She walks in for help, cops don’t care
Reality Check: HT Correspondent visits police stations in Chandigarh and Mohali underlining how difficult it is for women to approach cops. While woman personnel are not present despite rules, staff’s behaviour falls short of civility. Our reporter had only concocted stories of harassment for this news report. Imagine a real situation...chandigarh Updated: Nov 27, 2013 09:44 IST
The very idea of visiting a police station gives you the jitters, particularly if you are a woman. Those stares that are everywhere, in buses, markets, in offices, are there in the police stations too.
I went to at least four police stations falling under Chandigarh and SAS Nagar jurisdiction, and the one thing common was that there was no woman cop to listen to grievances. It is mandatory that a woman cop should be present at the police stations to hear sexual harassment complaints.
I first visited the Maloya police post next to the Sector-39 grain market in Chandigarh. As I walked in, three cops were at the gates. With them was a person who claimed to be the reader (clerical staff) of the police post in-charge. He asked me why I was there. “I want to give a complaint of sexual harassment,” I replied. This man, Ajay, went quiet and just kept staring at me. Then I asked the cop standing next to him if I could call a woman cop so that she can listen to my grievance. “You come after four hours, at about 5pm, as the women cop is busy with a demolition drive,” he responded. The rules say woman complainants are not supposed to be called to police stations in evening hours. Not once did he show any concern of knowing what my problem was.
Next, I visited the police station of Mataur in SAS Nagar, just opposite the Phase-7 market. As I parked my car in the police station, the station house officer (SHO) sitting along with his staff looked at me with inquisitive eyes. He gently asked me to be seated, asking why I was there. I narrated a story that two youngsters tried to misbehave with me in the market by pulling my scarf.
SHO NPS Lehal asked for the registration number and make of the youths’ motorcycle. When I told them that I had failed to note down the number, he replied, “We need the number to track the miscreants, or some other clue.” He also offered to scan through the security cameras of the shops where the ‘incident’ had occurred. No woman cop was present, but the SHO’s polite behaviour was commendable. I told him I would come again after consulting my family to lodge the complaint.
I moved on to the Phase-1 police station of SAS Nagar, right next to the fire station. The cop at the entrance guided me to the staff inside when I said I wanted to lodge a complaint. As I walked towards the room, situated near the backyard, two constables were sitting doing some file work. I walked up to them and said, “I want to give a sexual harassment complaint.” A head constable, claiming to be the munshi, said, “You give your complaint. We’ll see.” I insisted that they should call a woman cop as I wanted to give a sexual harassment complaint. The munshi then asked what had happened. I told him that a boy on a motorcycle had been following me and passing comments. To this, the head constable asked me to write down the complaint with the motorcycle number, “then we will get him tracked”.
During our conversation, I noticed sub-inspector Amrit Lal, the second-in-command in absence of the SHO, glancing through some letters. He did not care to listen to my complaint. Even though I kept insisting on calling a woman cop, the staff claimed there was shortage of woman cops in SAS Nagar. As I stayed on, S-I Amrit Lal even soon shouted from another room “Ask this woman to call up the woman helpline or go to the woman cell, instead of wasting time here.” The SHO had gone for a meeting with the senior superintendent of police (SSP). I left the police station without giving any complaint.
Better behaved in Sector 31
The spick-and-span police station of Sector 31 in Chandigarh was different from all the stations I had visited. As I entered, a cop was sitting at the station reception. He asked me about my problem, to which I replied that two youngsters were following me from Sector 17 to 31 in a car. The cop, munshi Sher Singh, asked for the registration number of the car to get the miscreants tracked. I gave an incomplete number, to which the cop said, very politely, that the complete number was essential. He advised me note down the complete number in case something happened in future, and told me to keep a baton in the car. He also suggested that the security camera footage of the roundabouts and traffic lights would be procured from traffic police. When I insisted, he got ready to register the complaint and said it would take time in tracking the vehicle. I said I would consult my family before a formal complaint.
But the thing no different from other police stations was that no woman cop was present to listen to the complaint. Even though woman cops were visible in the station, no one adopted a proactive approach. Yet, the police station that won an award recently did not disappoint.
‘Quiet for 4 years. my marriage broke apart because of him’
I knew this neighbour for some time. But after a few years of acquaintance, he started stalking and threatening me. When I did not respond, he threatened to spoil my face by throwing acid. It broke my marriage as he repeatedly kept calling up my relatives, husband and in-laws. At that time, I had a three-year-old daughter. He also threatened to rape me.
He even sent a parcel of lingerie at my sister’s workplace to harass me. I made at least three complaints against this 40-year-old man, but that did not deter him. He also threatened to kill me. No one comes forward to help you even if you are in distress. Two cases have been registered on my complaints against him, of extortion and sexual harassment. Since the time I lodged the complaint two years ago, I have been facing problems endlessly. He is still moving about freely after getting bail, and I am still waiting for justice.
Even though I am an educated woman and belong to a modern family, I have had to suffer a lot in this male-dominated society. For at least four years, I kept mum and did not disclose my pain. But when it went beyond my control and I lost everything, I approached the police. I acted as I had nothing to lose after I lost my marriage. That’s when I came out and spoke about the man who ruined my life. I might have lost socially or even let go of some material things, but I have got peace after reporting to the police about this man.
(The woman is a doctor from Chandigarh)
OfficialspeakHave woman cop at each station
We have a special helpline (1091), where women-related complaints are dealt with. We have deployed a woman constable at each police station. Whenever the SHO demands for more woman force, we send it. Generally, too, we are sensitising our staff to behave in a proper manner with women.
Inder Mohan Singh, senior superintendent of police, SAS Nagar
Avoiding night shifts for women
We tell the staff to attend to women more sensitively. We avoid deploying women during night shifts. In serious complaints such as rape, we make it essential that women cops also attend to the complainant. Otherwise also, efforts are on to make the police stations public-friendly.
Maneesh Chaudhry, senior superintendent of police, security, Chandigarh