The team of journalists working with Khabar Lahariya , a news paper run by women reporters in Uttar Pradesh, learnt it the hard way! The State police kept sitting on their complains against a serial stalker for about nine months. But within 48 hours of the moment their story went on twitter, the culprit was in police custody in last week of September.
To sum up what Khabar Lahariya reporters described as “nightmarish stalking” on facebook page of the newspaper, six members of the KL team were harassed through phone calls from a man using numerous phone numbers. The caller, who identified himself as Nishu, threatened, intimidated and stalked the Khabar Lahariya reporters over 3 months.
“The KL reporters filed complaints and formal FIRs at police stations in Banda and Chitrakoot, as well as a complaint in Mahoba. Despite providing information and statements to the police on many occasions, action was not taken on this case,” said Shalini Joshi one of the founding members of Khabar Lahariya .
“Ironically, for journalists who report on gender issues, the very process of filing complaints against their harassment and going to several police stations for repeated recording of statement, turned out to be yet another form harassment for them,” she further described.
The reporters also complained on the Women Power Line 1090 and to Vodafone company, however, the harassment continued.
But suddenly on 16 September morning, U.P. police nabbed Nishu, the alleged stalker, surprising the KL team which initially did not believe. But there was a reason behind this prompt response. The story of harassment and stalking of KL reporters and police inactive behavior went online on September 14 through a web magazine, The Ladies Finger.
The story was tweeted and retweeted after which activists, journalists and even common social media users expressed outrage on Twitter and tagged the twitter handle of the Chief Minister’s Office of the State Government @CMOfficeUP. The CM office coordinated with the Banda police and asked them to take immediate action.
Cop suspended after he smashes typewriter of an elderly man
(Lucknow Sub-Inspector abusing the typist Krishan Kumar and kicking his type writer which was widely circulated on social media after which the CHief minister's Office quickly intervened. Pics were tweeted by the @CMOfficeUP )
The sixty-five-year-old typist, Krishna Kumar, was lucky in ways the team of female reporters of KL were not. Unlike the KL reporters whose complains with the Banda police against a nightmarish harasser and stalker didn’t yield any result for nine months, he didn’t have to wait for months to get justice.
Barely hours after >a local Sub-Inspector in Lucknow abused the elderly man on Saturday, September 19, and kicked his typewriter repeatedly till it broke into pieces, the police personnel was suspended. The DM and the police chief personally came to meet Mr. Kumar, apologized to him and gifted him with two typewriters. The reason again was same. The photo of the helpless being abused and his typewriter being kicked by the policeman went viral on social media and so was the outrage. After that the CMO’s social media department coordinated with the police to crackdown on the insensitive behavior.
While many applauded the swift action in both the two instances, they also expressed concern. Why did it take the social media for the common public to get justice.
Asked if KL should have taken to social media with its story of police inaction much before, Ms. Joshi said, “May be. But after filing two FIRs and one complaint, we seriously believed that Police would take action. We were proven wrong though. ”
The swiftness with which the complaint of KL was dealt with was just one instance of the CMO’s social media activism. Many believe that this, at least, fills up the gap in case of the local administration’s laxity on the ground.
Sudhir Panwar, a member of State Planning Commission saw both the instances as a “new way of policing” and “at least beginning of larger modernization” of Police department in U.P.
“It is true that police reforms are need of the hour and personnel need to be sensitized much more than what they are right now. But the priority of the Akhilesh Yadav government is to gradually bring all Police departments on social media platforms in order to minimize the police response time. Online FIRs are part of the same effort,” Mr. Panwar added
But there were many others who said the change was needed in the mindset of the Police personnel in the local police stations. It has one danger that police will start acting on specific cases.
“While we are happy that action was swift after we went online with our story, it is quite unfortunate that police sleeps on people’s actual complaint,” said Ms. Joshi while describing the internet penetration and access of common woman in rural India to social media. “Not every woman has access to social media. In fact, in rural India, most women don’t have access to social media,” she said.