“Do you think she dialed 100 just for fun?” shouted my Investigating Officer(IO).
It was a Saturday morning when I woke up to receive a call from her. I was tired after a whole week of talking to the lawyers, police and my parents.
IO: “Good morning madam.”
Me: “Good morning.”
I thought that I would be asked to share some more mundane details about the night the incident happened. Or the police would want more information about the harasser. But to my surprise, the IO had called to say that they had identified the car and the harasser.
She said, “Is it possible for you to come to the police station? The ACP would also like to meet you with regards to your complaint against the three male constables who were on duty that night.”
We were seated in the SHO office at the police station and this man was now trembling. All he could utter was, “please let me go…I have a wife and a six-month-old daughter”.
On April 20, 2019, I was followed and eve-teased by this man. I dialed 100 after which three male police officers called me but did nothing to help. I had barely managed to reach home. Standing in my balcony, making incessant calls to the police, I realized how vulnerable my life was. Even more vulnerable were the lives of other women who might be getting harassed at that moment and would be hoping that dialing 100 would save them.
The next morning I woke up differently. I knew I had to do something about the inefficiency of the police. Knowing that I would be asked to narrate the entire incident once again, I mustered the courage and reached the police station to file an FIR. The FIR was filed, the case was registered and I was assigned a woman sub-inspector (IO) who would look into my case.
When I first met my investigating officer amidst the humdrum of Saket District Court, I wondered if she would even follow through my case. My friends and family were humming the old narrative- “You must Thank God that you are safe. This country is like this. It is not worth your time. This is going to take a few years. It’s going to be a tedious process. Police are the worst in such matters.”
But to my surprise and to the surprise of everyone else, my IO had identified the guy within a week’s time. I was thrilled and scared at the same time. I did not want to meet the man as I was not yet prepared for the traumatic memories the meeting would bring out. I was pursuing this case out of anger. A deep sense of rage against the perpetrator’s audacity to eve-tease and follow me and well-managed anger against a system which lets these perpetrators do so.
A week later, I was at the police station to identify him and the car. In the SHO’s office, absorbed in all the paperwork, my IO prepared the documents which needed my signatures. Meanwhile, the SHO extended his apology for the male constable’s behavior and was eager to flaunt his female investigating officer’s hard work.
There is no denying that the police is exposed to a high degree of human apathy because they are faced with brutal crimes on a daily basis. They do not get enough leaves and work under strict deadlines. They are also the most undervalued and overworked as a result of witnessing the underbelly of society and the dark side of human nature every single day. But looking at my IO, I witnessed a completely different narrative.
Standing in front of me was a woman, who knew what she had signed up for. She seemed to have refused to let a perpetrator slip by because of system failure. She was standing tall with her undeterred spirit to crush any force that will attempt to commit crimes like sexual harassment or eve teasing. The perpetrator was identified and arrested. He gave lame responses when he was asked why he did what he did upon which the IO yelled at him.
The SHO, ACP told me that there is nothing to worry now as I signed the papers which reiterated that I had identified the car and the perpetrator. But when my IO told me that there is nothing to worry, it took a weight off my shoulders. I knew that I no longer have to carry the scene by myself.
I also realized that I am not just made out of flesh and bones. I felt independent as a woman. I went back home knowing that there is a woman who is dutiful and responsive towards her job and would do anything to make sure that my safety is ensured. She affirmed my faith in a system that is broken.
Anger propelled me to take action against my perpetrator. Today he knows that it is not alright to harass a woman because there are more and more women who are occupying positions of power. Unless there are more women holding important positions in the system, we cannot expect gender equality. Research conducted internationally clearly demonstrates that female police officers often respond more effectively to incidents of violence against women.
When I was leaving from the police station, I had one last chat with my IO where I told her how scared I was because people had told me the repercussions of filing an FIR. They would threaten you to take your complaint back. They may harass you again. It will take a long time before he is arrested. He will get out on bail and would follow you again. At which, she said “I know what you feel and I have seen many such cases. He will not dare to do this again. In case this happens once again and at any point in time, you feel that you are being followed just give me a call.”
When she said those words I experienced something which was not at all similar to when I heard those words from the male police officers. I felt certain of my safety. I knew that I matter and nothing can happen to me under her supervision and that was guaranteed.
One woman’s stance powers another woman’s stance. Knowing that there is another woman out there who is of my age, looks like me, who is dutiful in her job, I can rest assured of my safety. My safety will not be ascertained when I will become somebody’s daughter, sister, girlfriend or a wife. That is what women’s empowerment means.
We do not need men to support us and rescue us from men themselves. All we need is more headstrong, dutiful, standing their ground, doing their job and inspiring women like me, to lead a life that does not feel like it means nothing. Every woman’s power becomes every other woman’s power and in this so-called, careless man’s world, we need more empathetic, judicious women officers to restore a sense of balance and to let righteousness prevail.