing this story was to assure ourselves, that if we decide to stand up against a crime, the police will be there to help us! = )

  3. Pankaj

    Correct act… 🙂

    1. Supriya Sharma

      Thanks Pankaj!

  4. ujjawal choudhary

    Happy to read this… got something worth reading after a long time

  5. amit verma

    good job supriya…hat off….you make a good example…

  6. Akshay Sharma

    I think you should have warned those guys at least once. A little admonishing would have done the trick. Being a guy, I can tell you that most guys like them are cowards (had been they real men, they would have not done this).

    You should have given them a chance, and if still they would have troubled you/your room mates, you should have done what you did.

    Please do not call me a male chauvinist pig. :D. I can bet that 8/10 men/boys would not dare to stare at you if you give them a warning, that too of calling a police. 😛

    One advice, which I have been giving to many other girls. Please try and see if you can learn some basic self defense techniques. There are umpteen benefits of learning martial arts. Once you know basic things, you would be confident within and would not be afraid of such idiots. You can then always teach these things to poor girls/women in villages.

    I have a team, we often visit villages to teach them, but most parents refuse because we do not have many girls in our teams. It would be great if a woman can help another woman. 🙂

    1. carvaka

      It’s not about being afraid of anyone, it’s about holding people accountable for their actions. Women shouldn’t need to learn Karate to be able to go out on their own balcony. The men here were clearly harassing the girls. There was no friendship here, no positive response from the women, just plain one-sided harassment. Why would they need warnings about that? Why do they assume that harassing women will have no consequences? I don’t go around kicking people on the street, because I know that there will be consequences. Yet, men like this harass women with not a thought of consequences. They don’t need warnings, they need to be held accountable. If enough people understood that there are consequences for harassing women, they wouldn’t do it so brazenly. Plain and simple.

    2. Akshay Sharma

      “Women should not need to learn Karate to be able to go out on their own balcony” – This is very true, but it would have happened only if the world was perfect. If I go by what you say then India being a peaceful country should not be adept in nuclear technology, they need not have nuclear weapons and should not spend so much money on it (considering we lack in basic infrastructure). After all, nuclear weapons are only used for destruction and in a perfect scenario India should not expect others using nuclear weapons on them. Unfortunately that is not how things happen. We possess nuclear weapons not to destroy any country, but only to show them, if required we can attack and defend ourselves.

      Moreover we would have not required any army force on the borders, because it being our land no one is supposed to enter it without permission. But we still keep a force on the border, because we never know what intention our enemy is. The day we remove it from there, we would gradually loose all our land.

      “It is not being afraid of anyone” : Really, would you not be afraid if you had to travel late night alone in Delhi. If no, then I must salute you. But if it is yes, then believe me learning basic martial arts and self defense techniques would make you confident of yourself. And it is not only for girls, but also for men who want to protect them. I can say this because martial arts has saved me many times. On many occasions I felt confident even after standing against 7-8 people.
      And being a friend to many girls, I can bet you that 9/10 are very afraid of such situations.

      The world is cruel, we all want it to be amicable, but as I said, it would be an Utopian state. If some is afraid of the consequences, then well and good, if not it becomes your duty to frighten them.

      Moreover, I never said that these girls should become ninja girls and give round hose kicks to those boys :D. It was just for general safety.

      “There was no friendship here, no positive response from the women, just plain one-sided harassment. Why would they need warnings about that?” – I completely agree, but from whole narration, I did not see even a single instance where they were warned. I am completely against what they did, but I still believe they should have been warned once. I am not sure if you would believe this, but once walking on a road in Gurgaon, I got weird reactions for a dozen of girls walking in a group on the road, I did not file an FIR against them.

