In 2015, I had shifted to Telangana for a brief period of four months, to finish my last semester of Bachelors. I lived in a place called Narketpally in Nalgonda district, some 110 kms away from Hyderabad city. I stayed at the company guest house, and every day, I needed to be among a group of men in the workshop amidst machines.
I was the only girl there but I felt safe. In the month of February, I had to go to Guwahati to write my GATE entrance. I had taken an early morning flight, for which I had to leave around 3.30 in the morning. I was provided with a company vehicle, owing to my privilege. It was pitch dark while I was travelling through the Hyderabad-Vijayawada Expressway. I was a bit scared initially, but I was fine after some time, and by the time I reached the airport, the Sun had already risen. And there were many other instances which made me love this new upcoming city. It made me feel safe.
I explored the ancient parts of the city on my own. I had wanted to see the Charminar for a very long time and I made it. I bought tickets but the authorities were not allowing me to explore as I was alone. I requested them repeatedly, after which they checked my Identity card, and called up a security guard to help me complete the tour. The guard also ended up becoming a tour guide, who shared many interesting historical facts about the monument. Later on, I asked him why I was not allowed to come up alone; he explained that there were past incidents of suicides and cases of harassment. I was impressed by their attitude towards women security. It made me feel safe.
I was so impressed by Hyderabad, that I started recommending to many of my batch mates, who got their campus placements, to give Hyderabad as their first preference. Many thanked me later as it made them feel safe.
But not anymore! The recent Hyderabad incident, where a vet was raped and killed has made me ponder on the issue of women safety. Women are not safe on roads, public places, workplaces, and even within the four walls of their homes!
I came across an article published in the Hindu, titled, “As Hyderabad expands, safety dies a slow death” which reflects on the gender insensitive public infrastructure we have. Prior to reading it, just one day earlier, I had taken an early morning flight from Delhi to Guwahati, wherein I had to drop the idea of taking a cab in the middle of the night. I checked in much before the scheduled time, just to feel safe. It was 4.30 AM and I was queuing up to collect my boarding pass. As I was starting to feel sleepy, I decided to browse through my Facebook feed; when I came across a disturbing status, by one of my college seniors, Uttari Chakraborty, wherein she stated:
“The Doctor was taking the same route on Wednesday night that I took on Thursday night. It is the same route that I will be taking again on coming Tuesday. It is the same route that thousands of women take on a daily basis. It takes 20 minutes to get there from my office and home. She was waiting at the same toll plaza where I was waiting a few months back when I had to leave my uber in the middle of ORR because I didn’t feel safe.
She called her sister and told her that she was scared and pleaded her to keep talking – I did the same thing when I was waiting at the toll plaza, I called up my sister and cried because I was scared! I asked her to keep talking to me until I felt safe. The only difference is that the victim’s sister reached the toll plaza a tad bit late but my sister had managed to reach there on time and that’s probably why I am still alive today to write this post.
Yes, this episode sent shivers down my spine because it could have been me. It could have been you and you never know who the next one will be! Yes, I don’t feel safe coming back home from work. I don’t feel safe taking the ORR. I don’t feel safe taking an Uber/Ola/Auto. I don’t feel safe walking. I don’t remember the last time I felt safe alone on the roads. I can’t even tell my parents not to worry about me. I can’t even assure them that I’ll be fine!
Yes, people have been sharing ideas to dial 100, send messages to the police WhatsApp group, carry pepper spray, and so on. But does that guarantee my safety? How many more women should suffer and die for this country to realise how heinous these crimes are?
No. Dialling 100 is not going to help. Shamshabad/Cyberabad WhatsApp groups are not going to help. Nothing is going to help until we have strict laws against rape! We need to instil fear in these monsters because humanity is fading out!
The government is failing us. The cops are failing us. You are failing us as a nation! And there is no pride in that.
Wake up, please. If this doesn’t worry you, I don’t know what will!”
So when a particular government talks about making public transport more inclusive and women-friendly, by making it free; why do most of us go crazy at the idea? Why do we end up thinking that these are just freebies before an upcoming election? Surely, safety has become a joke and feeling unsafe is the new normal. It is just so sad that every girl, every woman that I have come across, has faced one safety issue or the other. And being from the northeast is a different experience altogether, with all the stereotypes that come with it. The deep racism that is there among the masses is extremely toxic and just creates more and more barriers.
Even when there are so many laws, why is there a failure every time? All of these incidents send a chill down our spines, but somehow, we have failed to invoke fear in the minds of the perpetrators, about the consequences of such crimes!