JAVEID HASSAN MALIK
This year’s Time Magazine person of year went to silence breakers; it was the moment of euphoria, joy and ecstasy for all those women who went public to re-count their horror tales of suffering sexual harassment at work places. It all started with the hashtag of #me-too on social networking sites and, within no time, it spread like wildfire and became a global campaign plus platform for victims of sexual harassment to narrate what they couldn’t dare to do in public. Many Hollywood actresses exposed its underbelly.
On 10th December, Kashmiri born Bollywood actress Zaira Waseem became a new addition to this already growing list of silence breakers, when she came on her social networking site to narrate her horror tale of being molested by a human monster while on board an air flight to Mumbai from Delhi in Vistara airlines. Zaira posted her video on her Instagram account in which she was seen weeping; it was disheartening to see her break down like a child. She is the same Zaira who made it to headlines at such a young age for being called Dangal girl which literally means wrestling girl. Many would have loved to see Zaira translate the Dangal movie stunts into action by punching her molester rather than recording the saga on phone. But, she did what all celebrities do: come on a social networking site and seek sympathizers; politicians’ rhetorical tweets follow and, finally it becomes a topic to debate for prime-time news hour and the real matter is left to die on its own head. This again shows how real life is different from filmi life; plus Bollywood showbiz isn’t a bed of roses anymore. Whatever TV and films depict can’t be replicated in real life experiences.
Our Kashmir, once known as the “valley of saints”, is no longer safe from these womanizers and these sorts of incidents that happened with Zaira Waseem are routine and often remain unnoticed. Our sisters often tend to maintain silence on these sensitive issues rather than speaking their heart out. Our public transport has become a rendezvous for these sorts of malicious activities. Ask any of your sisters or mothers who prefer to travel by public transport, they will complain of being harassed in a bus. There are no rules and regulations regarding management of public transport; buses which are meant to ferry thirty passengers carries sixty; there is no space for breathing. Young, old, children are packed like pickles irrespective of gender and age only to be cramped for oxygen and space. Some are seen even hanging like mangoes on exit windows. Amid such crowding, our conductor brother manages to collect fares of passengers by doing unwanted pushing, pulling to make space for himself without caring about women’s modesty, chastity and honour.
This is a lesson for our powers that be in the Zaira saga: if aero planes can’t be safe ride for women of such a status , how can they expect buses and trains which ferry common people to be safe? Mehbooba Mufti, who often quotes herself to be a mother of two daughters and even doesn’t hesitate to disclose how she too had to go through harassment while she was a student in university, needs to do more in this matter. Now , the time has come to run women’s only bus stands in every district so that we don’t need think twice in allowing our mothers and sisters to go alone to colleges and work places. If they can’t do it, at least , they can reserve few seats for women unfortunately but it all seems have been confined to paper; nothing seems to be working in practice
Our sisters are compelled to travel in overloaded public transport as there is no other viable alternative. Also, there is no clue of public transport after 5pm on our roads ; thus, our sisters are left at the mercy of strangers to help them reach their homes. Many hesitate in giving lift to strangers they fear for their own safety and security. The Zaira incident should have opened the eyes of powers that be. There are many victims like Zaira who need voice and support to motivate them to come out of traumas inflicted by predators.
—The author is a Master’s in Chemistry. He is also NET/SLET and can be reached at: [email protected]