Guest Post by Kavita Krishnan
I have been wanting to post about an experience with Delhi police since yesterday, but haven’t found the time yet… Here goes.
Some days ago, (early this month if I recall rightly), I got a call from a woman worker living in Usmanpur near Seelampur. She got my number through the son of one of our Trade Union comrades, who is a friend of her brother’s. She said she was being stalked by a man who made calls to her thretening an acid attack. She has 3 children and was concerned for their safety too. She told me she was scared to complain to the police, and asked for advice. I was reluctant to advice a police complaint without her being fully ready, knowing that it might not yield satisfactory results. So I suggested we meet and talk things over before deciding.
But soon after, she called again: feeling buoyed by a sense of hope arising from the ongoing movement, she had gone to the police station – alone – and written out a complaint, giving the stalker’s mobile number, the number of his bike, and offering to share recordings she had made on her phone of the threat calls. She said, though, that the police had not given her any proof of having received or recorded her complaint (in spite of her asking).
She made her way – alone – all the way from Usmanpur to the ILI meeting. Even while she was at the ILI mtg, she got calls from the stalker.The next day, she again went alone to the Police Station, with no result. That evening, (perhaps because someone from an NGO who had participated in the ILI mtg made a call to the police in this matter), some cops visited her home. The next day, she again went to the police station, this time accompanied by a woman from the same NGO, and again wrote out her complaint on ‘kora kaagaz’ (blank paper) – again, she was not given a received copy of her complaint. Nor, of course, was an FIR filed.
She called yesterday in some panic: the stalker had called, this time clearly threatening her children. ‘I can risk my safety, but can’t put my kids at risk,’ she said, asking if she should withdraw her complaint. She had not been to work for 2 whole days, scared of leaving her kids home and fearing an acid attack – when she could ill afford absences from work and pay cuts.
I called up the Usmanpur police station, and spoke to the Duty Officer there. After some back and forth calls, he informed me there was no record of the woman’s complaint. ‘She hasn’t given it in writing,’ he said, asking me to send her again to the police station. I told him she would not visit the police station again, and that he must send someone to her home immediately. After a while, the woman called to say the cops visiting her home wanted to speak to me. One of them took the phone to tell me they were trying in vain to trace the bike, which probably had a wrong number plate. I asked him why no FIR had been registered and why the PS had no record of her complaint, if attempts were being made to trace the stalker? He said – breathtakingly – ‘She is not telling us the address of the stalker. Till she does so, how can we register an FIR?’ I gave him a piece of my mind – in vain. How was this woman supposed to know the address of a stanger who was stalking her?! What are the police for, if they can’t trace the stalker unless given his address by the victim?! The assumption, it seems, was that she would not be stalked unless she ‘knew’ the stalker…
I then called the number of the anti-stalking helpline listed on the Delhi Police site. A male cop took the call. He was very polite and even warm and helpful – but, it turned out, helpless to offer anything but sympathy. He explained that the helpline was staffed by women cops – but a male cop was deputed to take calls because the women cops found themselves at the receiving end of a spate of obscene calls :( I related the whole matter to him and asked what the helpline could do. He said – wait for it – “We can call up the stalker and reason with him, reminding him he has mothers and sisters at home.” “Can’t you do anything else,” I asked. No, he regretfully said, advicing that I call the concerned DCP, since only he could ensure action on part of the local PS.
So, eventually, I was back to the old routine – long familiar from dealing with a variety of other cases in Delhi – of calling up the DCP to indicate that a women’s org was taking up the case and would make things embarassing unless something was done.
The DCP of NE Delhi, when I spoke to him, was prompt and helpful. He promised to speak directly to the affected woman, and even meet her, and ensure action to end the stalking, and against the cops who had defaulted in their duty. Some time later, the ACP called to say an FIR was being registered, the SI and a woman constable at the Usmanpur PS who were responsible for ignoring the woman’s complaints were placed under suspension, and, he promised, the stalker would be caught.
There’s no happy ending though. When I spoke to her today, that woman was still fearful (though she is remarkably courageous and strong). The police kept visiting her house, which was causing her in-laws to ‘say things.’ So she asked the cops to keep a distance. She had also refused to keep visiting the PS, saying however that if they detained a suspect, she would come to make an identification. ‘And I’ll slap him hard for the dirty things he said about my kids,” she said.
Tonight, I got a panic call from the young man who had first put this woman in touch with me: the son of one of our TU comrades. 4 cops had turned up at his house at night, saying the SHO wanted him at the PS to ‘help them with their enquiries.’ He was naturally intimidated by the 4 cops (he kept saying that if it was one cop he might have gone along) and feared they would detain and torture him – common practice that Indian cops use as a substitute for investigation. The woman called a few minutes later, very distressed at the fact that cops had visited this man. “Is this right – that a man whose only crime is that he tried to help out a woman in distress should be harassed by cops? Please do something – I would hate to think he will face trouble on my account. Will any woman take help and approach the police if those who help her will be targeted?” she asked.
I called up the SI and the SHO and told them this man knew nothing of the stalker, had never even seen him. His only role was to give the woman’s brother my phone number. I asked why they wanted to question him at night, and the SHO first said it related to a previous case against this man and his brother. When I probed why an old case was being raked up now, the SHO told me he was wanted for enquiries in the stalking case. I again said that they could ask him anything in the daytime. I persuaded the terrified young man to return to his home and have his dinner without fearing the police would pick him up and torture/frame him.
The stalker is still at large.
The whole episode brought back memories of a period of fear I remember from my childhood. My mother, who bicycled to her job as a schoolteacher everyday, was stalked by a man who was a member of an influential industrialist family in Bhilai. I typed out the name of the family just now, then had second thoughts and crossed it out: that family, and my mother, both still live in Bhilai. The colour, make and number of the stalker’s car are etched in my mother’s memory, as in mine. He had never actually met my mother. He followed her everywhere. Even when we shifted house, he began hanging out in the vicinity of the new house. He made repeated calls to our house. Once, he turned up at our door, suggesting she let him in and they have a good time – she slammed the door shut and bolted it. He once chased her (in his car) while she was on her cycle, running her off the street into a concrete-lined ditch, near our house (right next to the school I attended, which was not the same school where my mum taught). Mum came back with scraped knees and bruises, in tears. Our dog and cat joined us in comforting her. I must have been about 10 then, if memory serves right. I recall my parents discussing whether they should approach the police. And my mother’s decision: “They’ll never act against an influential industrialist, and it might endanger my kids: it will kill me if he turns on them in revenge.” My parents both worked, and my sister and I were both ‘latchkey kids,’ warned not to open the door to anyone – anyone at all except one close woman neighbour – in my parents’ absence: “Even if someone says he is your dad’s friend, don’t invite him in.” This was not a usual precaution for Bhilai in the 80s. Eventually, after several months, the stalking tapered off – as inexplicably as it began. When I called my mother this evening to tell her about the woman being stalked in Delhi, she recited the number of the Bhilai stalker’s car, with no effort at all, though some 30 years have passed.
Kavita Krishnan is an activist with the All India Progressive Womens’ Association and has been at the forefront of the protests in Delhi in the wake of the gang-rape incident of 16 December, 2012. This text was first published by Kavita Krishnan on her Facebook page.