I decided to disclose my name and share my photograph with you: woman who was molested, assaulted two weeks ago in Kolkata for smoking, writes for The Bengal Story
Over the past two weeks, I have been wondering why I should go on “hiding”. Why should I not “disclose” to people that I was the person who was assaulted, abused and beaten up by a man on May 3 night because I was smoking? Why are women afraid to talk about incidents of violence on them, when it is the molester who should be ashamed? Let me remind you what happened that night. My friend and I were waiting near Kolkata’s Jadavpur police station for an autorichshaw to go home, when a man tried to snatch the cigarette I was smoking, from my hand. He boarded the same autorichshaw and kept abusing us. Eventually we went and lodged a complaint at Netaji Nagar police station. You can read here the details of what happened that night.
I decided to share my photograph and a few thoughts here. First, let me tell you about a call that came to me from my father. Initially, I thought it best to not involve my family in this, because I didn’t want some more moral policing. I knew my family would criticise me. But my father had watched television and even though my face shown after being blurred on screen, he still recognised me. So he called me up. I live alone in a rented place, so obviously I didn’t need to tell my parents that night or the following day had happened that night. But when my father came to know, he called me. He asked me why I was smoking on the road at night. I asked him, “Would the same thing have happened to you if you were smoking on the road late at night?” My father quickly changed the subject. Smoking is injurious to health, whether it is for women or for men, he said. I do agree. But this is not about smoking, at all, I explained to my father. If the same kind of assault does not take place if a man is smoking, but happens to me because I am a woman, it is happening because of my gender.
I don’t know whether he agreed, but at the end of the conversation, he called me a “brave girl”. If there has been this little change in my father, I am happy. I was also told that some of my father’s colleagues have appreciated my courage.
I was asked to appear before the magistrate to narrate the event, but I had to appeal for its postponement till after June 4, because my examinations are on.
This is not the first time I have faced such horror and humiliation on the roads of Kolkata. In 2016, I was participating in a play in the area around Prachi cinema hall. After the programme got over, I walked till the bus stop with my mother, saw her off and was returning to meet my friends again. I saw a taxi and the driver offered to drop me near my destination if I sat by his side, so he could take passengers if there were any.
I agreed because there were no buses and I had little money. But the moment he started driving, he began to touch me inappropriately. I screamed and shouted and opened the door, but he managed to go on driving, so I couldn’t jump off from the vehicle even though I tried to. Eventually, he had to stop at a traffic signal and I pulled him out of the cab and took him to the police station. But I had a tough time filing a complaint – I had to scream and shout and bang the table to get my complaint registered. I am not going to name the police station here, because my purpose is not to malign the police. In fact this time, I found the police helpful and supportive; the officers at Netaji Nagar police station were polite and helpful when I went there to file a complaint on May 3.
Despite all the difficulty I have faced – and so many women are facing sexual abuse and assault all the time – I think it is very important to protest and lodge complaints. That is one more reason why I am writing here today. We live in a patriarchal society where women have to go on fighting. But nothing should stop us, nothing should discourage us from breaking the taboos that mean to shut us up. If we don’t fight, we won’t survive. Believe me, we need to be very brave and protest every time.