When Samajwadi Party chief chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had opposed capital punishment for rape and said last year that “boys make mistakes, why hang them?”, his comments had sparked national outrage. The Railway Police Force in Mumbai, however, seems to have gone one step further and decided that the best way to react to a molestation is to do nothing and, in fact, accuse the complainant of lying.
What makes the RPF’s attitude even more shocking is that the alleged molestation was carried out by a group of 12 to 14-year-olds who managed to go scot-free and may go on to target other women as they grow older and their victim was a foreigner. Walking in the SP chief’s footsteps, the RPF personnel asked a man who had witnessed the incident to let it go, since “children” were involved.
The incident took place at Ghatkopar station on Sunday and while the victim was seemingly too shook-up to file a complaint, the molestation was witnessed by a 27-year-old man travelling in the same compartment as the kids. When he approached the RPF to complain, he was asked to mind his own business since the woman had not complained, and when he insisted on action being taken, he was accused by a female constable, no less of lying.
The incident took place on platform no 4 of Ghatkopar station, when the 6.21 pm CST-bound fast train was about to leave. As the foreigner alighted from the ladies’ compartment of the train and was walking towards the exit, four to five boys, standing at the door of the compartment right next to hers, targeted the woman.
“All the boys seemed young and must have been 12-14 years old. The woman was walking at arm’s length from the train and when it just began moving, two of the teenagers pulled her t-shirt. Emboldened by this act, one of their friends groped her.
The foreigner seemed to be in a state of shock and before she or the other women walking with her could do anything, the train had already gathered speed,” Shailesh Kuckyan, who was standing just two doors behind the group of boys, told mid-day.
Kuckyan, a Parel resident who is studying hotel management, immediately tried contacting the railway helpline numbers (1275 and 9833331111) to register a complaint and request the authorities to nab the youngsters at Kurla, the next stop for the fast train. However, both the numbers were unavailable despite repeated attempts. Determined to ensure that justice was done, Kuckyan got off at Kurla and approached the RPF authorities at the chowkie there.
“I saw that the group was still in the compartment and I wanted to ask the RPF personnel to inform the police at the next stop, which was Dadar, to catch hold of them. To my surprise, I was asked to shut up and mind my own business, because no formal complaint was registered by the woman who had been molested,” he said.
‘Let it go’
Instead of guiding Kuckyan to the Government Railway Police, who could have registered a complaint in the matter, RPF authorities allegedly asked Kuckyan to let the incident go “since children were involved”. When Kuckyan insisted that the miscreants should be caught, the RPF personnel said they would inform their counterparts at Dadar.
However, when Kuckyan reached Dadar and checked with the personnel at the RPF chowkie there, they said they hadn’t received any information. “I was surprised when a woman constable who was in charge at Dadar, doubted me and accused me of lying.
When I asked them to get the CCTV footage of the platform and check for themselves, they asked me to go to Byculla and check. That’s when I realised there was no point in running around when they were simply not interested in taking any action,” said Kuckyan.
Meanwhile, the alleged victim apparently saw no point in complaining either. No complaint was registered at Kurla railway police station, under whose jurisdiction the Ghatkopar station falls.
The police constable at Kurla station confirmed that they hadn’t been approached for any complaint of molestation and had received no information about any such incident taking place.
The other side
When mid-day spoke to Alok Bohra, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner (RPF Mumbai), Central Railway, he said that such matters cannot be ignored or taken lightly and strict action will be taken against the personnel if they were found to have not acted on Kuckyan’s complaint.
“Women’s safety is of utmost importance to us. We will definitely check the CCTV footage and work in tandem with the GRP to investigate the matter. Based on the evidence, strict action will be taken against those who are found guilty and also the RPF personnel who chose not to act on the complaint.
There is no way that we are going to take this lightly,” said Bohra. GRP Commissioner Dr Ravindra Singal said that the RPF should’ve directed the eyewitness to GRP authorities, who could have investigated the incident. “Some miscommunication certainly took place and delayed the action.
In this particular case, if the eyewitness comes to us and is ready to cooperate, GRP can file a case and investigate the matter,” said Singal. He added that generally both the railway police departments work in tandem, but this was a singular incident where a communication gap was reported.
Chief Security Commissioner (RPF) A K Singh said that no such incident had been recorded in the CCTV cameras at Ghatkopar station. The footage was checked when mid-day informed the office about the incident. “The cameras haven’t recorded the incident mentioned by you at Ghatkopar station,” said Singh.