Delhi

The road less travelled

A nearly-deserted road in Dwarka.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

“I still don’t feel safe walking on that road alone,” recalled a 30-year-old entrepreneur living in Sector 11, Dwarka . It has been six months since the alleged abduction attempt on her but she is still struggling to come out of the trauma.

After a Delhi police sub-inspector was arrested for allegedly molesting four women, including a minor, on a stretch connecting Sectors 11, 12, 5 and 6 of Dwarka, women have come out to share how unsafe they feel in and around that road and the adjoining areas.

No police action

Recalling the April incident, the entrepreneur said she was walking with her mother in the service lane around 5.30 p.m. when some men in a white van followed them. “When the car came close to us, my mother sensed something amiss. We ran as the car stopped and they started shouting ‘bhag gai… bhag gai [she ran]’,” she said. The mother-daughter duo approached a police officer whom they found a few metres ahead. “We asked him to send an alert on the wireless system but his attitude was casual. He just asked us to safely reach home.”

A 43-year-old woman shared how she was flashed at in Sector 12 when she was in her car on a February evening. A resident of the same area, she said she was getting into the car while talking on her mobile phone when an e-rickshaw driver stopped his vehicle in front of her and started masturbating. “When I shouted, he left,” she said, adding that she didn’t approach the police because she “didn’t think they would take it seriously because I couldn’t catch him or identify him”.

Traumatic experience

Another traumatic experience was shared by a 40-year-old IT professional and resident of Sector 10. She was being followed by a group of five men who were making lewd comments looking at her. “I pretended I was calling the cops and noting numbers of their motorbike. When they realised this, they fled. I was sure they were going to assault me,” she said, adding that the incident happened in August. “That was the last day I went out alone for a walk. Now, I only visit public parks for walks where senior citizens and children are also present,” she said.

On October 17 and 20, four women were molested allegedly by a sub-inspector posted in Delhi Police Special Cell. He was driving around in a car without number plate, flashing at women and making lewd comments. One of the four victims, a 28-year-old MNC employee who was molested when she had gone out for a run, said she hasn’t gathered the courage to step out since. “I never used to run in Dwarka earlier. It was only during the lockdown that I started running here and this happened. It feels extremely unsafe here and I don’t have any other option but to go to the parks now,” she said.

The woman also said that she felt fortunate to get help from the Delhi Commission for Women, which arranged a counsellor for her. “I shared the incident on social media. Because of that post and the DCW counsellor I was taken seriously. I am not sure if a person who is unaware of the procedure would get any help,” she said.

Repeated criminal incidents have prompted a group of women – all residents of Dwarka – to come together and form a collective and ask other women about their horrid past experiences – reported or not – to be able to chart out the shortcomings for the authorities to work on. “Obscene behaviour has normalised enormously and that’s why we need to raise this issue and know the crime pattern in such areas. It’s ironic that Dwarka has the widest roads and there’s no safe space to move,” said Anuradha G.R., 46, former defence officer and a resident of Sector 3.

‘Lack of trust’

The lack of response from the police is another “roadblock”, the women said. The collective said women are discouraged from reporting a crime and approaching the police. “The lack of trust has increased to the point that women are not even trying to report such incidents. This needs to change,” said another member, Shillpi Singh (42), a journalist and a resident of Sector 9. She added that there are innumerable desolate spots where vehicles are parked and people drink inside, which is another cause for concern.

Seema Joshi, a member of the group, said they had organised a programme in October, right after a spate of molestation incidents, and invited several senior police officers. “Instead of joining, they cancelled our programme in the wake of the pandemic and sent force to ensure the event did not take place. All we wanted was for them to come and tell women that they are safe,” Ms. Joshi said. The police, on the other hand, said they have taken several measures for the safety of women in the area. DCP (Dwarka) Santosh Kumar Meena said that emergency response vehicle and motorbike patrolling has been increased on routes taken by women while coming back from malls and work.

“Dark stretches where light is required have been identified and beat patrolling has also been increased in crowded areas. Officers have been asked to draw a list of habitual stalkers and keep a check on the list,” he said, adding that other necessary measures have also been taken.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 6:23:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/the-road-less-travelled/article33145639.ece

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