Guwahati’s shame or India’s?

Would she ever get true justice?
Would her perpetrators ever be brought to book?
Would she ever be eligible for some peace of mind?

Should this be acceptable?
Should she always walk around covered from head to toe lest she be termed ‘provoking’?
Should she not be allowed to marry a man she approves of?
Should she never be allowed to hang out with friends in the evenings anymore?
Should she be locked up in a house after 7 PM because it’s too dangerous to venture out?
Should she always have to look over her shoulder as she walks down busy streets?
Should she always turn around with fear when she hears the sound of tyre over gravel, unsure of who’s approaching?

Should she always note down motorcycle numbers when she sees men in groups?
Should she always walk in fear and a deep sense of foreboding in her heart?
Should she always keep a lookout for an owner of every shadow that she senses?
Should she give up any expectations of support from bystanders and fellow commuters?
Should she have to sleep in fear and shudder at the sound of every footstep?
Should she just give up and move away from this nation of mute onlookers to a more safer haven?
Should she start hoping for a boy child instead?
Is that the solution?

The questions above will apply to each and every individual in this nation. Man or woman. And the answer to each of the above questions is probably a big, fat, emphatic NO. A word, that unfortunately, carries no meaning and makes no sense to some twisted, criminal, sick, disgusting minds. The recent incident of Guwahati, in which a mob of about 30 men molested a lone teen, even as bystanders stood mutely and the reporter of Newslife video-recorded the entire incident instead of trying to get his crew to intervene proves just that. Cops did not arrive at the crime scene until 30 minutes later. 4 days later only 11 have been identified and 4 have been arrested. Even as the video clearly identifies each and every individual. I find that a little hard to digest. It actually makes me sick to my stomach. The Gurgaon incident which had sparked a major outcry throughout the country sometime ago, has fared no better. No arrests have been made yet. Guwahati witnessed a similar case 5 years back. Same outcome. 5 years and no change yet. 

Law and order in India needs a major upheaval. A huge rewrite. Policies need to be revised in keeping with the times. The derogatory manner in which the culprits behaved, the crude arrogance with which they smiled at the camera, the confidence that they’re untouchable is disgusting to say the least. Much has been said and discussed about this already, in the news, by the media, the blogosphere etc. I will not add much to it.

Instead, I’m going to request each and every woman reading this (men can pass this along if they feel it deserved to be) to stay aware, stay prepared. Keep your eyes and ears open. Unfortunately, because of the blatant ongoing mockery of the law and order departments, the onus to stay safe does shift to a large extent to our shoulders. The below might seem a bit extreme, but better safe than sorry.

  • Wear comfortable footwear as much as you can. Running in heels will be difficult. If you’re going to a party, carry your heels in a carry-bag. The bag can double up as a weapon if you need to take a swing at anyone.
  • Take the elevators instead of the stairs in deserted buildings. You can always lose weight later.
  • Do not stay on the cell phone in shady parking lots. Updating Facebook can wait.
  • Do not let anyone know if you’re travelling alone. An imaginary husband or boyfriend should always be right around the corner.
  • Always carry a pepper spray. Don’t have one? Fill a perfume bottle with chilli powder and water. The stronger, the better. But be aware, that 15-20% of the time it might not work. There have been cases where men have not been affected even by full face sprays. Unfortunately, a breed of mankind is already immune to it.
  • Lock the car immediately after getting into it. Cosmetic adjustments by looking into the mirror can be done later.
  • Learn some kind of self defence. Kickboxing would be good.
  • Avoid martial arts studios unless you specifically wish to train in the traditional martial arts techniques and are prepared for a long-term commitment. Many women’s self-defense programs teach watered-down martial arts techniques that are complex and unrealistic under the stress of an actual attack.
  • Change routes once in a while, if you have to walk through deserted roads. Do not become predictable.
  • Do not embark on a Women’s rights mission against unknown strangers if you’re alone. Such animals derive pleasure from attacking such individuals. Women’s rights are important but not they do not rank higher than your safety. You can always come back with a bigger group to teach them a lesson later.
  • In case of any untoward incident, stay confident and alert. Try to resist but be prepared to run.
  • Pune police also says: For cabs, avoid sitting in the front seat and avoid interactions with drivers.
  • Keep cell phones always charged and sufficient balance if you need to make emergency calls.
  • Never travel alone. In extreme emergencies, always use public transport as much as possible
  • Do not permit unknown/unauthorized people to travel with you.
  • While travelling alone, inform or SMS the vehicle number to someone you know well before or as soon as your board, for contingencies.
  • Always stay in touch with someone through phone while travelling alone. Call in, a quick 2 minute call, every ½ hour or so.
  • Do not get into unnecessary arguments with strangers especially if you do not have male companions with you. Unfortunate but true. A small group of girls might also be no match for some of these predators. Proving yourself right is required, but not at the cost of your safety or dignity.
  • Never open a door – be it a car, your home or a hotel – unless you’re sure that the person on the other side is someone legitimate.
  • Use your sixth sense. “Sixth sense.” “Gut instinct.” Whatever you call it, your intuition is a powerful subconscious insight into situations and people. All of us, especially women, have this gift, but very few of us pay attention to it. Learn to trust this power and use it to your full advantage. Avoid a person or a situation which does not “feel” safe–you’re probably right.
  • Escape. Always your best option. What if the unthinkable happens? You are suddenly confronted by a predator who demands that you go with him–be it in a car, or into an alley, or a building. It would seem prudent to obey, but you must never leave the primary crime scene. You are far more likely to be killed or seriously injured if you go with the predator than if you run away (even if he promises not to hurt you). Run away, yell for help, throw a rock through a store or car window–do whatever you can to attract attention. And if the criminal is after your purse or other material items, throw them one way while you run the other.
  • Your right to fight. Unfortunately, no matter how diligently we practice awareness and avoidance techniques, we may find ourselves in a physical confrontation. Whether or not you have self-defence training, and no matter what your age or physical condition, it is important to understand that you CAN and SHOULD defend yourself physically. You have both the moral and legal right to do so, even if the attacker is only threatening you and hasn’t struck first. Many women worry that they will anger the attacker and get hurt worse if they defend themselves, but statistics clearly show that your odds of survival are far greater if you do fight back. Aim for the eyes first and the groin second. Remember, though, to use the element of surprise to your advantage–strike quickly, and mean business. You may only get one chance.
  • Feed important telephone numbers including police control room in your cell phones.
  • Do not discuss personal matters when availing public transports, not even with your friends. Someone might be listening.
  • Avoid parties with unknown colleagues, especially ones involving drinks – if you have to attend, make sure you never leave your drink unattended.
  • Be extremely careful if you go in for shared transport. Avoid it if possible. If not, always be alert.
  • For women in IT and BPO, if availing company transport, check the identification of the cab drivers before you take off.
  • If leaving your workplace alone at night, get the night watchman to drop you till your vehicle or the closest bus-stop. If that does not work, have someone pick you up instead if possible.
  • Most companies using cab drop off and pick up have modified their policies to never have a woman employee picked up first or dropped off last. If your’s does not do that yet, talk to your HR about it.
  • Stick together. Stay in crowds.
  • Do not put up with abuse. Be it verbal or physical. From a man or a woman. Family or otherwise.

Of course, in the event of 30 men attacking a lone girl and a whole bunch of onlookers standing by and no one helping, I do not know if staying in a crowd would really help. But it’s better than being on your own. Stay safe.

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I would love to hear your views!