      “I don’t go around kicking people on the street, because I know that there will be consequences.” – If you kick someone, you would definitely face the consequences. But if you show/tell someone that you intend/want to kick him/her (without actually kicking anyone), I do not think there would be any consequences for that 😀

    3. Dharmadhikari

      I have been harassed by girls so many times ,but i would like to quote one instance ; i used to get milk in the evening in certain muhalla, i used to hear lipstick ! by a bunch of girls daily , i didn’t know but sometimes i used to think , they are so obsessed with lipstick! , one day one of them came to me who was most junior among them, and told me ; Do you know BHAIA,! they have given you a name , LIPSTICK! , i asked why ? Because your lips are red!Shouldn’t we say its a kind of harassment , tell me , there are lots of example but its a decent one ! i think i should have lodged a complaint against them ! its a kind of discrimination ! don’t you think ?

    4. Aravind

      you are a male, a second class citizen, who cares about you? you don’t come in the ambit of “women empowerment”

    5. megabookfreak

      If you truly felt like you were harassed by the girls and threatened by them then you 100% should have reported the crime. Women should be held accountable for their crimes, and so should men!

    6. megabookfreak

      completely agree….you shouldn’t even NEED a warning when you know you’re doing something wrong. It’s not some kind of a shocker to them that the women didn’t like it…they just thought they could get away with it like all the other guys do and that’s why they kept doing it. They’re not as innocent as Akshay is making them out to be.

    7. Akshay Sharma

      I need not prove any one to be innocent. (I have better things to do). Neither are they my clients, nor I am their advocate.

      I just tried to put a valid point out of my experience. I felt they should have been warned atleast once.

      Can you guarantee that all the guys threw the paper at the girl’s door ? It could have been possible that only couple of them did it and even others got arrested for that. Being a guy, I have been in similar situations as well.

      I also have women and girls to take care off. I can quote an instance where my sister was called by an auto rickshaw driver and was being troubled. When I came to know about this, I called up that person and scolded him, he was shivering like cowards. It has been 6 months since then he did not dare to call her again. I have seen many such incidents. I did this not because I felt that what he is doing is right, but because I felt that there are better treatments than complaining to police and getting him arrested for this.

    8. megabookfreak

      well we all speak from personal experience. In your experience with the rickshaw driver, he was really cowardly and shut up once you talked to him. Other men, however, need some more severe punishment because they’re really gutsy and will keep harassing you. Are chances are if the girls did scold them, they wouldn’t take them very seriously and just keep doing what they’re doing.Even though these boys got arrested, they’re not going to be charged with anything significant. At most they’ll be paying a fine and that’s about it.

      And honestly, maybe the boys were “just being boys” and they wouldn’t have done anything to them but if you’re a girl and being on the receiving end of this, it’s scary because you never know who’s capable of what. When you read 100s of stories about rape by a friend, boyfriend, cousin, neighbor, security guard, etc., any guy that misbehaves with you seems threatening and you have to do everything you can to protect yourself.

    9. Akshay Sharma

      Hi,

      That is the point I want you to drive home. :). Unless you warn someone, you do not understand to which category they belong to ?

      I too believe that there are many bastards who keep harassing a person, no matter how you treat them, they definitely deserve an FIR against them and even a stricter punishment.

      But in this case, I do not think that they were warned even once.

      I do not know about everyone, but I would definitely feel offended for being arrested for no reason. It would be a disgrace to me, no matter I am let off after paying a minimal fine or so.

      I know how scary it is, I have myself been at the receiving end, I can very well imagine how a girl would feel about it.

      Yes, I have read those 100s of stories you are talking about. It must be very unfortunate when you get raped by someone you trust. In such cases, not just the body is raped but also the soul gets distorted.

      But if their intention was to rape her or any of those girls, they could have already done that. I agree it is very difficult to determine someone’s intention.

      Among those 100s of stories you would have also read few stories where girls were being raped by their fathers or brothers. This does not mean that every girl should stop trusting their fathers, brothers or boy friends for that matter.

      I personally believe that one should be warned and admonished before being punished straight away.

  7. carvaka

    Bravo! You probably saved many other women from being harassed and these men hopefully learned their lesson. I myself have stayed quiet and ‘ignored’ harassment countless times in India. More times than I could count. We are taught that no one is reliable, not the police, not the society, no one.. and that we better put up and shut up. If more of us do what you did, or atleast make noise when noise should be made, maybe things will change. Loved reading this. 🙂

    1. Supriya Sharma

      Thanks! I totally agree with your point above, such guys need to understand that there could be serious repercussions of eve-teasing, its a crime! And we cannot afford to deal with it so leniently.

