The movie is even more relevant and topical for me personally as recently we have launched a major effort to make Patna safer for its women and girls. It includes a two-pronged approach: a) reach out to young women to ask them to come forward and lodge complaints if they are being subjected to harassment, stalking or any other kind of assault and b) try and sensitize our police people so that any complaint thus received may be responded to seriously and immediately.
The first objective was achieved by police officers (me included) visiting several girls' schools, colleges and hostels and addressing the women and girls there. The impact of such visits was amplified by media coverage, making several more young women and girls aware of what we were trying to achieve. The second objective was a bigger challenge as the patriarchal mindset that causes these problems in the first place also exists in no small measure within our own law enforcement fraternity. In order to counter this, policemen of various ranks were taken to interactive sessions with girls and women and an effort was made to introduce some attitudinal change. It was also made clear that if any incident reported was either ignored or suppressed, swift and strict departmental action would follow. As a result, in the last month and a half alone, more than 70 cases related to harassment of women have been lodged in various police stations of Patna. These are currently under different stages of investigation.
What prompted me the most to write about this movie was a very strikingly real issue that it captured so poignantly. Let me explain. In many cases of stalking, harassment, etc. of young women that we are pursuing currently, the most common defence from the boys' side has been "Oh, but he is studying in such a good university" or "He is from such a respectable family." And the best one: "But they knew and liked each other. How can he stalk her?"
This is precisely what has been addressed so effectively by this movie. Its basic premise that prior acquaintance, even intimacy does not give any man the right to pounce upon a woman is laudable and indeed a far cry from the kind of cinema that actually treats stalking as an essential part of courtship and a necessary prelude to any romantic liaison. In some other cases that we came across, the reason given for a boy's misdemeanour was that he had been rejected by the girl he loved. The "jilted lover" story may evoke a lot of sympathy, even empathy in some men, yet it can be no justification for assault or cyber bullying in any civilised society. The recent brutal stabbing of a young woman in Delhi clearly and unambiguously illustrates that.
I find this movie appealing as a police officer also because it strongly advocates taking the legal route to address such issues and spares us the short shrift nonsense of girls undergoing a crash course in judo-karate and turning themselves into vigilantes. Self-defence techniques take years to master and although it would be great if more and more of our young girls can actually become adept and defend themselves from the perverts that lurk everywhere, a quick fix kind of training can be counterproductive by inducing in the girls a false sense of security which might be very detrimental in a given situation. It is only by prosecuting such people legally that we can finally send a strong and effective message as a society.
A combined and concerted effort from our civil society, police and the entire criminal justice system is required to keep these vultures at bay so that the falcons can fly and soar unhindered in our skies carrying with them the hopes and ambitions of half our humanity.
(Shalin is the DIG of Patna. He is a Bihar Cadre IPS Officer and a Chemical Engineering graduate from IIT Roorkee)
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