Gujarat police equip women in self-defence

A queue of women and teenagers in the early hours at the police headquarters in Ahmedabad will certainly raise many an eyebrow.

 Passersby curiously watch and many wonder why so many have lined up, that too early in the morning. Their faces clearly indicate that they have not gathered there to air their grievances or draw the attention of the authorities to the problems they are facing. But all of them are there with one motto—to learn how to protect themselves if strangers attack them.   

The women and girls patiently wait in front of the office for their turn to undergo a free-of-charge arms training progra­mme, initiated by the Gujarat government as a part of the scheme called Suraksha Setu. 

Th state-wide public outreach progra­mme of the State’s home department is aimed at taking the role of police beyond solving crimes. Through this progra­m­me, the department intends to bridge the gap in society and create a feeling of trust among residents with its proactive and prompt actions. The project intends to show the human face to the police force and minimise incidents of crime in society. 

“Police should not only symbolise power and authority but should come across as a friend in need, having sensitivity for people’s problems and willingness to solve the problems faced by people at all levels and all age groups,’’ said J D Vagh­ela, ACP, training. Suraksha Setu’s aim is to swing into action mode through programmes of positive bonding with public, reaching out to them at their doorstep and helping to promote conditions that lead to a crime-free and harmonious society.”  How does this programme function. Vaghela explained that Suraksha Setu Societies have been formed at state, commissionerate and district levels. The societies are autonomous bodies registered under the Gujarat Societies Act. The society has a governing council for general administration and executive committee for day activities. One of the participants at the campus, Deepali Kansara, a housewife, said the recent cases of atrocities on women have shaken her and she believes it's time to be resolu­te and self-equipped to protect herself.

“I am here for my security and everybody knows what is the security situation all around as far as women are concer­ned,’’ said Kansara. She said hence it was important for women to learn defence technique, including training in fire arms, so that they are equipped to take care of their security. 

Anjali Shastri, a college student, is thrilled to be a part of the training camp. In her opinion it is an educative progra­mme as well. At the training session she is not only learning about the different arms, but also about which arm is used for what purpose. Anjali is told about details of manufacturers and ways of holding different arms. 

Ask her what is the best part of the training that she will never be able to forget. She immediately gushes out and tells holding of a .22-bore rifle for the first time and her success rate at the progra­mme where 20 shots are allowed for each trainee. Now, she is more determined and wants to learn more about which weapon will help her in a hostile situation. Anjali said: “It was a thrilling experience and I managed to hit the target 10 to 12 times. I want to continue training and I believe such camps should be held everywhere in the country as it is inde­ed a big step towards women empowerment.’’

Such camps have been initiated as a part of the Suraksha Setu programme and intended to bridge the gap between police and public and a crucial component of the programme is women security and empowerment. The arms training will be followed by training in self-defence techniques like martial arts.

Vaghela said: “We had involved police stations across the city for enrolment and the camp will run till the end of June for girls above15 years. At the camp, participants are allowed to fire at least 20 shots.”

He said that the idea of such camps was to enhance self-confidence among women. It has been an encouraging initiative even for the organisers because they were able to attract the attention of even Muslim women. As many as 28 Muslim women participated in the camp.

Akkefa Pirji, a student with the Gujarat University, said that usually men participate in such training programmes. May be because of increasing number of crime against women has made people to take part in such programmes and equip themselves to deal with the situation.

Vaghela said similar camps would be held at the district police headquarters and different parts of the state. More than 480 women had applied for training in firearms. The police intend to train all the applicants. 

The large turnout for this unique initiative clearly underlines that more women are getting aware of self-defence. Another reason could be spiralling rate of crimes against women in different parts of the country. 

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