Feeling scared in Delhi
Nida Rehman, an acclaimed journalist and columnist, writes about how Delhi has changed since she first came here in 2004 - becoming a far more frightening place where - unfortunately - incidents of rapes and other crimes against women are too common for too much concern.
In 2004 when I left Bhopal for Delhi, I had heard good things about India's capital city. I came with a lot of wishes and several years passed with me trying to fulfil as many of them as possible. But when I look back at these several years which have gone by, Delhi appears extremely harsh - especially when it comes to safety for women. Delhi, rather the entire NCR, has gradually become increasingly unsafe for women. Now, there is indeed a sense of being scared here.
Crimes against women in Delhi do grab headlines repeatedly. There are lengthy prime-time television discussions on such incidents. Political parties play the blame game. But far from improvement in the situation, there is a sense of losing control. After Nirbhaya gang-rape incident, not just Delhi but the entire country was shaken from its very core. Thousands took to streets, it felt like 'this is it.' The general atmosphere of anger and determination pointed towards a goal that no such heinous crime would be allowed to take place ever again. But that has not happened and the situation has continuously gotten worse.
After the Nirbhaya incident, governments came up with a number of guidelines and steps for women safety. But these have remained stagnant and reality has gone back to what it was on the black night of December 16 of 2012. I remember when I used to have a late evening shift from 4pm to 12 midnight, a security guard used to accompany us during post-duty dropbacks as per government guidelines. But this did not last for too many days. Gradually, the guards disappeared and we once again found ourselves alone in dropback cars late at night. A colleague was even stopped by Delhi Police once and told that she should not travel alone at night because in case of any unfortunate incident, police officials would be questioned. The difficulty is that if women have to work, then they have to do the shifts as exist in every organisation. Now, if we say that times are bad then the person on the opposite end would have only one thing to say - sit at home.
In these 13 years since I have been here, Delhi has actually - and really - become frightening. This fright is not just for women but even toddlers are not spared by monsters. From slums to the very heart of the city which is Connaught Place - women are not safe. There are numerous incidents of molestation reported from Connaught Place - an area bustling with activity. Passing lewd comments and making obscene gestures have become common occurances. Even if women laregely choose to ignore these, the question really is till when will such things continue?
There was some hope after the Nirbhaya incident, hope that there would be a wave of change because there is an awakening among people. However, nothing happened.
I remember when this one time I was making my way home after returning from office, two strangers coming from the opposite direction came precariously close and spat tobacco on me. I don't know what satisfaction did they get from doing so but if they had gotten an opportunity, they could have possibly even torn off my clothes.
After becoming a mother, I am frightened about to what extent I can protect my child because now, kids in schools too are not completely safe. Daily news reports further frighten me, make me think where can I really keep my child safe, till when can I shield my child? Every second day, media reports incidents of rape and gang-rape, and remain just reports.
Nirbhaya incident may have become an example but wonder how many Nirbhayas became victims to monsters in the garb of being men.
Once again we are remembering Nirbhaya on December 16, once again discussions on safety for women will happen, prime-time news channels will raise the issue once again. But after rape incidents, there would be those who would justify the act, say the woman should not have done this and that.
The amount of effort spent on telling a girl to be safe would be better utilised if parents tell their sons how to respect women. Women are not public property.
Having heard tales of loved ones, it seems the best precaution for a woman is to not being born at all.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)
(Note - This blog was originally written in Hindi)