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Woman harassed 50m from police post

A young woman got her stalker arrested near the Ruby roundabout on Monday night, hours after a BTech student pulled the courage to chase down a man who had harassed her on a bus in Sinthee.

The incidents exposed how unsafe Calcutta’s roads have become and, at the same time, showed that women have begun to fight back.

The woman in her early 30s was walking towards the Ruby crossing, 200m from her workplace off the Rashbehari connector, around 9pm when a man on a bicycle started stalking her and passed lewd remarks.

She told the man — identified as Manoj Prasad, a daily wage earner — to buzz off.

Still he persisted, though the stretch was buzzing with traffic and pedestrians.

“I was walking along the Rashbehari connector when I realised someone was behind me. I turned back and saw a man on a bicycle. Initially, I did not suspect anything and thought he would overtake me. I moved aside to let him pass, but he continued to follow me,” the healthcare unit employee wrote in her complaint.

She panicked when the man almost brushed his mouth against her ear and said something extremely nasty. “I protested but he did not stop. He kept abusing me. I walked as fast as I could and then saw a group of men standing at the crossing. I ran up to them and told them about the man. The stalker tried to move away as if nothing had happened,” she said.

She then walked up to the policemen posted at the crossing and screamed for help.

“The man on the bicycle was so audacious that he tried to casually ride past the cops,” she added.

The police caught the man and charged him under IPC sections 354A (sexual harassment), 354D (stalking), and 509 (making gestures to insult the modesty of a woman) after the woman lodged a complaint at Kasba police station.

“Manoj Prasad was arrested after the woman lodged a formal complaint,” said Pallab Kanti Ghosh, joint commissioner of police (crime).

An officer described Prasad’s act as “daring” because he harassed a woman 50m from a police post on the bustling thoroughfare, knowing fully well that he could be arrested within minutes.

“He confessed to the crime during interrogation. The accused told us he knew that policemen would be present at the crossing but he never thought the woman would inform them,” said an officer of Kasba police station.

The police had set up five kiosks in June 2012 along the 8.5km stretch between the Ruby crossing and Patuli to check crime against women on the EM Bypass after sunset.

Residents said police patrolling along the Bypass should improve instead of putting cops in kiosks.

The common thread in the nightmare that the working woman and the BTech student went through was even more shocking: no fellow passenger or passer-by came to their rescue.

In fact, the other passengers on the bus jeered at the student when she raised the alarm. Barring a woman who gave her the police helpline number, the 20-year-old student was left to fend for herself.

She had dialled the number from the moving bus in north Calcutta, but the response never came. This happened on a day when the police launched Sukanya — a programme to train schoolgirls in self-defence.