Pardeep Singh Bali
It has been observed several times by many of you, it would have annoyed you, would have instigated you and probably would have pushed you for introspection, but ‘Why should I’ paradox had stopped you every time.
Women commuters in Jammu, both young and old, have been suffering silently the menace of ‘sexual harassment’, wherein a person derives sexual pleasure from touching or rubbing or even pushing another person preferably from opposite gender, but they shy speaking out, reasons ‘stigma’.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for women particularly college going girls to travel through public transport as the fear of someone trying to touch or rub
himself against their body always exists. Every woman, traveling in buses, has a story to narrate.
University going Meenakshi (21) daily boards’ bus from Sunjawan for Jammu University. Every day, Meenakshi waits for a bus in the morning, wherein a man of around 38 years boards the same bus. At first, the young girl took it for a coincidence. “He would sit next to me and initiate the talk. He would ask questions about my studies, family and other things despite my reluctance”, says Meenakshi.
For a week, Sarah says the man continued stalking her. She did not inform her family fearing imposition of restrictions by parents. However the situation turned bad for Meenakshi, when on one morning, the stalker put hand on her thigh. “I was feeling uncomfortable. The bus was overloaded and nobody noticed what he was doing. I tried to push his hand away but he did not relent.”
This incident scared Sarah so much that she stopped boarding the bus. “Instead I go on foot to some distance to board bus,” says Meenakshi.
Meenakshi is not alone who is facing sexual harassment in public transport. Stigma attached with the issue doesn’t let the girls to report these cases either to their families or to the police.
The issue is so unreported that no case of molestation in buses has ever been reported to police. Station House Officer (SHO) women cell Jammu- Anita Katal, said that girls usually don’t report the cases of harassment, so it remains under the cover. “There is lack of awareness among girls and women regarding reporting such crime. To my knowledge girls usually don’t talk about it, feeling shy. It has also been seen that girls report to their concerning police stations,” said SHO-Anita.
It’s not only the young girls who are facing sexual harassment in buses. House makers and working women too face the same. Dr Shabnam, a government employee says that she has been molested many times while traveling. On one occasion she had to ask the conductor to stop the bus and alight when a man tried to take advantage of the overloading and molest her. “Once while traveling to Parade, I was molested by a man, who was not only touching me, but was also taking advantage of the over crowded bus,” said Dr Shabnam, adding, “When I raised alarm, the people sitting in the bus, started accusing me of blaming innocent people.” “The mentality of the passengers in Jammu is as such that even if you resist such acts, they will put you on fault,” said Dr Shabnam. Senior officer in Traffic Department wishing anonymity said, “We do check overcrowding in buses. Wherever we find an overcrowded bus we challan the driver.” When tried to contact SSP Trafic-Udhay Bhaskar Billa, was not available for comments.
Pardeep Singh Bali