Mar 262011

An abridged version –  of this appeared The DNA on Thursday … ( i abridged it, i really need to learn to express ideas in fewer words) 🙂

Way back in the mid 1970’s, my parents were posted in New Delhi. I was in the first standard – and the only thing that I can remember is not being allowed to go out to play. Bad Man will come, my parents would say, and that was enough to get me to stay indoors. This was the time when the Billa and Ranga case had horrified the city. Two thugs had kidnapped two children and murdered them. Even in an era before the mass media, the fear that went through the neighbourhood was palpable. We were taken to school by an army of mothers, and brought back by another army. And then, my Father was transferred to Mumbai and, I played till I was ready to drop. The one thing about Mumbai that has always been there – right from the time I was a child till now – is that sense of physical security. I have taken rickshaws in the middle of the night from office or the studio to my home; I have driven home in the wee hours of the morning, been stuck all night in rains outside– and it has never, ever felt unsafe.


Many years later, as a professional, when I visited Delhi on work – my ears ringing with ‘be safe’, ‘get picked up and dropped back’, ‘Delhi is not a safe city’ – there was that sense of being on guard. How much of it came from all the advice that I received, and how much from a sixth sense – most women tend to know when they are not ‘safe’ – I do not know. I enjoyed my visits to Delhi, admired its beauty, appreciated its hospitality – but returned back to the hotel before dark. I never ventured out on my own anywhere. And returned to Mumbai where I could do all that and more.


I have travelled through large tracts of India. Travelled by ST buses, stayed in villages, shot in remote areas – but have never felt insecure about my safety. But Delhi has always made me feel unsafe. Given the headlines that we have all been reading in the last few years – about assault, rape and murder in India’s capital – it is hardly surprising. No female seems to be safe. Pre-pubescent girls, teenagers, students, housewives, grandmothers, working professionals – Delhi seems to be equal in making everyone a target. If any other minority – and let’s face it women are a minority in India and particularly in North India – were targeted the way women were, the hue and cry would stall the system.


So what is it about the region that makes it so unsafe for women?


Mr. P.Chidambaram indicated it could be the high level of immigration – but Mumbai has a large population of immigrants too. Mrs. Dixit indicated it could be because women were out at night – travel by local train post 10 pm in Mumbai and you would see women out late. KPS Gill suggested that it is because women wear ‘provocative clothes’ – whatever that means. All these go to put the onus of the blame on the woman. Of course, after a rape or a murder there is baying of blood holding the Government and the Police responsible Even if the accused are caught and sent into the legal labyrinth its’ too late for the victim.  But, is there something else, I wonder, that makes Delhi so unsafe for women.


For me, the first and most important reason is bad parenting of the male child. Parents bring up their sons as though they were reincarnations of God. Utterly spoilt, not knowing that the word “No” exists, not doing an iota of work within the house, and not brought up to respect either their sisters or their mothers, they grow up parroting their childhood behaviour. Touching someone’s feet or getting a rakhi tied is not the only symbol of respect. Respect comes form every day actions. So, if Delhi and the rest of India has to be more equal towards the female, that behavioural change begins with the way the child is brought up. Values, Culture, Tradition is all very good – but there has to be a clear emphasis on the difference between right and wrong. And, this cannot be done by the State. It is the job of the family – and the famous Indian family system and family values has failed in this regard.


The second is societal. Ever heard the terms “has gayi to phas gayi’ or“ladki ghar ki izzat hai”  – both end up assuming things on behalf of the woman. The first assumes that no means yes, and the second assumes that a woman only has those rights that conform with the family honour.  Both sets of behaviour have been sanctified by mass media and upheld by patriarchs with vote banks at their disposal.  In the name of tradition and culture – women’s rights have been trampled on. From the mass genocide – let’s call it what it is – of females across India in general, and the north of India in particular, to dowry; from feudal behaviour – a woman who leaves the home is fair game – to harassment it has all been excused in the name of tradition. If this is indeed our tradition it needs to change. Maybe this is where religious organisations can help. Give the girl child the right to perform last rites; the right to carry on the family name. Maybe there can be religious strictures against families that don’t treat their daughters well. As a people we are all right with the idea of committing crimes. We are not all right with the idea of sin.


The third reason is Governance – both local and state. The first thing that struck me when I visited Delhi was how dark the city was compared to Mumbai. The bulk of the light in the suburbs came from shops and little lanterns that street traders had. I live and work in the suburbs of Mumbai – use by lanes and shortcuts to reach destinations. All are usually brightly lit. The only time I have seen such darkness in Mumbai is when a power girder trips somewhere. Working streetlights go such a long way to reducing the sense of physical insecurity. Is there a correlation between 70% of streetlights in Delhi not working and the level of violence ordinary citizens in general, and women in particular have to face? I don’t know – but one solution could be to fix the streetlights.  Then, comes policing – there is visible police presence in Mumbai – albeit traffic police. Somehow uniformed presence increases the feeling of security. Apart from the odd incident or two – Mumbai Police are fairly helpful to citizens at large. More importantly, my guess is that their presence prevents crime. They actually don’t have to do too much but stand there in uniform.


