By Sonam Mittal:
Late one night last year, I left Benaulim Beach along with my sister and two other friends. We were drinking, laughing and enjoying ourselves. Like how anyone would do when in Goa. On our way back, I stopped at L’Amour Resort to make changes to the tentative booking I’d made earlier that evening. The restaurant attached to the resort was buzzing with people, who were enjoying the melodious singing performance. Behind this restaurant, away from all the public, the caretaker of the resort molested me while I was trying to tell him that I needed a room from the day after. Outraged, I tried dragging him outside, near the main entrance, where I wouldn’t be alone with him. I ended up slapping him in sheer anger, after feeling severely violated. My sister and my friends came inside after I called them and they all tried dragging him outside. The restaurant owner came inside and tried contacting the owner of the resort. With no success, we went to Colva Police Station to meet Inspector Uttam Raut Desai.
The first thing he said to me was that girls from decent families don’t roam out late in the night drinking and partying with friends. I was shocked at his statement and for a moment, I couldn’t think of anything else except, “you cannot say something like this, how is it my fault?”. He promptly asked his junior to get the accused to the station and told me that a case will be registered and he’ll personally see to it that the accused gets to court. I accompanied the officer back to the resort where I finally saw the owner standing there, talking to the watchman. The owner refused to believe that something like this can ever happen, since he’s never heard anyone else say the same/similar thing before. He insisted time and again that he’s never received any other complaint from any woman before. The only thing I could understand from his statement was that my complaint isn’t valid since any other woman hasn’t validated it before.
While on our way back to the police station, my friends decided that they did not wish to involve themselves in police and legal hassles. Since one of them was a local, and a business owner nearby, he would have been more involved once I would leave Goa. Since I had no support from friends and family, I decided to not register a complaint at Colva Police Station, which I promptly conveyed to Uttam Raut Desai as soon as we reached there. I was also given an option to video conference from Bangalore and that my local friend can go to the court. But that is something I couldn’t impose on my friends without their wish or consent.
Uttam Raut Desai, Police Inspector, Colva Police Station, was sitting in his office, smoking a cigarette. Below are some of his statements from that night. I’ve tried to quote him to the best of my ability and my memory of this very stressful incident which I endured.
“Why were you out till late, do you even know what all happens in the night?”
“I’m against restaurants and bars being open till 2-3 in the night. Life was peaceful when permission was only till 11 pm.”
“I’m seeing a lot of cases where unmentionable activities are happening on the beach. One girls with three four guys”
“This is not Muscat. This is India.”
“Nobody has right intentions when they want to drink till 4 in the morning.”
“I have two daughters and they won’t do anything like this. This, roaming late in the night, drinking and partying.”
“If I would come to know that my daughter is doing things like these then I would leave for Bangalore straightaway, reach in the morning and ‘do kantap ke neeche rakh ke doonga’ (would slap her hard twice)”
“I’m not here to do nautanki (theatrics) that any abhla-naari (helpless, but dramatic women) would come running in and then later say I don’t want to file a complaint. I decide what will happen here. I’m here to give justice (bangs the table thrice while emphasizing on ‘justice’)
“What will your father feel, what will he go through, when he’ll come to know that his daughters are involved in all such things?”
“Does your father even know that you are here. Doing all this?”
“Do you want me to call him and tell him what has happened? Have you thought how he would feel?”
“Do you guys behave the same way when in Bombay? Being out of the house this late?”
“I’m a very tedha aadmi, mujhe panga leke tumne galti ki hai. Mein kuch bhi kar sakta hoon. (You shouldn’t have locked horns with me)”
“At Least be thankful you were not raped”
Police Inspector Uttam Raut Desai finished three cigarettes in the station, in his cabin, while he was moral policing me in front of my sister, my two friends, the restaurant owner, the resort owner and another officer who he was bullying.
I was also told that since I have slapped the accused and hit him, thereby having ‘taken the law’ in my hands, there can be a ‘counter-case’ against me. I was asked if I was prepared to face the consequences of that.
Later, he made me write a statement that I have from my own consent, not registered a complaint, because he didn’t wanted a media hassle if tomorrow I changed my mind and blamed him for not filing a complaint. This was said in front of me, while addressing me in third person.
When another officer took me inside to get a statement written, which he proceeded to type out very slowly and very carefully, while asking me hundred and one questions like where do I work, where’s my office, what’s my roomie’s name, etc? When I started asking how these questions are relevant to any statement that I have to submit, Uttam Desai came inside the cabin and started shouting at me. He said, “So much you were blabbering away in English, you don’t know how to write or what? You can’t write your own statement?”. I was forced to raise my voice to shut down his bullying by saying that “Ask your officer, I was never asked to write, he straightaway stated typing.”
After reading my statement, he pointed out a logical correction in one particular sentence, so as to ensure that the message was not misinterpreted. While I insisted that ‘Yes, I agree with what you’re saying about this line,” he kept belittling and bullying me by saying, “I don’t know this much English like you, I’m not an expert in English like you.”
Later, while we were leaving, he wanted to know my ‘frank opinion.’ I said, “Drinking and being out late is not a crime. Sexual harassment is.” Miffed, he inquired about my profession and upon hearing ‘NGO’, he said that then I should know how to deal with cops. I said that cops in other cities are ten times more helpful than what he had been that day.
I’m deeply disappointed in our police system. I wonder how many more Uttam Raut Desais would make it difficult for another woman to register her complaint. My case was slightly different because I later decided to not lodge a complaint under the given circumstances. What about any other case where a woman would really want to pursue it further and still get blamed for it? Moral policed at the police station and probably get further blamed at every step in the judicial process?
Is this what my country is? Where a woman is neither respected on the streets, nor in the police station? Where she isn’t even respected for her decision to not register a complaint? Where she isn’t respected for her decision to be out late in the night and enjoy with friends and family?
If this is the state of our system then I shudder to think what treatment I would have received had I been in this situation alone with a male friend/boyfriend instead of my sister and two friends.
Uttam Raut Desai, you’re a bully. You’re a misogynistic egoistic person who should not be treating people like how you’ve treated me.
Just because you’re ‘Police’ doesn’t mean that whatever you do is right.