September 19 is etched in Kirti Sharma’s (name changed) memory. The 23-year-old management graduate was trying to find an autorickshaw near her house in Bangur Nagar, to go to Malad railway station, when an unidentified man on a motorcycle attacked her.
“I was walking towards the Link Road when suddenly, I felt a pat on my back. I turned around thinking it was a friend, but a biker went past me. Then, I felt a stinging sensation on my back. When I touched my back, I realised I was bleeding, he had slashed my back with a knife,” said Sharma.
Sharma had to get 17 stitches on her back. She went to the Bangur Nagar police station where police recorded her statement, but she hasn’t heard from them since then.
Bangur Nagar, a predominantly residential area, is a part of the city’s north region, which stretches from Goregaon to Dahisar. Bangur Nagar, with 10 cases of molestation of women registered this year, reflects the same trend that much of the north zone has seen – an exponential rise in crimes against women.
This year, the north region recorded the second highest number of crime against women (till December 25) in the city, with a total of 203 (including rape, eve teasing and molestation. The highest was the western region, with 258. The 15 police stations in the north zone registered 44 rape cases, 125 molestation cases, and 34 cases of eve teasing.
What sets this region apart, however, is that it also recorded the highest rise in the number of eve teasing cases (88%) in the city’s five regions as well as in the number of molestation cases, which have increased by 76% .
Local police attribute this to presence of a large number of slum areas in the region, which have recorded the highest number of crime cases. Areas such as Borivli, Kandivli, Samata Nagar, Dahisar, among other residential areas are considered safe. Slum-dominated parts such as Malwani, Charkop, Goregaon (West) and Dindoshi are deemed unsafe.
“In Malwani, which is populated with commercial sex workers and former bar dancers, women are vulnerable. Every month, we hear of cases of kidnapping and sexual violence against women. Daughters of sex workers and former bar dancers are also easy prey for men in this area,” said Prabha Desai, chairperson and director of Sanmitra Trust, a non-governmental organisation that works with former bargirls and sex workers.
However, residential areas such as Bangur Nagar and to a smaller extent, IC Colony, Borivli, have also recorded incidents of eve teasing and molestation. “Bangur Nagar has a very old layout with several lanes and by-lanes which are deserted. Many such lanes are unmonitored,” said Sameer Desai, a local corporator.
Similarly, IC Colony remains largely deserted in the afternoon, attracting anti-social elements. “We have heard of eve teasing incidents near a café in the area. I have also received complaints of girls being harassed near bus stops. These incidents usually happen in the afternoon, when there are not many people around,” said Yvonne D Souza, president, IC Women’s Welfare Association.
Police also said that the north region is densely populated, with a diverse population, making int difficult to maintain law and order. “This region is one of the fastest developing one in the city. There are construction sites, schools, colleges, malls, residential complexes, corporate offices, and slums,” said, Ramrao Pawar, additional commissioner of police, north region.
However, fast-paced development in recent times has increased the activity in the area, making it safer, say some residents. “When I shifted here seven years ago, it was a very quiet area with trees and with not too many people. Now the area has become a real estate hub. I feel its safer with shops and the crowd, even in the night,” said Manali Lele, resident of Borivli, who works as an assistant director in a televison production house.
For instance, Malad’s Mindspace Business Park, which is a hub for call centres, has transformed the area. “When I opened my hotel 1999 near Mindspace there was only a dumping ground. I feel that after Mindspace came up, the area around it has become very safe. Women who work there walk to my restaurant at 11 pm from Mindspace. I also see women standing outside the business park drinking chai from the small vendors or taking a smoke break in the wee hours of the morning,” said Neeraj Jain, a hotelier.