Task for Delhi Police

Recently, the Young Paite Association, Delhi, organised a workshop on security, safety and the problems faced by people of the North-east in the capital. Problems like harassment by landlords/ houseowners, non-payment of salary by employers and insecurity while travelling in public transport/ metros were raised and discussed.
 In Delhi, when someone from the North-east rents a room or a flat, he/she is not given any formal written agreement. Those securing jobs have no formal appointment letters. Auto-drivers are unwilling to go by the meter but after the 16 December gangrape case they appear to have mellowed somewhat.  While travelling in buses, commuters from the North-east often become the objects of derision. They are mentally prepared to face the capital’s hard life.
Over the years there have been numerous cases of assault on North-easterners. Some serious ones being the Daula Kuan case of 2005 (a Mizo student was gangraped), the Munirka case of 2009 (a Manipuri teenager was allegedly raped and murdered), the Moti Bagh case of 2010 ( a North-east woman BPO employee was gangraped). In May this year, a Manipuri girl was allegedly raped and murdered in Chirag Dilli. Last year, a 21-year-old Khasi girl student of Amity University, Gurgaon, committed suicide after she was “caught” with a mobile phone while sitting for an examination.
After the Chirag Dilli incident,  an exclusive Delhi police team for the North-east was set up under Joint Commissioner (Training) Robin Hibu. Meetings between the Delhi Police cell and North-east representatives are being held regularly. At a recent police-public interface, the Joint Commissioner spoke about “zero tolerance” of crimes against women. He said help was available 24x7 through emergency lines and asked the North-east residents to make use of it whenever they were in need.
The Delhi Police for the North-east are also making efforts to coordinate with different NGOs and community leaders to help those working girls whenever they are in trouble. They are being trained in self-defence. Admitting that people from the North-east were often treated with an “attitude” in mainland India, the Joint Commissioner said a “cosmopolitan police” with the recruitment of several North-east youths into the police department, was a step in the right direction and it would go a long way in changing the “mindset”‘ of the Delhi Police.
When cases of sexual harassment or physical attack are reported, these are attended to, but problems with landlords and employers and security for women working till late hours, are beyond their ambit.
For most North-east youths coming to the city, particularly with an average academic education and  beginners (with no work experience), there is no alternative but to grab whatever comes their way. They are mostly in the hospitality, service and BPO sectors. There is no “appointment or an agreement” per se. Many such private companies and hospitality service centres are not even legally registered.
In the case of renting rooms or a house, almost all affordable accommodation in local colonies in Delhi are “illegal buildings”, with no “dealers” or  property broker system and no security or advance deposit. Any plan for eviction from such illegal buildings in Delhi can never take off. Somehow, perhaps, this suits the North-east youths as well, given their economic and living conditions. Therefore, a North-easterner possesses no resident, ration  or voter’s card.
Though the problems are varied and interconnected, debates, discussions on security and safety over-shadow these unreported concerns. And in any matter the police are considered a means to an end in providing security as well as solving problems. There is no denying that the security forces and the police as state institutions are the first and the last to oversee such security and safety. A  working women hostel for North-east women was set up at Jasola in east Delhi but it received no applications. Even after it was made a North-east students’ hostel, there have been no takers!
It can be said that most problems that North-east communities face, reported or unreported, have, in the true sense, a lot to do with local environment. And in any given society, as much as it breeds the bad and the ugly, there are good people as well.  Here the role of the “local aunties” cannot be underestimated. Sensitising them and involving them will make the work of the police and civil society much easier.
The Delhi Police mentions holding meetings with the Resident Welfare Associations, but how seriously their decisions are acted upon remains to be seen. An interface, a dialogue and interactions involving the North-east people, local residents and the police will go a long way in solving many, if not all the problems.

The Statesman ( NE page)  September 23, 2013

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