People who know me, know that I travel a lot and especially in India I have tried to explore all corners and still there is a lot to be seen. Among one of those travel journey I have a distinct memory of an incident which is a common reality until you get to face it yourself.
Pardon my lack of providing the accurate details of the train number etc, but that’s not really relevant here. The story is. If people want the accurate details, I can look into my archives etc and try to dig the train number and date.
It was a train from Delhi to Kolkata(Howrah). I was supposed to travel to and get off at the Dhanbad station and head off to my home town from there. Late night sleeping in the 3AC compartment, suddenly I hear loud noise made by a woman speaking in some strange language as if she was shouting as someone. I was half asleep and it was difficult for me to figure out what language it was. The noise went on and on and I kept ignoring it, since I was not able to understand it clearly in my half asleep state. Then suddenly I hear the words in Hindi which said “Sharam nahi aati akeli ladki ke saath raat mein badtamizee karte ho” [Aren't you ashamed of misbehaving with a lonely girl late night]. Next reflex action was get up and stand on two feet and try to figure out where the noise was coming from. It was in the next to next coop. A 24(approx.) year girl speaking in Bengali accent at the man who has pleading eyes with his hands folded asking the girl to calm down. He was apologizing.
I went up and asked the girl what the matter was, and she told me that his friend was trying to misbehave and has been touching her from the past couple of hours while she was asleep. And I look at the man who was pleading saying, “There is no such matter, I apologize don’t create an issue.” Meanwhile, I saw a man sneaking inside the bathroom. I figured something was fishy. By that time I was joined by two more male members from the train who were almost my age.
I asked one of them to go look for that man, while we were still trying to understand the whole story. The person who went looking couldn’t find anyone and I had to actually go and take the guy out of the bathroom and bring him to the spot for a “word” with everyone. I could smell the alcohol in his breathe and his eyes told me he was drunk.
The lady said, that this was the guy who has been trying to touch her since the past few hours. We did what anyone would do, we asked him to sit properly with respect and started to talk to him. After a little altercation it was clear that he did something wrong and we had to call the police. By then he was already threatening us with his contacts and said he was from the press or something. We ignored. Then he said “Tum jaante nahi main kahaan se hoon?“[Don't you know where I am from?]
Anyways, the main part of the story is, after all the drama when the TTE [Traveling Ticket Examiner] arrived and at a station in UP, we told him the matter and then moments later we were accompanied by the whole TTE gang. Apparently they called the head of TTEs and they were tried to understand the matter. When we were holding the culprit and he was misbehaving, we tried to shut him and to our surprise the TTE threatened us saying “Why are you threatening to beat him(the culprit)? And who the hell are you to take matter in to your hands? Do you want to come along with us and I shall file a case against you too?” It was weird but we just shut up and let things go as they were.
After a while the group of TTEs told the girl that to file a formal complaint she needs to get off the train along with whoever is willing to act as a witness. This meant, we had to leave our train and be stranded in the middle of the night somewhere. We said, that’s not really possible and there should be a way to file a complain without much hassle. They said no. One thing to note here is that the girl was travelling on a Tatkal ticket on a family emergency, where she had to attend her father’s surgery. And there was no way she can delay her journey. She explained this to the TTE while we also said that there should be an easy way.
Time passed by and the train left the station and was running again. Moments later the gang of TTEs and some police constables(total 4-6 people) of the train arrived to our seats and were trying to convince the girl to not file the complaint as it will be unnecessary hassle for her and she’d need to get off the train and file a formal complaint at the next train station OR at the terminating station which was Howrah. But in both cases, she needs some witness to accompany her. While none of us, the witnesses were travelling till Howrah. They also assured that they will take care of the guy and take him away with him somewhere else and he’d not be a problem anymore during the journey.
We didn’t know what to do and I also tweeted at that time to understand if it was really not possible to file a complaint in a running train? What is the RPF[Railway Police Force] for? What the process is etc?
For a moment, we thought we made a huge mistake in contacting the authorities in question here. We just assured the girl that she is safe and can sleep peacefully. Because obviously she kept pleading to the officers that she can’t go to the Police station now or at the terminating station, since she has to be with her father the moment she reaches her destination Howrah.
The TTEs and Police left after giving me and others a lecture on how not to get in trouble with such matters. Long “chakkars”[rounds] of police station and court after that and all that crap.
They took the culprit elsewhere away from this compartment while his friend sat there. Constantly apologizing to us saying that his friend was too drunk and he regrets having agreed to travel with him on this night and cursing himself constantly. Although he smelled alcohol too.
There are few things to note here and I would like to have answers too from anyone who can:
- What’s the process of filing a complain in a running train?
- Can the TTE and RPF deny having to take in a formal complaint from a woman? Especially when she is travelling alone?
- Is it really necessary that the victim get off the train and go to the police station at the next railway station during the journey to file the complain? Also are witnesses required to accompany the victim too?
- And most importantly, what will it take for the “authorities” to stop “advising” the victims from “not filing a complain at all” and they try all methods and convincing strategies to ensure that most of the time.
We know we have seen this behavior from the authorities everywhere and it’s so common. There has to be a solution to this. For now, I just hope and wish the girl reached home safely and her father’s surgery was successful.