Women in the capital are being pushed back into the world of fear just when they were starting to leave it behind and venture out.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s “susashan” had started to give college girls and homemakers the confidence to move alone, unthinkable in the Lalu-Rabri regime. Spurt in crime has undone their new-found strength.
Criminals are barging into homes in the daytime, robbing, murdering and assaulting women. Last week, an employee of a bicycle shop on Jagdeo Path allegedly molested a seven-year-old girl when she went there in the afternoon to repair her cycle.
A schoolgirl was gangraped, allegedly by a group of young boys, in an apartment last month and an MMS clip of the heinous act was circulated. A principal of a nursery school was murdered in her home in Rajiv Nagar; a mukhiya in Patna rural was shot dead not only at her home but in the presence of her family members; a vigilance bureau official’s chain was snatched on a road, metres away from 1 Aney Marg. The list goes on.
Police, entrusted with the safety of the residents, either say probe is on or seek refuge in a few solved cases. That, however, has done nothing to eradicate the fear that has settled in the heart of women.
A BA Part I student of Magadh Mahila College told The Telegraph: “The gangrape incident which shook Patna has had a very serious effect on us. The girl, according to reports, was forcibly picked up by the boys and taken to the apartment, raped and the entire incident was filmed. It is okay for any girl to have a boyfriend but incidents like these instil fear in all. Now, my parents are very watchful and call me several times whenever I am at college or out for any work. My father has made it a point to drop me and take me home before and after college and private tuitions.”
Another college girl voiced the collective concern.
“It is indeed frightening. Until 2010, the situation was just fine and we felt confident about being on our own. But these incidents have taken us back to the gory past that the residents of the city have witnessed. Despite police patrolling, Mauryalok Complex is full of boys who don’t have any work but pass lewd comments at women. Why don’t the police act?”
The officers at Patna police’s Women Helpline service accept that calls for help against eve-teasing and harassment have increased.
“Until 2010, things were under control. But now the calls have doubled. We are receiving more than 10 calls a day, unprecedented earlier. The women call us saying they are receiving a lot of blank and crank calls,” an officer at the helpline service said.
A member of Bihar State Women’s Commission, Chandramukhi Devi, said: “We cannot say women are unsafe here just by citing some recent examples. Incidents like these used to occur earlier too. As the media has become more powerful now, everyone comes to know about these incidents. Girls just need to be more cautious.”
In most of the recent cases of crime against women, the accused are at large. The police have not managed to trace their whereabouts.
The employee accused of molesting the seven-year-old is at large. Hunt for criminals, who shot the 40-year-old village head (mukhiya) on July 25 in Patna rural’s Dariyapur area under Parsa Bazaar police station, is on.
“The deceased’s family has named three accused, all belonging to one family. Raids are on to nab them. Once they are arrested, the police would know the entire story as to whether they hired professional killers or not,” senior superintendent of police Amrit Raj said.
Forty-eight-year-old Neelam Sharma, the principal of the nursery section of Ankur Public School in Rajiv Nagar area, was beaten to death by criminals at home on July 20.
Initial evidence pointed at murder for dacoity. The same day an employee with the state vigilance investigation department sustained injuries when she was assaulted and her chain was snatched in the VIP Circular Road area.
A month earlier, the decomposed body of lawyer Sangeeta Sinha was found at her flat in Vaibhav Apartment in Budh Marg. The police first claimed it was a suicide but now the case is hanging in balance with the cops waiting for the forensic science laboratory report.
The cops, when asked about the renewed threat to the women in the state capital, had only clichés to offer.
“Recently, there has been a complete overhaul of the patrolling system. A part of it is already in place and soon, the entire set-up will be active on the Patna streets. Cases have been reported but there have been breakthroughs too. The police have solved the June 23 murder of the elderly couple and it was an example of perfect investigation. The police presence on the roads has been increased and we assure that there is nothing to fear,” a senior police officer said.
Till the police promises turn into reality, women will have to be more cautious.