The Bitter Truth Regarding Delhi Police’s Womens’ Help-Line: Kavita
Guest post by KAVITA, an activist with the Stree Mukti League
Translated from Hindi by Shuddhabrata Sengupta
It would be natural to expect that in the wake of the barbaric Delhi gang-rape of December 16 and subsequent popular upsurge of anger the police and the state machinery would betray a modicum of sensitivity and alertness. The reality is just the opposite of what you expect. We have heard this from many women in the past few days, and a few evenings ago, came face to face with this sad fact ourselves.
For the last few days, we (activists of the Stree Mukti League) have been going to different places in Delhi to hold meetings, demonstrations and to distribute leaflets against sexual violence. The leaflet has a contact phone number for the Stree Mukti League. Since the evening of the 1st of January this year a perverted male individual has been continuously ringing that number, abusing us, threatening us, using obscene and unprintable language. He even said ‘I know all you girls, and you cannot escape me. What I will do to you will terrify people…’, and several other things which cannot be repeated.
There is no question of us being scared of these threats. We have come on to the streets to fight sexual violence and patriarchy and we are not going to be scared off the streets by this kind of abusive ranting. Yes, patriarchal expressions such as these are repulsive, but what is much more disturbing, indeed shocking, is the conduct of the Delhi Police. We find it necessary to share with all of you what happened to us when we drew the attention of the Police to these calls. That is why I am outlining below a brief sketch of the facts of what happened.
On January 1, at 6:46 pm in the evening I received a phone call from the number 8505898894. The caller (whom I have talked of above) started abusing and threatening me using very obscene language. I cut the phone, and then he called again and said more, which was much worse than what he had said before. This continued, at intervals of every two to three minutes, from then onwards(around a quarter to seven) for roughly five and a half hours, till after midnight, till 1: 08 am.
In the middle, we tried to call the number that was harassing us, but the obscene and threatening caller hung up on us. Once, when he called at 8:46 pm, I told him that we had complained to the police about him and that his call would be traced. Hearing this, he cursed us. He did not stop calling, till late into the night.
The Helplessness of the Helpline
After several attempts, finally, we were able to get through to the new Delhi police helpline number 181 at 9:03 pm that night. The person at the other end of the line at 181 told us that our complaint has been filed, but that they were not in a position to give us a tracking number for ‘follow up’ on the complaint. To obtain this number, we were told to call at 12 pm the following day. Upon insistence, we were given another two numbers – 27891666 and 1096. We were told that we could try calling on these two numbers ( 27891666 and 1096) We called several times on 1096 (the dedicated helpline number for reporting stalkers and obscene callers) but each time we got a message that we had reached an ‘invalid’ number. Finally, at 9:11 pm, we got through to 297891666, (the other number that we had been given by the policeman) and we were given a complaint tracking number – 36A-1. Despite this, the obscene and threatening calls from 8505898894 continued. Sickened by this continuing harassment, I tried calling again on 181. I got through once. But the person who received the phone cut the call without letting me finish what I was saying. I tried calling 181 several times after that, but no one picked up the phone.
The next morning, I called 181 at 9:17 am and 9:18 am. But there was no response. Finally, I called the chief public relations officer of Delhi Police, Rajan Bhagat, at 9:30 am on his mobile number. I told him all that had happened and gave him the complaint tracking number that I had been given the night before. I told him that I am a social activist and a journalist. He told me that I should register a complaint on 1096 and give him the complaint number. Subsequently, I called 1096 from three different phones but I still got the ‘invalid number’ message. When I called Rajan Bhagat again to tell him that this is what had happened, he shrugged the matter off by saying that what I was saying was simply not possible. When I told him that I had already filed a complaint last night, and that I had given him the complaint number, and asked why he could not follow up on the basis of last night’s complaint, he cut the phone.
Then I went to the Delhi Police website and looked up an ‘alternative number’ for the 1096 helpline number. This ‘alternative number’ is 27894455. When I called this number, I got through to a police-woman. She was the same lady who I had spoken to when I called the number (297891666) that I was given by the person manning 181 the previous evening. She told me that the process of ‘number tracing’ could take 2-3 days, because the police has to send an email to the phone company, and the phone company takes time to respond, etc., etc. She also said that in most cases all it takes for the harassment to cease is a ‘scold’ from the police, but there is a special class of ‘mean’ (‘kaminey’) and ‘rare’ type of scoundrels who persist, and that ‘your caller’ seems to be of that variety.
I told everyone from Rajan Bhagat (Chief PRO, Delhi Police) to the police-woman who spoke to me that the man who is harassing us has threatened us with violence, and that he has stated that he would attack us because we complained against him. I asked whether the police would act only once something terrible actually happened. We, the activists of Stree Mukti League are on the streets everyday, agitating on this issue, and this man says he knows who we are, that he recognizes us and he is threatening us. But the police do not seem to be taking us seriously, all they do is offer empty assurances.
We want to know whether any woman in Delhi can feel safe if this is the state of Delhi Police’s effectiveness, even after the death of the woman who was gang-raped on the 16th of December. This is what the state of the sensitivity of the Delhi Police is, even after massive public outcry. Can Sonia Gandhi and Shiela Dikshit see the reality of how the machinery that they run functions through the mist of their crocodile tears? Savage, perverted, bestial men still wander free of fear and women cannot even register their complaints. If this is the case when a social activist and independent journalist makes a compaint, imagine what would be the case when the complainant is an ordinary woman, a common citizen. On the other hand, the telephone-assaulter is getting bolder. He kept calling, even on the 4th of January.
Kavita, Stree Mukti League
NOTE : It costs money to call all these ‘helplines’ Why are they not free? If a woman who is poor is continually harassed, must she keep spending money on endless phone calls to try and get relief from that harassment ?
(Update , January 5, 2013 : Even after talking to people on all the police helplines and the chief PRO, all that we have been told is that the police now has the ‘call details’ of the phone-stalker, but they still do not know who is making the calls. When questioned further, the police personnel inevitably cut the call, saying they are busy, in court, or in the field. Eventually, the policewoman taking calls at the ‘alternative helpline number’ did refer me to the local police station. And a policeman from the local police station came to meet me in the afternoon. The seriousness with which he noted the complaint was evident from the fact that he did not have a carbon paper with him that would enable him to give me a carbon copy of the compaint. When I asked for a copy with his signature, he evaded the question, saying ‘why are you worried, a complaint has been filed, at the most you can get a photocopy done of this piece of paper.’ Subsequently, when I have called the local police station to know what progress there is in the case, I am told, what more do you want – a complaint has been filed, the ‘call details’ are with us, we just don’t know his address. Meanwhile, the man who has been harassing me continues to call and threaten me.)
[ This text was first published, in Hindi, on January 2, 2013 the author's blog - 'Der Raat ke Raag' and on Sanhati. An update was published on the author's blog on January 5, 2013. This translation combines the content of the earlier post and the update. ]