The barbaric rape-murder of the 23-year old Delhi woman is an extreme case of what women face in Delhi. Hopefully, that will never be repeated. But what about the daily harassment Delhi’s women suffer every day? It seems that hasn’t changed according to an article by Rama Lakshmi of the Washington Post. Read the quote of a young woman from this article:
- “The day isn’t complete in Delhi for a woman without hearing a cheap comment, or getting leered at or groped,”
Born and bred in Mumbai, we get very angry when we hear this. Our values about misbehavior with women are hard and clear. The concept of Bhadra and the culture of Maharashtra dictate that the dignity of women is the State’s responsibility. The moral standing of the State rests on the freedom its women enjoy on its streets. That culture still endures in most parts of Mumbai. We visit Mumbai at least twice a year. There we travel in public buses and local trains. We just don’t see public misbehavior towards women in Mumbai.
There is no question in our mind that the maltreatment of women in Delhi must stop. No ifs, ands or buts. Change in attitudes, change in laws can and do take their own course. The first & immediate step must be to eliminate or minimize this maltreatment of Delhi women.
Thanks to a Mathematical background, we like to think of solutions. And this week, it hit us all of a sudden – the Mumbai police solution. It is an extraordinarily simple solution that could be prove highly effective in Delhi. What was this Mumbai police solution?
A decade or so ago, Mumbai faced a horrible violence problem. Mumbai’s “bhai” or “dons” were bringing in poor young men from rural areas to commit murder. These young men would take a bus or train to Mumbai. They would be met at the station, given a gun, told where to shoot the victim. The shootings would take place in public in Mumbai’s streets. As soon as the job was done, the young men would take a train or bus back to their homeland with a payment of Rs. 500-1,000 ($10-$20). These young men didn’t know anything except the target and so they could not reveal much if caught.
There was virtually an unlimited supply of young unemployed men who could be used in this fashion. The Mumbai police might know which “bhai” or don hired them but proving that and getting a conviction in India’s slow judicial system was nearly impossible. The people of Mumbai were utterly frustrated and demanded action.
So the Mumbai police developed their own countermeasures. They created a system of “encounters”. Translation – they shot gangsters as they found them committing a crime and reported the shootings as armed “encounters”. No paperwork, no judge; just simple justice simply delivered. They trained a select group of plain-clothed officers as “encounter specialists”. These plain-clothed officers were free to roam the neighborhoods, go where they wanted in Mumbai regardless of local jurisdiction. If they saw a “bhai” or “don”, they would find the right time and place to “encounter” him.
Bollywood made the role of an “encounter specialist” fashionable in a hit film called “Ab Tak Chhapan” (“so far 56” [encountered]). Listen to the hero’s line at minute 01:45 of the short trailer/preview below:
- “To clean up the garbage in your home, there is Jamadar (home worker); to clean up the garbage of society, it is us.”
This did not mean freedom to shoot at will for the police. Reportedly, the Mumbai police identified and trained a selected cadre of police officers and monitored them to ensure the legality of the actions. Frankly, this system does sound awful. But as the hero of the Ab Tak Chhapan says at the beginning of the above trailer/preview (min 0:57) ,
- “If, like you, we sit and keep wondering what is good or bad, then who will do this work?”
The reality is that Mumbai’s countermeasures worked and violent shootings declined sharply. Mumbaikers could again walk the streets of Mumbai without fear of being shot. As an aside, the US Air Marshals began using a similar system after 9/11. Reportedly, plain-clothed air marshals fly on many flights within the USA and they are authorized to use deadly force if they deem it necessary.
Perhaps, the Delhi police could create a similar squad of plain-clothed male and female officers under Delhi law and statutes. These officers could roam the streets of Delhi. If they witnessed harassment, they could beat the crap out of the perpetrator; if they witnessed a violent incident, they could shoot the perpetrators.
What would happen if such a system gets deployed in Delhi? In our opinion, just a few of such “encounters” and the bad guys would hide or run away from Delhi. The number of incidents of harassment & rape would fall off a cliff. No laws would need be written, no debates would be needed for such a system. It would be silent effective police action. The women and men of Delhi would heave a sigh of relief and live a more peaceful life.
We are simple folk and not social scientists. The solution we discuss is a variation of successful solutions used legally by the Mumbai Police and US Air Marshals. But we seem to be the only ones interested in suggesting a solution.
In contrast, the global media has access to experienced, astute police officers and veteran intelligence talent. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal have deep and extensive resources in this area. So why haven’t these esteemed newspapers offered any solutions, any law & order ideas to minimize the harassment and rape of women in Delhi? It seems they don’t care at all.
This is even more true of the throngs of activists who protest loudly in print, in blogs and in the tweeter-sphere. Read their writings and messages. Their only preoccupation is putting pressure on the Indian Government to expand the definition of rape to marital rape and oral rape. These attempts are noble but not the critical need of the moment. Their rhetoric is like demanding long term fundamental research in biology while an epidemic rages in Delhi.
Frankly, it seems these activists have no interest whatsoever in find
ing effective police solutions that can work, solutions that can offer fast relief to women who have to walk or take a bus in Delhi. We hope we are wrong, but there is a whiff of foul odor in the air, a disturbing smell of exploitation of an innocent woman’s savage murder for philosophical agendas.
This may be why people are getting less and less sympathetic. Witness a tweet from a European-American in response to the Delhi harassment described in the Washington Post article:
- “While I’m really happy that the women of India are getting attention, street and transit harassment is a problem in US too.”
This man is right. We recall a female TV Anchor at Fox complaining angrily on Bill O’Reilly’s show about being groped in New York City subways. If American men are getting tired of reading about transit harassment in Delhi, how tired are the men in India getting?
That is why we think it is critical to find and quickly implement practical solutions to the daily torture Delhi women face. Hence our suggestion to implement a variation of the Mumbai solution in Delhi.
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