Enough is enough


Newsletter May – Aug 2005


Fresh rays of the new morning sun streaming through the windows, sipping hot chai and reading the newspaper! Just another day? Until you turn to the City Page & Trrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrringggggg!! One look at the newspaper is enough to set the alarm bells ringing... once again! “Teenage Girl Raped by Six Men in a Blueline Bus”, “Minor Gangraped in Bus”... scream the headlines on August 11, 2005... and we want to scream too. The madness continues... whether it's day or night, in moving vehicles or stationary houses.

In May, a Delhi University student was abducted by four men in Dhaula Kuan and raped in a moving car. So what if she was from the north-east? Why is that even up for discussion? Why is everyone talking about the fact that she worked part-time in a call centre and came home at odd hours? What's the problem if she wanted to go out for a chai at 2 am in the morning? Unfortunately these are just the things that are highlighted to make everyone elses’ life easier and put the blame on the victim. What we should be asking instead, is how come these men had the nerve to be cruising for an easy target? What should really make us mad is that all the while the woman was being raped, the vehicle is believed to have crossed around 100 police check posts... this, despite the police having been informed within minutes of her abduction.

Like many others, we in Saheli were really outraged by this incident and along with various other women's groups and students’ unions, organised a “Take Back The Night” demonstration on 11 May 2005, at Dhaula Kuan, the very site from where she had been abducted. Placards and posters were hectically put together, mobilisation on e-mail and phone followed non-stop. “No More Violence! No More Silence!”, “Make Buses Safe”, “Safety First”, “Dilli Chuppi Todo”, declared some of the placards. That evening at the Dhaula Kuan, our numbers began to swell and people spontaneously joined us. As we lit candles on the pavement, our fists raised in rage, our voices pulsating with slogans for a world free of violence against women, we knew that we were not just taking back the night for women ‘out there’ but that we were reclaiming it for ourselves too. This incident led to a lot of media coverage, generating much hue and cry and debates about the safety of women and the crime graph of the city; but till date no progress has been made in the case.

The heat had barely died on this incident when we heard of another one. In Mayapuri, before the break of dawn, 3 women go to the nulla to ‘relieve’ themselves. Nothing new about it, right? Except that they were unfortunate enough to be the targets of a gang of men out scouring the city at that hour to grab an ‘opportunity’. One of the women - hearing and speech impaired – was pulled into the car and gangraped. As easy as that. But what of that woman? What of countless others who, under the cover of the dark, go in the safety of numbers, to relieve themselves? Safety, privacy... are these too much to expect in a city that barely offers its citizens any toilet or sanitation facilities? Welcome to New Delhi, the capital city of India! This is not all, in the last couple of months we have been bombarded with more such ‘news’ from the crime capital. In June, a woman working as a maid was brutally assaulted by a man in the elevator of her building. She used to walk the dog and he used to pass lewd comments, but when she didn’t respond, he cornered her in the elevator and beat her to such an extent that she was left paralysed from the waist down.

Coming back to the incident of August 11, a minor girl was raped by six men in a private bus. These men - one of whom was known to her - lured her into the bus with the promise of getting her a job. All six accused have been arrested by the police but given the fate of such cases, it's not difficult to imagine what the outcome will be. On the very same day, another woman was gangraped by some friends of her husband - one of them, the landlord of the house where she lived.

Whew! Sagas without end, every morning brings more incidents... the insanity continues... battered, raped, assaulted women continue to crawl out of the woodwork. Violence against women has been a challenging issue for the women's movement for decades, with stories of justice served being far and few between. Today, even as the courts and institutions are recognising forms of violence like sexual harassment at the workplace, we are still struggling to get domestic violence and marital rape due recognition.

The fight may seem tough and the questions refuse to go away: “Will all this stop one day?”... “Can we make it happen?” The answers are not clear, but one thing is certain: our protests will continue and our voices will grow till our cities, roads, homes... the world becomes a safe place. As the words of a song that reverberated on that night at Dhaula Kuan, go: O GAADI-WALE PANGA NA LE... O POLICE-WALE PANGA NA LE... AURTEIN HAIN ACTION MEIN, LIGHTLY TU MAT LE RE... DOWN DOWN!

So don't lose heart, sista... not just yet!