Joining the nationwide protests against the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old paramedic in Delhi, who is currently fighting for her life, hordes of students in Vizag have taken to the streets to protest against the heinous crime and demand speedy justice. One group carried placards that read — ‘We want capital punishment for rapists’, ‘Don’t teach us how to dress, teach men how to behave’, while another group shouted slogans demanding that the government speed up the punishment process of the rapists with placards like — ‘It’s not to protest, but to wake the government to pass a law’.
Protests on the rise
In the last couple of days, the City of Destiny has witnessed around three to four separate protests by students from various colleges and some more are in the pipeline. The Sunday morning protest saw close to 400-500 students from four colleges venting their anger. Asfiya, one of the protesters from Bullaya college, says, “The whole incident was so gruesome. The victim is battling for her life. Those rapists should be hanged.” Many like Asfiya feel that these protests should be a wakeup call to the government that is not speeding up the trial. Manisha, another protester, says that instead of women being told how to dress, men need to be told how to behave themselves. “Why should a woman’s freedom be restricted because of her gender? She should be able to walk on the roads even at midnight,” says a visibly angry Manisha.
Vinay, a student from Pydah Degree College, says, “I have attended two rallies in the last two days, protesting against the horrific rape and demanding speedy punishment for the rapists. We waited for four years for Kasab’s death sentence… justice in this country needs to be dispensed at a quicker pace.”
Demand for self-defence classes
Apart from rallies seeking justice for the rape victim, many girl students in the city are out tospread the word that self-defence classes are a must for every girl. Students of Gaythri Vidhya Parishad recently participated in a rally to advocate the need for women to learn how to protect themselves. One of the agitators, Maria Khan from St Joseph’s College, says, “With the increase in number of physical assaults on women, it is essential that we get some training to protect ourselves from murderers, rapists and others. We are requesting the authorities to include this in the curriculum.” Women employees at various call centers in the city are a worried lot too, as most of them happen to travel back home at odd hours. Sujatha, a BPO employee, says, “I have been working late night shifts for the last one year, but with the recent barbaric incident that took place in Delhi, I’m scared to even come home at nights. I think learning martial arts or some kind of defence technique will help me overcome my fear.”
What the police say
According to a senior police official, about 48 rape cases have been recorded in Vizag from April to December 2012. Talking about the safety measures women can take, circle inspector Lakshmana Murthy says, “Women should have police inspectors’ numbers stored as their mobile speed dials. If they are cornered, they should keep Taser (stun) guns with them. If they do not have them, they can still use pepper sprays or deo sprays. Travelling alone at night is not advisable, but if they have to, it is best if they travel in a group. Learning the basics of karate or boxing to target ‘vulnerable’ spots often helps.”