Project Chaitra, a video petition mooted by IT professionals and filmmakers, hopes to garner support and demand policy intervention to curb violence against women

In October 2012, software engineer Kartheek Malladi and his wife Valli became proud parents of a baby girl, Chaitra, and their friends Rajesh Kamireddi and Ravi Kaka were elated. This was the first child in their group and they showered the child will love, attention and gifts.

In December, as the nation woke up to read about the gruesome incident in Delhi involving a 23-year-old, the friends, like many across the country, wondered how safe the country is for women in their families. “We happened to read a 2011 report from the National Crime Records Bureau and learnt that Andhra Pradesh stood second in crime against women. We realised we all are private successes among public failures,” says Rajesh, an IT consultant and social entrepreneur.

Since last December, voluntary organisations and concerned citizens have put forth several online petitions to take the fight against crime a step further. But Rajesh and his friends wanted an initiative that could reach out to people in remote corners of the state. “Internet penetration is still low in the country,” he points out. After brainstorming, they came up with the idea of a video petition. “We live in times of diminishing attention spans. How many of us would read a detailed report? We thought a video detailing the statistics given in the 2011 report pertaining to incidents of crime against women would be effective. All that people have to do is call 8688112333 to make themselves heard,” explains Rajesh.

Buoyed by the idea, filmmaker and former IT professional Madhura Sreedhar came forward to help by offering filmmaking equipment and professional help through his assistant directors Nagendra Kumar and Hiranya who filmed the video. “A few well known people apart, the video was shot with several women we met in different parts of the city,” says Rajesh.

Filmmaker Sekhar Kammula who earlier launched the ‘I care, I react’ campaign emphasising individual responsibility towards prevention of crime against women, is an avid supporter of Project Chaitra. Rajesh, Madhura Sreedhar and Sekhar Kammula approached chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy on Monday to seek his support.

The team understands that long-term initiatives are necessary to bring in change. “This video petition outlines four demands — a helpline, only women DSPs should visit a rape/sexually harassed woman to file FIR, more women police should be recruited and establishment of a fast track court. These cannot be done overnight. We are also planning to meet other political leaders and will be happy if these initiatives become part of election manifestos,” explains Madhura Sreedhar.

These four demands have been carefully thought out, says Rajesh. “Delhi now has a helpline for women; Tamil Nadu has exclusive police stations for women; the idea of women DSPs going to meet victims and filing an FIR came from Punjab; and states like Gujarat and Karnataka have fast track courts.”

What if these steps turn out to be mere tokenism? “A beginning has to be made. Even if a few women are helped as a result, there is something to cheer about,” says Rajesh.

What is Project Chaitra?

A group of IT professionals, helped by filmmakers, launched the first-of-its-kind video petition highlighting the incidents of crime against women. Dial 8688112333 and support the petition, which demands a helpline for women, fast track courts, the need for more women in police force and complaints of sexual crimes be filed by women DSPs.