| “I was embarrassed and humiliated,” recounts Class XII student Sujata Sinha on Thursday. Picture by Amit Datta
It can happen to anyone, any day. Facing harassment in a bus, with the other passengers remaining mute spectators.
On Wednesday afternoon, it happened to Sujata Sinha, a Class XII student of Loreto Bowbazar, on her way back home from school. This is what she told Metro, the afternoon after, at her Hudco housing estate home in Ultadanga...
“School got over early on Wednesday because of Rabindra Jayanti. At 12.30pm, I headed home. From Central Avenue, I took a bus on route 237 that would take me to Ultadanga. The bus was not very crowded; there were some 15-20 passengers, including some juniors from my school.
“The trouble started when the bus stopped at the signal near Ultadanga Housing. I did not get off because it was not my scheduled stop and it is more convenient to get off near the Ultadanga bridge, which is the scheduled bus stop. I asked the conductor at the second gate to stop the bus, but he ignored me.
“Desperate to get off, I moved to the other end of the bus and urged the driver to stop. The conductor at the front gate then started shouting at me, blaming me for not getting off earlier.
“Then, both the conductors and the driver got into the act, even laughing at my predicament. When I tried to protest, saying that I would take down the number of the bus and lodge a complaint, the driver taunted me: ‘The ticket has the number. Ki korbe dekhbo. Amader keu kichhu kortey parbey na. (We’ll see what you can do. No one can do anything to us)’.
“The more flustered I got, the more they enjoyed it. By the time they finally allowed me to get off near Lake Town, I was the butt of their jokes. I was so embarrassed and humiliated.
“And all through this, the other passengers remained indifferent. Not one of them came forward to help me and protest the manner in which I was being harassed by those three men. Throughout those 10 nightmarish minutes, I was hoping someone would step in, but no one uttered a word. I was shocked.
“I was so upset that I called my father from a phone booth. But he was unable to come and fetch me as he was at work. I hopped on to a bus and though I did not have the full fare on me, I somehow managed to get back home.
“I was traumatised. But then I got a grip on myself and resolved to file a complaint, so that they would think twice before harassing another girl like me. I went to the three sergeants on duty at Ultadanga, narrated the whole incident to them and handed over my bus ticket. They took my number and said they would track down the bus and call me. I am still waiting for the call.”
Sadhan Das, general secretary of the Joint Council of Bus Owners’ Syndicate, termed the incident “unfortunate and unfair”. “This kind of behaviour towards a schoolgirl is criminal. We’ve spoken to the Citu leadership in North 24-Parganas and asked them to pursue the matter. Police should take proper action,” he added.