Khaki dreams turn to dust

WOMEN@WORK

Khaki dreams turn to dust

ALL ISN’T WELL : Police officers admit that sexual harassment of women constables often goes unreported. PIC/WFS

There were five stabs on her body —three on the neck and one on each breast. There were two gaping cuts on her head. Her fingers were chopped off and a bunch of hair was yanked out of her scalp. It was indeed the most brutal murder Rajasthan had seen in the recent past. Two policemen had raped and killed young constable Maya Yadav (22) in a police guest house at the Chechat police station in Kota district.

Yadav had finished her duty at 6.30 pm on September 29, 2010. She saw driver-constable Deshraj (35) going to the market to fix the tyres of a police jeep. She wanted to pick up some groceries so she hitched a ride with him. After returning from the market around 7.30 pm, Yadav went to her room, 20 metres from the police station. In an hour, she reported back for wireless duty. She retired for the day at 10 pm.

Deshraj, who had left for night patrol with another constable, returned with liquor. He was joined by the police station cook, Tulsiram Rathore (25) in a drinking session. The room they were drinking in was separated from Yadav’s room by a small pantry and a toilet.

No one knows when the two drunk cops decided to kill Yadav in cold blood. The next morning, when she did not report for duty, a constable was sent to her room where her mutilated body was discovered. When the news spread around Chechat, the 700-year-old village was filled with outrage. A mob of 500 gathered outside the police station demanding the suspension of all the staff. Agitators turned violent and at least six policemen were injured in stone pelting. Finally, tear gas had to be used to control the situation.

Chechat is a few kilometres from Khemaj, a small town on National Highway 12, between Kota and Jhalawar. Villagers agitated for two days before word reached Jaipur, the state capital. On October 2, Chechat Station House Officer (SHO) Amilal Chaudhary and the sentry were suspended. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot took 48 hours to order a compensation of Rs 10,00,000 and a government job to one member of Yadav’s family.

Beyond endurance

The gruesome nature of the murder has ensured that it will not be forgotten for some time to come. But just six days later, on October 5 at around 7 pm, Pushpa Jat, a constable posted at the Jaitaran police station in Pali district, consumed sleeping pills when she failed to fend off the advances of the SHO. She was rushed to the hospital and then sent on ‘medical leave’.  

Cases like that of Yadav and Jat are not isolated ones. Today, women constitute 5.6 per cent of Rajasthan’s constabulary and this change has largely come about because of 30 per cent reservation for women in the recruitment of constables. Eventually women are expected to make up 30 per cent of the constabulary. This, of course, is a positive trend.

The ‘Safe Cities For Women & Girls’ campaign’s Bogota declaration specifically called for an increase in the number of police officers, especially to attend to cases of violence against women and girls. The ‘Safe Cities For Women & Girls’ is an international campaign, which is partnering Jagori, a national women’s resource centre.
But the question is who will protect the police women themselves from violence and sexual harassment?

Making the work place safe

Says Nina Singh, Inspector General of Police (Planning, Modernisation and Welfare): “Twenty years ago women constables were a rare sight in police stations. Today, things are changing in what used to be a predominantly male institution. The duties and presence of women constables have increased. Among other benefits, this has had a sobering influence on the attitudes and behaviour of their male counterparts.”

Police officers admit that the sexual harassment of women constables does occur but most cases don’t get reported. “When women discuss it with their colleagues, they are advised to keep quiet and be more careful in future,” says a Superintendent of Police unwilling to be named.

Another district police chief claims that he has, post-Chechat, made sure that women constables are posted only in pairs at police stations. “The idea is that the presence of another woman at the workplace will give them a sense of security,” he explains.
Incidentally, Singh, the senior-most lady officer in Rajasthan — although she detests the prefix ‘lady’ and maintains that “a cop is a cop, lady or otherwise” — is in charge of welfare activities for the force. “In the modernisation plan, too, there is an emphasis on constructing separate barracks, toilets and rest rooms for women constables,” she says.

But she admits that there’s a lot that still needs to be done to create a more enabling environment for women in the force. During the recently concluded two-day Collector-SP conference, Chief Minister Gehlot had observed, “If a crime is committed next to or inside a police station, nothing can be more shameful than that.”

The police authorities must ensure that the women in their ranks do not themselves become victims of violence and assault, like Maya Yadav and Pushpa Jat.

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