SRINAGAR: Women commuters in Kashmir have begun to break their silence about facing harassment in public transport. Women both young and old have been suffering silently due to the menace of ‘Toucherism’, wherein a person derives sexual pleasure from touching or rubbing or even pushing another person preferably from opposite gender.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for women particularly college going girls to travel through public transport as the fear of someone trying to touch or rub himself against their body always exists. Women face it almost every day. But nobody dares to speak. The overcrowded buses are becoming a safe haven for predators to harass women. Every woman, travelling in buses, has a story to narrate.
Farah Hameed, a college going student narrates her experiences with Kashmir Reader.
At 9.00 am almost every day, Farah waits for a bus near Iqbal Park. A man of around 40 years boards the same bus. At first, the young girl took it for a coincidence. “He would sit next to me and initiate the talk. He would ask questions about my studies, family and other things despite my reluctance”, says Farah.
For a week, Farah says the man continued stalking her. She did not inform her family fearing imposition of restrictions by parents. However the situation turned bad for Farah, when on a wintry morning, the stalker put his hand on her thigh. “I was feeling uncomfortable. The bus was overloaded and nobody noticed what he was doing. I tried to push his hand away but he did not relent.”
This incident scared Farah so much that she stopped boarding the bus. “Instead I go to my college on foot now because there is not much distance between my home and college,” says Farah.
Farah is not alone who is facing sexual harassment in public transport. Kashmir has about 3 lakh public vehicles and in almost every vehicle girls are harassed every day. Stigma attached with the issue doesn’t let the girls to report these cases either to their families or to the police. The issue is so unreported that no case of molestation in buses has ever been reported to police.
Station Police Officer at Women’s Police Station Gulshan Akhtar said, “Girls don’t report the cases of harassment, so it remains under the cover. Once they will report it to us, we will certainly act.”
College and university going girls find overcrowding in buses an opportunity for men to indulge in Toucherism.
Amreen Bhat, a post graduate student says that she has been molested many times while travelling. On one occasion she had to ask the conductor to stop the bus and alight when a man tried to take advantage of the overloading and molest her. “This man standing behind me pushed inappropriately forcing me to alight the bus,” she claims.
It’s not only the young girls who are facing sexual harassment in buses. House makers and working women too face the same.
Senior Superintendent of Police, Traffic Maqsood-ul-Zaman says, “We do check overcrowding in buses. Wherever we find an overcrowded bus, we challan the driver. But we cannot keep track of every bus. There are 3 lakh buses in Kashmir, so it’s humanly not possible.”