“Don’t go out alone on Holi, it’s dangerous” is a common refrain around this time of the year for women. And it’s no wonder really, what with the assaults they are subjected in the name of Holi — being forcibly smeared with colours or hit with water balloons by hooligans.
“I get hit by a balloon every now and then — while walking to metro station for work or going back home,” says Indira Akoijam, a 30-year-old communication professional from East of Kailash. Akoijam, who hails from the north-eastern state of Manipur draws a stark contrast between Holi celebrations in the two states. “Back in Manipur, Holi is one of the biggest festivals and is celebrated over 10 days. But it is celebrated in a fun way without causing trouble to anyone.”
And it’s not just the humiliation of being pelted by a water balloon. Troublemakers go to the extent of hurling rotten eggs, tomatoes and even water balloons filled with stones. Karuna Batra, a 28-year-old marketing manager, talks about her friend’s experience in Rohini. “Of course they target girls… Isn’t it obvious when you get hit by a balloon which is half-filled with water and half with stones! When it hits you, what you feel first is pain and then comes the realisation that you have been drenched,” she says.
Such a menace this has become that last week, representatives of the Centre for Struggling Women (CSW) submitted a memorandum to the office of the chief minister, asking them to implement measures to curb hooliganism and harassment of women in the days leading up to Holi. The group has demanded a ban on the sale of balloons and harmful chemical colours in Delhi-NCR prior to Holi, as well as frequent police patrol during the coming week.
Of course, for some women out there, safety inside their own homes is a problem. “I was once hit by a water balloon while I was standing in my balcony. And when I went downstairs to confront the person responsible, he emptied the entire bucket of water on me just in the name of celebrating Holi!” laments Aishwarya Sethi, a 21-year-old guest relations manager at a hotel.
Whether or not the chief minister’s office will implement any safety measures for female citizens is yet to be seen. But needless to say, the responsibility of preventing women’s harassment falls on the people of the city as much as it does on the police force.
Help at hand
* In case of harassment call 181 helpline and your call will be forwarded to 100 for instant police action.
* Inform the nearest PCR van in an emergency. Around 200 traffic police teams will be stationed on roads on the day.
* A drive initiated by Delhi Commission for Women motivates women to inform about any kind of harassment, wherein a mobile van will be sent immediately for help.
* Police women in plainclothes will be stationed in areas around DU.