Feel unsafe on the streets near your house, your campus, your workplace? Do not suffer in silence. Speak out, stand up, make a difference.
That’s the message Brinda Dasgupta and her friends are carrying for all those women subjected to harassment by the male touch and the male gaze with every step they take in public places.
Just like Brinda, 22, who has wiped her tears and vowed to fight tormentors along with a group of girls (and some boys) who feel strongly about making the city a safer place for women.
On the morning of September 16, she was walking down a lane near her New Alipore home, on her way to college. Suddenly, a man on a cycle came straight at her, assaulted her and sped off. She screamed for help, but no one responded. She cried, till shock and shame gave way to rage and resolve.
Brinda contacted the police commissioner, lodged a complaint with the local police station against her anonymous harasser and then set about launching Safe City.
Mission One: make the streets of New Alipore safer for women.
On Saturday evening, Brinda and her friends, backed by the New Alipore Association, fired the first salvo in their fight against eve-teasing with a meeting that brought together officer-in-charge P. Sarkhel, MLA Arup Biswas, councillor Jui Biswas and a host of residents.
Titled Safe City and steered by a core group of seven youngsters, the campaign hopes to curb the growing eve-teasing menace in New Alipore before taking the drive to other areas in the city.
“When can we leave our homes without the fear of being harassed on the streets,” was Brinda’s simple ask.
“I don’t belong to this area but after I read the report in Metro (on September 17), I called Brinda, who’s a friend, and we decided to get together to help combat this menace,” said Mirna Guha, 23, a social activist.
“New Alipore has become an easy hunting ground for such goons. Strangers on bikes and speeding cars are a real threat and it’s important for us to resist them. This campaign will help make this place safe once again for women,” said Subrata Ghose Chaudhuri, the president of the New Alipore Association.
P. Sarkhel, the OC of New Alipore police station, provided his personal number and the contact details of the police station for the residents to call in any emergency. “There has been a history of such cases but we have never been able to take action because not many people come and lodge complaints,” said Sarkhel.
The charter of demands placed by the Safe City campaigners on Saturday ranged from increased police patrolling to identification of trouble spots in New Alipore.
The first step has already been taken with a new police kiosk being installed in New Alipore’s F Block, where Brinda was harassed.
Councillor Jui Biswas requested the police to take “prompt action in lighting up the dark stretches” and “increasing vigilance” on the more deserted stretches.
“We will now follow this up by making the police emergency numbers available through SMS, leaflets and posters. We will reach out to a cross-section: girls on the roads, residents of the area, guards and shopkeepers in the vicinity,” said Brinda, flanked by Mirna, Basabdatta Basu Roychowdhury, 25, and Pujarini Sen, 21.
That the girls have their task cut out was evident when MLA Arup Biswas claimed that “eve-teasing does not happen in New Alipore”. He did, however, promise to extend support to this “awareness campaign” and urged “all residents” to unite for the cause.
Where in the city do you as a woman feel the most unsafe?