  8. Shreyas

    A good example of bravery demonstrated. I hope every girl gets motivated by this article and help herself as well as in betterment of society.
    Cheers to you brave girl:)

  9. vaishnavi joshi

    Well done Supriya it is going boost many of us to react in proper way in such situations.
    As we come across to such stuffs every now and then.

  10. Saurabh Gandhi

    A really good example of prompt action by the police. Such actions really go a long way in encouraging people not to fear the police, who are their to protect the citizens!!

  11. Rita Banerji

    Supriya — I hope this did turn you into a “hard-core feminist.” 🙂 Feminism is an ideology, not a gender. So a feminist is a woman or a man who believes in the complete social equality of men and women. “Hard core” means from the core, a variation of “radical” which is from the Latin radix, meaning “root.” That means this idea of absolute equality for men and women is fundamental to how you view life and society. Society is not just towards women. And that to make it gender just we each have to do our part. Gender equality is not just about expecting justice as women. But it is also about doing our part to make the society more gender just. And you did just that! Yes, in your case, this is probably just a response to the upcoming elections. But it also means that the apathetic government is sitting up and responding to the mass momentum for gender justice in India. We have to keep up that momentum. To do that we need to not just come on the streets once a year, but keep up the fight day to day, like you did! So thank you and bravo!

  12. Suraj Nair

    I’m sorry, I really don’t see where you’re coming from. I’m also a feminist at heart, and I am completely against female abuse. But, do you really think that those boys needed to be arrested just because they threw a tennis/paper ball at your door? (Unless, they broke a window!)
    If equality in gender is what you’re looking for, do you think that I (being a guy) would be able to get a couple of girls arrested for throwing harmless love notes into my balcony?
    (P.S: You should also consider suing your morning paper boy!)

    1. megabookfreak

      Right now it was a few tennis balls, giggles, and stares. When you don’t put an end to something like that, Suraj, it escalates. It gives them the confidence to go further! And if Supriya wasn’t feeling safe in her own home, she has every RIGHT to call the police. Men are not idiots. They understand when they are harassing a woman and they know that the right thing to do it just stop. And these boys kept doing it because they knew they could get away with it…generally the whole thing is in favor of them. The police can be bought, women are weaker, nobody can prove it, etc. Making somebody feel unsafe like that and refusing to give up DOES make them deserving of arrest. And it also has a domino effect where other men in the neighborhood would be warned against doing something similar. So yes, props to you Supriya!

      And gender equality doesn’t mean the two genders are the SAME. There is a deep physical and psychological split between men and women and we can never change that- it’s nature. What we are asking for in equality in respect and equality in say. We want to be heard and we want to be appreciated and respected in the same way men are. But at the same time, women in general are physically weaker than me– the way our body builds muscle and how much it was build is far less so any man that wants to overpower a woman generally can and so in order for there to be “equality” we need more protection than men because men have the physical ability to protect themselves in a fight with a woman where as many women don’t because they are smaller and have less muscle. Again, I speak very generally.

    2. Suraj Nair

      I’m afraid I disagree with you on both counts.
      Last time I checked, staring was not a crime. It’s rude – yes, but not illegal, and definitely not deserving arrest.
      Next thing you know, you’ll have guys being arrested for hitting on girls!
      Hitting someone IS a crime, HITTING ON someone – not so much!
      None of what they did is technically illegal. If staring were a crime, half the world population would live in prisons!
      You can’t have different laws and constitutions for men and women.
      Men staring at women can’t be punishable, if women staring at men isn’t!
      Men HITTING on women can’t be punishable, if women hitting on men isn’t!

    3. megabookfreak

      There’s a VERY fine line between just staring at somebody and undressing somebody with your eyes.

      hitting on somebody is different from sexually harassing them verbally. and it all goes back to intent. You know the different between a dangerous man “hitting on you” and just a nice guy flirting with you.

