Today, the world unites to celebrate women. While more of them are climbing the global pedestal everyday, we still stumble upon repeated cases of heinous crimes meted out to women. We bring to you one such case YourStory closely witnessed unfold in the city.
Fighting for justice in an unknown city, our hero, in her early twenties, was physically assaulted at knife point at her PG accommodation. Hers is a story of standing up to a system that failed to give her timely help. This is also, unfortunately, a clear example of the increasing levels of apathy in the society we live in.
City of dreams
The burgeoning city of Bengaluru has nurtured many a newbie coming into the city in search of a promising career, thanks to it being a IT and startup hub. Several youngsters step into the city every year in the hopes of chasing their dreams and building a career. Our hero was one such person as well. We choose not to refer to her as 'victim', because her courage and uncompromising quest for justice despite hostile conditions makes her a hero in our eyes.
She chose to move into 'SSV New PG for Ladies' in Kundanahalli, as such accommodations are deemed to be safe for single women. But her nightmarish experience came to prove that assumption wrong.
It was the night of March 4, her first at the PG. Finishing her chores for the day, she went to bed only to be soon woken up by some noise in her room. When she switched on the lights, she was shocked to see an unknown man in his thirties hovering over her with a knife. Shivaram Reddy (as he came to be later recognised by the police) assaulted her and threatened to rape her if she raised her voice. In the meantime, the victim has injured on her wrist and hands as well. She recalls,
He said that there were five other men in the next room who will take turns to assault me. I threw my blanket on him and rushed into the bathroom, while he was making demands for all my valuables and hurling abusive and disgusting sexual remarks at me.
The assaulter went on to locking her in the room and left the scene with her mobile phone. On hearing her cry for help, other inmates unlocked her door to find her whimpering in a corner, scared and shaken. None of the girls slept that night.
Braving the odds
Our hero, along with her PG mates, reported the case to the PG owner. The CCTV footage of the premises helped throw more light on the incident. Our hero says,
We saw a man wearing a monkey cap entering my room from the terrace. Surprisingly, he didn’t barge in. He had the keys to my room. The footage also shows him leaving the room after a while, in a hurry.
Seeing the telling evidence, the PG owner tried to convince her to not file a complaint, and, instead, offered to replace her phone and reimburse the deposit money. “I found the PG fishy. After reporting the incident to my parents, I left for the nearest police station to file a case against the guy and the PG owner,” she says.
She then approached HAL police station to report the incident and get justice. But she soon came to realise we do not live in a society where going to the police would definitely provide us justice.
Anything can happen over a cup of coffee
On March 5, when she narrated the incident to the authorities, the police suggested she wrote the entire incident down on a sheet of paper. She obliged.
“The Station House Officer later requested me to meet him and the investigation team at a Café Coffee Day nearby. They met me and my friends who were there for help, and offered to buy us a cup of coffee. They showed us a few file photos of suspects. Fortunately, the picture of the guy who had barged into my room was one among them. I identified him immediately, she says.
After the guy was identified, the SHO explained the man had had two pending cases against him already, but continues to roam free. But the police clearly did not have any plans to bring justice to her. “The SHO offered the group tickets of the ongoing India-Australia test series, and asked us not to file the FIR. He instead recommended that the PG owner files a complaint,” she adds.
An FIR for extortion (Section 384 of Indian Penal Code) was filed. There was no mention of other sections under which he could have been accused for attempt to rape, molestation, sexual harassment, and robbery.
We spoke to a lawyer who asked us to charge the accused under 12 sections. The police only considered the PG owner’s take on the entire incident and ignored our side of the story, she adds.
Learning this, her family members came to Bengaluru, and a few other local friends joined her to help her deal with the police. This is where we also joined her at the police station.
It is strange how in a cosmopolitan city like Bengaluru, not knowing the local language would hamper reporting a case of molestation and robbery. The police authorities paid heed to her plea for filing another FIR only when we bridged the communication gap between the authorities and the family.
After spending six hours in a police station on Monday and reporting the case again—which entailed writing the entire four-page report all over again—the SHO rejected to file a fresh FIR on the accused and suggested appending it to the old FIR that was filed by the PG owner. Our hero spent three days fighting to have her voice heard, only to have some action taken not to her satisfaction. She was slotted a Medical Legal Case, which is the priority for cases where the victim is physically injured.
Three days after the incident, Shivaram Reddy was nabbed by the police in an encounter when he got shot on his legs. Police sources say the accused was arrested two years ago for a rape case, and was on the loose after spending a year in the jail. Hemant Nimbalkar, Additional Commissioner of Police, Bengaluru East tweeted his picture along with a note.
So the molester has been a repeated accused for several cases according to police reports but was released. The story, however, doesn’t end here.
After much time lost and many efforts taken the police had finally appended the existing FIR with four more sections - 384, 457, 354 and 506. Seven people had to stall their existing work and commitments to spend three days chasing our wardens of security just to get a complaint written down. Several meetings and a lot of social media outrage finally got the culprit behind bars. The PG, which looked shady from the very beginning, continues to operate and remain unaccountable.
No country for women
An average of 925 crimes are reported against women everyday in India. According to National Crime Report Bureau (NCRB) data, in 2014 alone, 3,37,922 cases of crime were reported against women. This was a 9.2-percent increase from the 3,09,546 cases that were reported in 2013. Crimes against women have been consistently on the rise over the past few years.
According to another report by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), only 0.6 percent of women who experience violence report it to the police. Our hero is one of those 0.6 percent women who had the support to stand up against the system. Through her, the naked apathy and prejudices of the system at large were also exposed. She adds,
I realise that I belong to the minority of women who report such cases and receive support the way I did. On this women’s day as we empower the gender, let’s join together to build a safer and inclusive world. Women are special. Women are beautiful. Women are strong. Cheers to womanhood. I am proud of being a woman and the person I am.