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Women protest sexual abuse in elite Delhi locality amidst heavy police presence

By Our Representative

A women’s collective of Delhi’s Dwarka area, Dwarka Eksath, has held an awareness event and a march to protest against recent incidents of sexual harassment in the elite urban locality despite the police refusing to give the events a permission. It was amidst wide apprehensions that the authorities have refused to act effectively despite complaints made to them.
Held to show solidarity with the cause a Dwarka braveheart, Shirin Talwar, who went public with her ordeal of sexual harassment at the hands of a man near her home at 8.40 am on October 17, 2020, as also others who had complained to the police about sexual harassment incidents in the area, ahead of the event, members of Dwarka Eksath organized community meetings in the community, and a delegation met DCP Dwarka and DM Southwest seeking immediate action.
Even though the offender, who happened to be a cop, has been arrested, the event helped highlight how these women had filed FIRs, and how the offender had the audacity to roam around the suburb in a Baleno car without a number plate and harass women, make inappropriate gestures and pass lewd comments since January.
Despite heavy police presence, the organisers and 80-odd participants, said a Dwarka Eksath communique, refused to budge from the venue. They expressed their desire to court arrest if they are not allowed to organise the event because they were following the stipulated guidelines. “The police authorities had no choice but to allow the event to be held instead at the gate of the Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya in Sector 10, amid heavy police bandobast.”
A group of women from Action Aid India led by Sushila sang songs and raised slogans in order to electrify the mood of the awareness event. A few others used the platform to come out and share their unpleasant experiences and demand action by the law authorities for every wrong done to another woman. Scientist, poet and social activist Gauhar Raza and social activist Madhavi Kane recited poems on this occasion.
A few members of the collective – Madhavi Kane, Shameera Ashroff, Leena Dabiru, Ritu Khulbe, Romila Gandhi, Chitra, Roomi Zakir, and Asha Varshney -- presented a dance performance titled Bekhauf, followed by a song by another member Zakir and her daughter.
Other members of Dwarka Eksath including Seema Joshi, Anuradha Ganguly Ramaswamaiah, Mamata Dash and Hashmi touched upon the various aspects of the cause and the case being pursued by the collective and the need for larger systemic reforms, change of social mindset and plans for the collective action from the authorities to ensure that incidents like in their speeches.
“Dwarka is one of the three sub-cities to be developed in the Capital three decades ago. Over the years, what has been overlooked are its safety planning and execution. The ineptitude led to an incident like Shirin's molestation by a cop. The administration needs to pull up its socks to assure we, the women, that it will be on its toes to make Dwarka’s public spaces safe for us,” said Mamata Dash.
Sukhmanch, a city-based young theatre group staged a street play. “Their strong storytelling poignantly highlighted the condition of a woman in our society. All of us live with all these experiences in some way or the other. It tugged at my heartstrings, and I couldn’t help but choke after watching it. It was a powerful performance,” said Archana Singh, a member of the collective.
Anuradha Ganguly Ramaswamaiah brought to light another appalling incident where a girl child was molested by a delivery guy in her housing society. She stated that the kind of harassment that Shirin faced is something that every woman faces in this country, across all class, caste, age, and religious divides. The criminal could be any regular person, a school staff, a tuition teacher, music teacher, friend's father, a delivery boy or even a relative. 
The event to demand safe public spaces in Dwarka culminated with a song to celebrate the indefatigable spirit of life and living
Addressing the gathering, Talwar said women are often at the receiving end, because when an incident like this happens, it is they who are asked questions, seldom the men: What time was it? What were you wearing? Even if they decide to take up the cudgels, they are dissuaded because more often than not, it is a lonely fight.
"It happened with me when I was all covered during the morning hours. There were two incidents before this reported one. We filed five FIRs, and the accused was arrested. It remains a collective fight. We raised our voices, loud and strong, and will keep doing it. We stood up for our rights, and we are fighting with all our might because we are one", she added.
The protestors marched towards the DDA Sports Complex, also in Sector 10, and the event to demand safe public spaces in Dwarka culminated with a song to celebrate the indefatigable spirit of life and living – “Tu zinda hai, tu zindagi ki jeet mein yakeen kar.”
The event ended after the organisers read out a charter of demand which included assurance that all such cases of crime against women will be handled promptly; inquiry against the traffic personals, who were first complained about the sexual harassment by a man in a car without a number plate, but refused to act; regular audit of all CCTV cameras; patrolling around the incident prone areas; prominent display of helpline numbers; and adequate street lights in Dwarka area. 

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