      And I’m again going to stress the point that women and men are NOT THE SAME. They have different abilities and they require different kinds of protection under the law. There’s not much a woman can do if she stares at a man or hits on him and he rejects her. There’s a LOT a guy can do though if the woman rejects him and we’ve seen it happen before…acid attacks, stalking, raping, etc.

      Yes, I understand what you are saying…the boys didn’t do anything like attacking or raping them but what I’m trying to say is that unless you stop them NOW and send a message to everyone in that community, these women and other women in that society will keep filling unsafe and unprotected. It’s hard to understand that feeling of being constantly fearful of that danger that a man brings unless you are a woman.

    4. Suraj Nair

      No one can judge intent. Not you, not me, and certainly not any judge in a court of law.
      You can’t classify the same act as a crime/not a crime based on intent.
      A crime is a crime, irrespective of intent. So, if you claim staring is a crime, then it would have to be so whether I’m checking someone out, or “undressing them” with my eyes.
      And, this is just a case of women victimising themselves. If you are a woman, and you really believe that there is nothing that you (as a woman) can do, then nobody can help you. You cannot expect to be treated as an equal unless you yourself believe that you are equal.
      There HAVE been cases of women harassing men. Women are JUST as capable of acid attacks, stalking, raping, etc.
      And, by the way, you CANNOT stop someone before a crime is committed, just because you THINK they might commit it.

    5. Dharmadhikari

      great argument!

    6. Aravind

      Suraj, “equality” is just a mask for feminist to impose their superiority over men and to violate men’s rights on the basis of their gender…..they don’t want to declare an open war on men as it may awaken many men out of their fool’s paradise…..so they use the word “equality” every now and then

    7. D Gill

      I do agree that the girls should have spoken to the boys first before calling the police on them but Aravind, are you serious? Your comment is silly, our eyes are bleeding from reading such nonsense. Pls educate yourself. Do you even understand what feminism is? Evidently not. Also, do you even see what is going on in the country? When was the last time you heard of a man getting gang raped? Or “eve teased” as much as women are? How many men have been killed for dowry? How many men get beat up at home by their wives compared to women? How many male fetuses get aborted just for being male? Sure bad things happen to men too and that is not acceptable but you seem to be blind to the reality of the situation women face in the country. And what should be done according to you? Women should just sit back and take it?
      Who is the 2nd class citizen after reading this?
      Also, if you knew anything about feminism and its principles you would realize that it benefits men as well, it has nothing to do with superiority, so can we pls dispel this myth already?

    8. megabookfreak

      this really highlights the attitude that so many men have adopted…thinking that women are victimizing themselves. We are not trying to get attention and victimizing ourselves…we are simply being made victims by men who think they have the right to do whatever they want to us.

      The whole “nobody can help you unless you believe you can do something yourself” only works if we’re speaking of things are equal in all respects. As I said before, women and men are not the same. There are clear PHYSICAL and biological differences. I am not as strong at the average man and there is no point in pretending I am but that doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to feel equally safe and happy. That is my point….if a man wants to attack a woman, he normally can because he is in general much stronger. If the same woman wants to attack the man, he can normally defend himself well and stop her because again. he is generally much stronger.

      Yes, women are just as capable of attacks, rape, etc. and of course there have been such cases but every book in the world will show that the number of attacks on woman compared to men is SUBSTANTIALLY GREATER. Even when men are raped or sexually exploited, it is often by other males, not women.

      Bottom line: Men attack women a disproportionately large percentage of the time and most women simply aren’t biologically strong enough to defend themselves against the average man but that doesn’t give men the right to treat them with any less respect. This also means that if a man was ever raped by a woman then he has the full right (and my support!) to send that woman to jail as well.

      Also, a crime was already committed…harassment and stalking. And that’s what they were arrested for.

    9. Sam India

      Take this from a guy, the 3 of them deserved the arrest for the jerks they were being. A nice little visit to the “sasural” will have given them that little dose which will keep them from staring and teasing women for a lifetime. It was befitting for them to have a taste of their own medicine.

  13. Sonal Jamuar

    Very relevant and how I wish girls learn from it and donot simply IGNORE daily harassing they face !

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Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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