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A woman and her friend called the police following a harrowing cab ride. After mocking them for the call, they still haven’t done anything!
On January 25, 2020, a seemingly calm Uber ride to Howrah station suddenly turned violent. On reaching the station, the driver refused to stop at the location where I usually get down. He’d been behaving suspiciously since the moment my co-passenger and I got inside the cab.
Despite repeatedly telling him and yelling at him that we need to get down, he said he wouldn’t let us. So I instructed my co-passenger to call for help. The Uber app has an SOS option that connects to India’s emergency number- 100 and puts you in touch with the nearest police call centre.
I heard my co-passenger give details of our situation to the person on the other end who had answered the call. After hanging up, my co-passenger told me that the person on the other end had laughed and said something on the lines of, “Toh ismein hum kya kar saktein hai?” (So what is it that we can do about it) before hanging up. I was furious.
By this point, the driver probably sensed that we had called 100 and finally stopped. And before getting out of the car, I told the driver that I was reporting him and took pictures of the car at the drop location just for proof.
Once we got out of the cab, I asked my co-passenger to call 100 again. This time I made it a point to listen to the conversation. The person on the line was clueless since he was not comfortable in English and my co-passenger didn’t know Bengali and spoke in English. We were told to report the driver to Uber instead. My co-passenger told the person that we would do that however, we also needed their help. At that, the ill-prepared man arrogantly asked us, what we wanted from him!
After this, we were connected to the Traffic Police Department and after listening to our problem, he took down the car’s number and all the other details. Once the call was over, my co-passenger said, “I don’t expect anything to come out of this.”
“I don’t expect anything to come out of this,” this was the exact thing I heard from my family, after I recounted the incident. All I wanted to do was to take some action, but I was unsure how to.
We are conditioned to accept police corruption and their general ineffectiveness. The mere mention of a police complaint makes people faint, they don’t want to get involved in the police business and here I was- determined to lodge a complaint against the police to the police!
By this point, my co-passenger didn’t want to get involved in this, presumably out of fear. Somehow the whole idea of lodging a complaint makes people shudder. Or probably think that some dirt may land on their shiny clean CV.
At the same time, people would also rush to defend the police to deter me from lodging any complaints. They would point out that in the second call, the police DID take down the details of the cab driver. Based on this, how could they be as bad as I was making them out to be?
Well, had I been murdered by the cab driver, there would have been no second call, would there? People agreed that what happened was wrong, but no one supported me in my plan to lodge a complaint. My family and friends told me that if I went ahead with my plan, I needed to be prepared to be harassed by the police.
They probably would ask me what I was doing outside at ‘that time of the evening.’ Or maybe they’d asked me if I’d dressed a certain way to excite the drive. They probably would have even asked me what I was ‘doing’ with a man at that point of time and may have branded me a ‘loose woman’ who tried to accuse an innocent cab driver and call centre employee.
So, I took to Twitter and bashed the police, demanding accountability. The first day after the Twitter bash, the Traffic Police instructed me to DM the details of the call- the time, the place and the vehicle number. On the second day, they said that the matter was forwarded to the Howrah Police. This message was sent on January 26th.
When this post was written, it was January 30th and I received no further update from the police. I was persistent and kept up my demand for accountability via Twitter. In a similar vein as the call centre employee, the Traffic Police replied saying, “It seems you have not seen our reply. Sending you a screenshot of the reply.” and attached the reply they’d sent on January 26th.
This right here, is the state of India- where a call to the emergency number led to an ill-prepared police personnel who laughed at hearing our issue. Where in an emergency, instead of offering a solution, they hang up after asking you to report the issue to Uber.
What if I were alone in the cab that evening? Or if the driver hadn’t stopped the car? What if he had shoved me out the moving car? There are a number of possibilities.
What service are our police other than firing at unarmed students and helping goons escape after beating up students? Are they even useful as they stand still while a guy brandishes a pistol?
As an ordinary woman, what is my recourse to address police corruption and ineffectiveness in our country? Would such policemen as usual evade the punitive measures?
Picture credits: Screenshot from Netflix series Delhi Crime.
A version of this was earlier published here.
Research scholar with a passion for writing, music, art, cinema and animation.
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