It happened in July 2012, M will remember the exact date, since it happened to her. It was in the evening when she called me. This should’ve been a tell-tale for me that something’s wrong, since M is nocturnal. An occupational hazard of being a Fashion/Rolling Stone/Luxe Wedding photographer.
Till this day, I can’t decide what was more chilling, the rage in her voice or the incident that had happened.
M: So annoyed!
I thought that some client is giving her hard time. So I got into my, ‘Talk sense into the friend’ mode.
Me: What happened?
M: I was walking towards Sewri railway station.
M: Stop being a Townie. Near Char Rasta junction. I heard someone call out to me. When I turned around, I saw two men, 20 something in age, on a Blue Honda Activa, calling me names. They were acting lecherously & passing lewd comments on my appearance.
Me: Baby, I know.. these men! It happens to all of us. Daily. Don’t let them get to you. Forget it.
M: No! I lashed out with my umbrella and hit their Activa.
Me: You did WHAT!!!
M: Arey! Then they started harassing me… ganda maa behen ki gaali aur ganda ganda Hindi wala abuses.
Me: What else were you expecting? We can’t fight at their level! What did you do then?
M: I hit their scooter with the umbrella again hoping they would go away. But this angered them further and one of them hit me! I was shocked and slapped him.
Me: You mad!
M: The other boy who was riding the bike he hit me and I slapped him as well. That time it didn’t, but now it’s hurting badly.
Me: Why didn’t you ask for help? Wasn’t anyone around?
M: The incident took place in front of at least 15 onlookers. Yet, no one came forward to help me. Those guys eve-teased me, harassed me & assaulted me & not a single person intervened. After they left, then people came & they told me to go home.
Me: Are you home?
M: No, am going for a shoot, but I’ve jotted down whatever I could of the registration number of the scooter. I am going to file FIR.
Me: M, you live in that area, you live alone, you work odd hours, those guys are locals. Don’t take panga. It’s not safe. In fact, move in with me for a couple of days. You raised & alarm. You hit them. That’s enough shock for them. Let it go now.
It was a wrong advice. Not the ‘move in with me part’ but ‘let it go’ part. More on that later.
Right now, I am glad that M didn’t listen to me & went ahead with her FIR .
THE STRUGGLE FOR FIR
M went to police station, they didn’t lodge the FIR. I mean they heard her out. Questioned her. Judged her & then asked her to write an application. She did. They signed the application, put a stamp on it asked her to get a photocopy & then they kept the original gave her the copy & asked her to go home, saying that it’s the FIR.
No, it’s not! But they didn’t budge. That was the first time in my life that I felt bad about being an Entertainment Journalist & not working for a General News Channel. Thankfully, from her photojournalism days M had her contacts & her plight was voiced by the media. That’s when due to the courtesy to the kind gesture of the relevant authority the FIR was registered.
A week later to the FIR, when I met M, she told me that the police is yet to make the arrests despite the fact that I’ve given the registration number of their Activa to the police.
“You’re brave girl M & I am proud of you”, and I shut the topic with a kiss on her cheek.
Today, more than two years later, it was M’s hearing on the case. And she called me from court.
M: I am scared. I got called here & I just came with my teammate. Those guys have so many people and all..
Me: Why didn’t you tell me! I could’ve come. Where is it? In town?
M: No Boiwada..
Me: Oh! Then I can’t make it on time. How many of them are there?
M: Lemme count…8…. all of them are staring at me. They all are staring at me. His father came to me & first tried to cajole me, “Maaf kar do beta… tum humari beti ki tarah ho”, then they tried to bribe me and then threatened me.
Me: M who’s your lawyer?
M: I don’t know.
Me: They are supposed to have a public prosecutor for the trail. Find him & tell him that you’re the victim & you’re being threatened. If he doesn’t co-operate then tell him that you want to register a complaint of witness tampering against those people & when you’re called on the stand & his lawyer is trying to defend that guy… throw this on her face. In law saying sorry is admission of guilt. Use it. Go find the prosecutor, I’ll try to get in touch with my brother.
My brother is a final year law student. He was in examination hall, so I couldn’t reach him.
M called me in the afternoon to tell me that the guy’s lawyer flagged the FIR on her face and said, “whatever you’re saying isn’t written here. ” M also, told me, “The lawyer was like where’s the medical report? You should’ve seen the smile on the father’s face, so slimy!”
M’s LEGAL POSITION RIGHT NOW
My brother, who’s just a student, based upon his limited knowledge sums it up as:
- It’s an open & shut case. M doesn’t have any witness. She doesn’t have medical report as an evidence. She’s going to lose.
- Today, on the stand she should’ve said that she’s not a witness but a victim & state failed to provide her with legal guidance (the thing is criminal cases are State v/s So & So cases. So a public prosecutor, government appointed lawyer, is supposed to fight from M’s side. He neither touch base with her nor did he coach her. In fact, he didn’t show up only at the court today. M has been told that there’s someone assigned to this case, where’s he, that’s a mystery.)
- On her next hearing, she can mention that police was reluctant to register the FIR and eventually when they did it was too late for a medical exam. But this will be just a romantic argument & if the judge is nice, he can leave the accused with a warning. That’s all.
He also said that he’ll try to read up, discuss with friends, seniors & professors if there’s any way by which M can still win the case. He also said that he’ll be in Bombay for Rakhi & he can prep M for the next hearing.
But this is not enough.
HOW CAN YOU HELP
- Share this on FB, Twitter, verbally, whichever way you want. I am not saying this because I want any sort of ‘outrage’. I am saying so because I am hoping that maybe it will reach a NGO, or a journalist or a lawyer who is willing to help M.
- The next hearing in on September 3. I’ll will be in the court to support M. I want you to be there too. I want those guys to know that they can’t gang up against a girl. My intention is not to create public disorder but to peacefully demonstrate the public support for the victim. As she felt alone & intimidated today, she shouldn’t be the one feeling alone. Will you come on 3rd September & show your support?
Don’t be like me, saying, “Baby, it happens to all. Daily. Be safe. Don’t take panga.”
- The harassment is so common to us girls that we have become acclimatized to it. Unless it’s rape, we don’t even react now. Or if we do, we never ever see it through. We are happy with a couple of slaps on the culprits by the passerby or by the police. How many of us ensure that they’re punished. We are supporting rape culture like this. A guy doesn’t just get up one day & rape a girl. It’s getting away with the incidents like this that encourage him.
- Know your legal rights. Because nobody will come and tell you.
- If it happens to you or to your friend. Please:
a. React to it. Don’t have chalta hai attitude.
b. Try to record it on your smartphone
c. Though it’s unlikely, but if any of the onlookers help you, please take down all the details.
d. Ensure that the FIR is registered properly. Go with a lawyer. Read the FIR.
e. Insist on a medical examination
f. Note down all the details of the doctor who took it
h. The day it happens note down every single detail about the incidence and of the culprits, because by the time hearing comes it all becomes foggy.