This incident is a follow up from my previous post on how my privacy was violated by a Vodafone employee.
“Madam, us ladke ne aapko kuch kiya nahin na. Haath nahin lagaya, follow nahin kiya na. Toh kya problem hai?” (Madam, the guy didn’t touch you, did he? He didn’t stalk or harass you, then what’s the problem?)
I’ve heard these lines in Hindi movies, read in newspapers about how other women have been asked similar questions, but to hear them in person from a female police officer in the Thane police station was shocking.
I went to the Naupada police station in Thane West last Saturday to file an FIR against the guy who had messaged me last week trying to chat with me on WhatsApp. I met a male inspector initially, who was quite helpful. He tried calling the guy and his friend who had messaged me and also attempted to get proper information from him as to where he worked, how he got my number, etc. When the guy switched his phone off, the inspector guided me to a female officer who was supposed to file an FIR for me. Initially, the male inspector tried to convince me to file an NC (a complaint lodged for a non-cognizable offence), which didn’t make any sense to me because mine was a clear case of data theft and, also harassment in a way.
There was a board hanging on the wall of the police station that clearly said that I could file an FIR in any police station irrespective of the jurisdiction. The female cop at the station, had a voice that seemed completely devoid of empathy. She was more concerned about who my boyfriend was, and not about what had happened to me. She rudely interrupted Bhawesh when he tried to explain to her in Marathi what had happened; she told him to shut up and asked me to speak instead.
While I was explaining to her what had happened, she interrupted me again and asked where I was when I received the message. The moment I told her I was at work, she lost interest; her eyes lit up, and she told me that I would have to go to the Hiranandani Estate Police Station since the crime ‘happened there’. I did remind her that as per law I could file an FIR anywhere. But, do you think that our cops listen?!
So, we went to the next police station, where I encountered another female cop who was maybe 20-something and sat with an air of unpleasantness. One would think that other women would understand the importance of privacy and safety, better than men. But she looked at me with a confused expression on her face and said: “Madam, us ladke ne aapko kuch kiya nahin na. Haath nahin lagaya, follow nahin kiya na. Toh kya problem hai. Mujhe yahaan pe crime samaj mein nahin aaya” (Madam, the guy didn’t touch you, did he? He didn’t stalk or harass you, then what’s the problem? I don’t see the crime here). I almost choked trying to control my anger. And it got worse!
Then she asked me under which sections the crime would be reported, to which I looked at her in horror and said: “well, that is something you should know”. So, she called someone and checked. As she explained, she laughed sarcastically and said to the guy, “Arre saab, ladke ne sirf message kiya, aur kuch nahin kiya” (The guy just messaged her, he didn’t do anything else), to which the guy at the other end mumbled something on the lines of, “yes, but it falls under cyber crime or something”. She then seemed to understand that it was indeed a crime but refused to file the FIR anyway. She asked me to write an application and approach the cyber cell to catch the guy.
What really left me reeling was her incompetence as a police officer, a representative of the law, who is supposed to make us citizens, feel safe and protected.
Both the women police officers I encountered were true representatives of the mindsets we still have in India, a country that claims to be ‘with the times’. It is almost impossible for a woman, a regular citizen with no political connections and power to file an FIR. No wonder crime is on the rise; no wonder men think they can rape and harass and throw acid and get away with it. No wonder our women are still harassed for dowry and burnt, no wonder we are still being harassed.
I have been walking around like a zombie since last weekend; I feel violated as a woman and a citizen. I feel sad and ashamed.
Source: Wikimedia Commons