Preeti Bhatt was at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) station at 7:45am last week when a man tried to grope her. “I punched him in the face and he collapsed,” said the 20-year-old student who commutes from her home in Vashi to her college near CST every day. “I didn’t even think of filing a police complaint because these things happen all the time,” she said.
While several women commuters said they still felt safe using the local trains, the recent spate of attacks on women in train compartments and at railway stations has added to the feeling of insecurity.
Sunita Saha, a nurse, said she travels in fear every day. Her anxiety stems from an incident she witnessed in March. “My friend and I were in the ladies compartment at 10:30pm when a drunk man entered the compartment and tried to misbehave with her,” said the Mahim resident. “When she tried to fight him, he punched her in the eye leaving her bruised and damaging her eyesight. She is still recovering from the injury.”
Although policemen are supposed to patrol the ladies compartments at night, most women commuters complained that they don’t do so.
Even during the day, women said they faced trouble. A month ago, Reshma Kuchigorve had to get into the general compartment at Bandra. “I was standing at the door. As the train approached Bhayander, a man standing behind me touched me inappropriately. No one could see what he was doing because he was standing in the corner. Before I could react, he shoved me out on to the platform,” said the 24-year-old.
Instances of exhibitionism are also common, particularly in first-class compartments. A Bandra resident, who requested anonymity, said she had once threatened a man with her sandal after he flashed her in an empty first-class ladies compartment.
Two students from Powai recounted a similar situation in a general first-class compartment. “Seeing that we were the only passengers in the compartment, a man began masturbating. We were frightened and got off the train at the next station.”
“Such incidents happen during the day and night. Very rarely does something get done about it,” said Neha Mandal, 35, who moved to Mumbai a few years ago. “I have stopped boys who get into the ladies compartments and secretly photograph them,” she said.