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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Rape, murder of IT professional in Bangalore -- Lessons

Yesterday the news spread like wild fire through phone networks, emails and TV channels. And, a shocked Bangalore -- from CEOs to some semiliterate cab drivers -- had only one subject to discuss -- the rape and murder of a newly-wed young software professional, Prathibha, by her cab driver, Shivakumar, after she was picked up for work at 2 am.

Coincidentally, tragically, on Dec 13, the day Prathibha was murdered, I wrote on sexual harassment, and why such incidents take place, and what can be done.

IT employees of Bangalore have been soft targets for some time. It started with snatching of mobile phones, cash, jewellery etc. And, now the worst has happened.

Prathibha had a cellphone (considered by many girls as an important safety device), she used to call up her husband, Pavan, before leaving office and after reaching office. When Pavan didn't hear from her, how on earth would he imagine that the worst had happened? Do we now always suspect the worst when someone doesn't pick up the cellphone? See the level of panic in this hi-tech world!

Prathibha did allow herself to get into a cab whose driver wasn't the regular one. In fact, the cab itself was a "fake pickup cab"; meaning, her regular cab with the regular driver was actually on its way. Two colleagues of hers, Archana and Latha, were lured in the same manner into the fake cab, before Prathibha was contacted. Archana was already sitting in the regular cab. Latha refused to get into the alternative cab. It was Pratibha's fate that she had to walk into this stranger's cab.

I am sure hundreds of men and women would have got into cabs which might have been arranged as the regular one wasn't available. There must also have been umpteen cases of new drivers ferrying employees. Do we now suspect that there will be something wrong, next time such a thing happens?

Every misfortune, every tragedy, however regrettable, is an opportunity to learn a few lessons.
  • Never go along with a stranger, especially at night: This point looks like the weakest link in Prathibha's case. Women employees who are picked up and dropped should be accompanied by someone (either a male colleague or a security staffer) whom she knows very well and she is willing to trust.
  • Be cautious. It's a bad world out there -- not everyone, but one is enough to mess it up. They say discretion is the better part of valour. Strange driver, strange timing, strange call "from the office"... even if there is a thin element of doubt, trust your instincts, play safe. Confirm the genuineness of the call or the person with whom you are going. In case of doubt, stay put where it is safe. May be you will be late to office, may be you will lose a day's pay for logging in late, may be you will be accused of being timid and lacking in confidence, may be you will be sacked. Even all of them put together is better than getting raped and killed.
  • Never panic. Because, then you lose your power of cool judgement, and probably make blunders.
Around May-June this year, when a number of IT professionals were being waylaid and robbed, a chain mail was doing the rounds. It contained a number of safety precautions to be taken to avoid being robbed or attacked. Of course it never spoke about the possibility to your "replacement cab driver" being a rapist and murderer, though it did say: "And for all the women, don't you ever travel alone in night, if it's really necessary... take the help of your friends or family (males)." I fished out the mail from my archives and in the interest of all, I am reproducing it below. Probably we all in our own ways -- wiser with each unfortunate event -- make improvisations to the points given below.

"What we can do to take precautions?
  • Call your home or friends or your boss if you are returning late at night.
  • Always travel in the main roads which are brightly lit.
  • Never ever give drops to strangers at night.
  • Don't stop/park your vehicle in deserted/dark roads.
  • Tell your family to get back to home before 9 pm.
  • Don't pull over your vehicle for a smoke or tea. Most of the small shops who sell cigarette, ghutka, tea in the night are surrounded by drunkards and thieves.
  • If you are travelling on a deserted road and if you spot a group of men at the end of the road, then stop your vehicle and take a different road.
  • Don't wear gold chain, ring etc especially if you know that you are returning home late in night.
  • Never underestimate anyone... in a recent murder of one Bhupati Kumar in Rammurthy Nagar by a group of 4 people, which included a 15-year-old boy!
  • Don't send you family (women) or friends (women) alone either in city taxi or auto. And for all the women, don't you ever travel alone in night, if it's really necessary... take the help of your friends or family (males).
  • Police will not give a FIR for the chain snatching and mobile+cash robbery. Police won't help you for these incidents. So, always be very very careful and always protect yourself. Please educate your family/ friends.
What to do in case of attacks?
  • Don't resist the robbers, try to save your life in the first place. You can purchase a new mobile, not your life.
  • Don't get in to any talks with them.
  • Most of the times the robbers threaten you with a knife... try to be calm.
What to do after attack?
  • Generally the victims of the robbery will lose the confidence and feel-good factor. Try to distract their minds in to some useful activities like hitting gym, yoga, gardening, playing with pets, etc.
  • Spend most of the time with family and friends.
  • Never get into depressions ( specially women).
  • Try to get the courage and confidence to fight against evil.
  • If possible take 2/3 days off from your work and go to some other city or place.
  • Crime, armed robbery, theft, burglary, murder, kidnapping, rape, acid attack are like AIDS. There is no cure for it. So, we have to be always smart enough to protect ourselves and our dependents."

5 comments:

  1. God it makes me shiver to go through your article! and yes on the same day you wrote this article and I wrote a comment saying that no matter what we do....we women are weak in one way..biologically......we simply cant do anything it seems!!!!! But what to do! If someone has any good suggestion please say it...coz' I am totally speechless today!!!!!

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  2. hey this is ridiculuous.. bangalore was the one city where sich incidents didnt happen.. but.. :-((

    i think we have laws to prevent women working in the office late hours. but these call centers bypass all those things..

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  3. Thanks for putting up this article and also for the practical, common-sense tips..

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  4. Jithu:
    I don't think stopping women from night shifts is the right way to get around the problem.

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  5. It would be worthwhile if BPO's also provide bus services rather than taxis. There are a lot more people in buses, and chances of any crime during travel.

    Then there is a problem of getting to the bus stop and getting back from the bus stop. But that can be solved if one of the family members come to pick the woman up.

    Off the topic, if you are interested in reading the Mahabharata, and do not want to spend 95/- to buy the book, then check this link -
    http://home.att.net/~gitaprasad/mahabharata.htm

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