Reality check of Munirka at 9 pm

Reality check of Munirka at 9 pm

Infamous bus stand area here still struggles to take back the night

Are these positive changes? A year later there is a police monitoring station near the bus stop where the physiotherapy student and her friend boarded a white private-run bus. At 9 pm, two policemen at the station say that over 40 CCTV cameras now keep a close watch on all activities at the bus stop, on the roads and in the two nearby markets.  

No private buses or even cabs are allowed to stop, says a constable pacing right and left at the bus stop with his baton. Small shops and eateries by the roadside are still open. And with a regular service of state-run DTC buses, Munirka obviously looks safe for two young students to look for a bus.

But the place changes its character in a matter of hour, say locals. At 9.30 pm, Ritu Singh is trying to catch an auto for Lajpat Nagar. She lives in a girls’ hostel and has plans to spend her Friday evening with friends. “The whole market goes down in a matter of 15 minutes,” she says. “It is getting late and none of the auto drivers are ready to go by the meter.”

A suburb of Delhi, Munirka gets cut off from the rest of the city. There is no bus that can take her to Lajpat Nagar, she says. Auto drivers near the bus stop said they were waiting for their last passenger, after which they plan to hit home. In this case, the auto driver said he was headed to Patel Nagar. He asked Singh for Rs 125. A year ago, the young physiotherapist and her male friend were headed home, but a number of autorickshaws refused to drive them to Dwarka, a trip of around an hour. “He came down to 110 rupees, but is not ready to go by the meter,” says Singh.A policeman near the bus stop, who asked not to be named, says, “Now the autowallahs do not refuse to go by the meter.” He narrates a story where his team saw on screen, while sitting in the monitoring station, a woman waiting at the bus stop for over an hour. “She was a planted journalist,” he says. “It was 10 pm and we offered her help. We asked an autowallah to take her wherever she wanted to go.”

For three months after the gang rape, the two Munirka markets – Pratap and Laxmi Market – sold only candles, says Vijay Kumar Yadav who runs a flea shop of leather belts and winter garments. 

“The place saw regular candle light marches, and a lot of JNU students used to come,” he says.

The shops in the locality had to remain shut for three months. Yadav learnt about the incident a day later when police ordered a shut down. “Nothing like this had ever happened,” says Yadav.

He enumerates a number of eve teasing cases in the locality as the place is replete with drunkards.

“There are two girls’ hostels nearby. Many of them get office cabs for their late night jobs,” he adds.

Animesh Chrandra, 23, who has been living in Munirka for the past two years, think that nothing has changed. “Rapes happened then, it can happen now,” he says. 

Munirka, an urban village of dimly lit, narrow lanes and irregularly built houses, is home to thousands of young people who come to Delhi for higher education and better work, and many of them come from north-eastern states.

Meet Simran from Gangtok who lives with her brother in Munirka. She used to work in a mall in Gurgaon. She is rushing to a mobile recharge shop before it closes. “I had a day job,” she says. She is looking for a job, but her biggest constraint is transport.Simran, who seldom goes out at night, complaints about eve teasing and racist attitude of the locals.

“Whenever we complain to police, they say ye toh aise hi hai,” Simran says, hinting that police think that they invite trouble. “Not all fingers are alike,” she added.“After the incident, the whole focus was on Munirka. And this place is part of our surveillance project,” a police officer says without wishing to be named.

Two hundred meters away from the bus stop at Munirka, two women traffic constables were posted at an intersection with two male colleagues, right under the flyover. One of the women constables, Megha, laughs. She was asked whether she will remain on duty throughout the night. “Puri raat khade rakhoge kya (You plan to keep me standing all night)?” she says.

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