At the final level, there is the Judicial system – cases of violence against women need to be fast tracked. Be it dowry, foeticide, or rape. On paper they are, in reality they aren’t. Why aren’t parents being arrested for murder of their unborn child? Why is society quiet when rapists are let off after agreeing to marry the girl or paying blood money of Rs.50,000/- . And, finally instead of introducing the Death Penalty for rape & murder of women –as Mrs.Sushma Swaraj seems to suggest, the system should look, instead at chemical castration. In a society that values masculinity and maleness – maybe that is the most effective deterrent.


The  article is here :

  6 Responses to “Parent Trap – is Delhi unsafe because of family and society ?”

  1. […] Parent Trap – is Delhi unsafe because of family and society ? 19 minutes […]

  2. […] in itself, but a response to a Parent Trap – is Delhi unsafe because of family and society ? blog of my twitter friend Ms. Harini Calamur, Film Maker, Marath Film Producer (Jhing Chik […]

  3. Ma’m,
    With all due respect.Problem is always with the system not the people.You make it out to be a men vs women thing which it is not.The compartmentalisation of gender interaction starts from school itself.Different places for girls and boys to sit.Different lines in assembly etc. Also there should be gender sensitization education in school/college itself because men carry many false half-baked concepts about women due to this repressive system. I mean even in dowry cases,it is mother-in-law + sister-in-law most often hand in glove in persecuting the daughter-in-law etc.As an interim solution,easily learn-able martial arts like Krag Magva shd be compulsorily taught to girls in school&deprive boys of the same..Also village defence committee type organization formed like RSS shakha should be formed..whereby girls with sticks will patrol isolated spots and known eve-teasing locations which are many.This will bring a sea change in attitudes of men& their feeling of impunity.But this is an interim measure,a healthy school level “normal” close interaction with opposite gender should be facilitated so that, there is a healthy understanding about each other.This will also boost confidence level of women in general&facilitate communication skills in relationships which is at core of dysfunction in families.Last but not the least,single gender college institutions must be forced to make it open for both genders.

  4. It seems to me, (from my experience and after reading this post) that is harder and harder to live. The ones that we elected are not helping. The laws are made only to bother us and so on. 🙁

  5. […] blog, is not an article in itself, but a response to a Parent Trap – is Delhi unsafe because of family and society ?  blog of my twitter friend Ms. Harini Calamur, Film Maker, Marath Film Producer (Jhing Chik […]

  6. One of the basic reason for Delhi being unsafe is that it’s surrounded by Haryana from 3 sides and UP by one side and believe me majority of them have a sick attitude not only towards women but against civic sense as well. And I am saying that despite being born and brought up in a small town of Haryana. People of Haryana by and large and irrespective of their cast and socio-economic status, are rude, lawless, with poor civic sense, pass lewd remarks, looks women as an consumable object, finds it their birth right to abuse people for no reason, getting into fights without no reason ans so on and so forth. You travel in a Haryana roadways bus and see how their conductors and drivers talk. Go to any administrative office and see how sensitized the officials & employees are. Just come across group of students and see how unruly they are. And police…i have no word to appreciate them. And now this un-civic sense has become a permanent fixture of Haryanvi society and also the western UP belts like Merrut and Muzzaffarnagar. Now coming on how does it relate to law and order issue in Delhi. Majority of the people who are in the business of say transport are Haryanvis or UPites; specally from western UP. They have a close nexus with the police and other law enforcement agencies. And as a matter of fact most of the lower rank delhi policemen have their roots from Haryana & UP. And that is the reason that we see such horrific crimes in the city of Delhi. The minds of these people have gone corrupt and they require electric shocks. Now the thing is that there is no overnight remedy and we cannot expect that any movement will bring about any change in their mindset. As there is a saying in Hindi “Laat ke bhoot baat se nahi mante”. What we need is police presence in plain clothes all over to check the nuisance created by these unruly people. Even small violators should be arrested, booked, jailed and their faces should be blackened in public. This will create a fear in their mind and they will think 10 times before creating rucks with public. And why I am saying that it’s necessary to check these small things is that because these we take these small things for granted with “Chalta Hai” attitude and then this become a permanent state of mind when goes unchecked and later encourage them to get involved in bigger crimes. Let the police give right not only to challan but to arrest people who A) use foul language at public places, B) intimidate people without no reason, C) pass lewd remarks at public places, D) drivers & conductors who behave unruly, E) policemen who insult common people without any reason, F) start a helpline where people could report unruly behavior. My suggestion may look very naive but just think over them….as they say you need to take baby steps to succeed in life and the opposite is also true…no one becomes Dawood Ibrahim overnight…it also starts from petty things….so check this petty stuff…crate a fear in the mind of unruly and lawless people.

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