Go to bed early: The cop's safety guide from Gurgaon to Guwahati
Security rules, whether in Guwahati or Gurgaon, boil down to the same take home message from the cops - it’s not their problem, it’s yours. The knee jerk solution is always the same – crackdown on nightlife, restrict people’s movements.
The Park Street rape case happened after 2 am in Kolkata. The solution was obvious to the powers that be – no drinks after 11:30 and turn off the music by midnight.
After the Gurgaon rape case, the city bosses said women should not work after 8 pm. And malls should turn off the electricity if a pub stays open after hours.
So it’s not surprise that in the wake of the Guwahati molestation, we have reports that police want bars to shut by 10.
It’s the Cinderella solution where our authorities believe there is a witching hour that separates the good girls from the bad girls.
“Shareef people, especially women, are not out after 10 anyway,” a taxi driver told me dismissively when I was talking to him about the difficulty of getting cabs late at night. He is not alone in his mindset. Chief ministers believe that. Police commissioners believe that. Their knee jerk solution is always the same – crackdown on nightlife, restrict people’s movements. If they could they would pass a rule that say everyone needs to stay home after 10 pm for their own good.
The Guwahati authorities want to take pains to describe what happened to the young woman as an isolated incident, to dispel rumours of packs of predatory men roaming its streets. But if it is an isolated incident why hand out collective punishment to thousands of people whose only crime is going out with friends after a hard day’s work?
A nanny state treats its citizens like children. But this is worse. This is a state that pretends to be a nanny state. The laws purport to be about protecting citizens but they are really about letting the authorities off the hook.
These security rules, whether in Guwahati or Gurgaon, boil down to the same take home message from the cops - it’s not their problem, it’s yours.
It’s your problem because you were out late.
It’s your problem because you didn’t dress right.
It’s your problem because you answered back to some roadside Lothario who had too much to drink.
It’s your problem because you called the wrong police station. “(Bar owner Rajesh) Jalan had called up Dispur police station (2km to the south adjoining the secretariat) instead of Bhangagarh police station (1.5km to the north) under which the bar falls,” a police officer told the Hindustan Times.
But our real problem is that we keep expecting that the police have our back.
Instead Assam’s DGP has told us bluntly that his police is not like an “ATM machine” which can be present at the scene of the crime the moment one inserts a card in the machine. He’s right. The police often behave like an old-fashioned state-owned bank – where service is regarded as a favour the bank babu does occasionally for the customer.
The DGP later clarified that he was not being insensitive, he was just being candid. He told Firstpost, “In the US there are more than 400 policemen per 100,000 people but here it is different. We have only 70 personnel to take care of 100,000 people. The ratio is just 1:8 in Guwahati.”
But responsiveness is not just about resources. It’s also about attitude. It’s about picking up the phone when someone calls the emergency hotline. It’s about not coming up with excuses for like this one for unanswered calls – “After all (the policeman) has to go to the toilet once in awhile.”
It’s about how do you respond to a complaint once you get it. How do you treat a woman who walks into the police station and says she has been raped? How fast do you act on television footage showing the faces of a pack of men molesting a girl?
Police cannot prevent all rapes or assaults. A few months after the Park Street rape case, another woman was raped in the city. She was not leaving a bar. She was leaving a hospital and trying to get a taxi to the train station to catch the last train to her suburban home. The driver raped her. Kolkata's new nightlife rules could not help her. But in that case the police responded with alacrity when the distraught woman approached an officer for help.
The safety of women lies in police that do their job not in the timing of last call at the bar.
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