'Govt should give women freedom to punish molesters'

“If it had been in my capacity, I would have killed him”  - this was the angry response of a young woman, when asked how she felt when brought face to face with the man who had molested her on an early-morning train on July 27. At the police station, Sunita Gore (name changed) had the chance to mete out her own kind of justice to her assailant - and they came in the form of a tirade of angry, resounding slaps across the man’s face.

Gore says she felt a burning anger rise within her when she first laid eyes on Devraj Hanumant Kanapa at the police station, after he was nabbed. The man had brutally molested Gore in a local train that was moving between Mahalaxmi and Lower Parel stations at dawn on July 27, when she was on her way to Matunga Road for the day’s work.

When the 24-year-old woman confronted her attacker, all the rage came flooding back, and the slaps fell thick and fast on the man’s cheek, and continued even as he pleaded with her. A video obtained by MiD DAY shows the woman’s fury as she meets the molester – a fury that perhaps symbolises the collective outrage felt by women in a country where their safety is always at stake.

Video grabs obtained by MiD DAY show the molestation survivor repeatedly slapping the accused across his face at the police station

Speaking about the incident almost a month-and-a-half later, Gore had some advice for the government: “The state should give women the freedom to punish such culprits. The law should be made strict, or else the number of such crimes will not decrease. It was very scary when I saw this man jumping onto the moving train at Mahalaxmi. He then sat in front of me and made lewd gestures,” she said.

Kanap allegedly asked her to sit next to him. “I told him to stay away, threatening to call the police. That is when he attacked me, causing me to fall down near the door. I tried to move, but he bit me and tried to tear my clothes off. I started bleeding badly. He tried to push me off the train. It was a nightmare,” she recalled.

Speaking to MiD DAY, Gore said that she had been afraid for some days after the incident, but later decided to fight the perpetrators of such crimes that cause others emotional and psychological duress. “My office timings are still the same and I have to take the same train almost every day. The only thing that has changed is that now my parents accompany me to my workplace, and I can see the railway police inside the compartments,” said Gore, who is a resident of Mahalaxmi.

Attack at dawn
The incident took place within a month of Gore’s foray into the professional world – she had joined a hospital in Mahim on July 15, and was on her way to her morning shift. She boarded her regular train 5.41 am Borivali-bound slow train from Mahalaxmi station. As soon as she got into the compartment, Kanapa entered, having noticed that she was the lone passenger in the compartment. An aggressive assault followed.

He passed vulgar comments, pulled her towards him. When she tried to push him off, the man allegedly bit her and tried to push her out of the train. Realising that the platform of Lower Parel station was approaching, she started screaming desperately for help. “I cried for help as soon as I saw the platform. Within moments, passengers gathered and took the man into custody,” she said.

The passengers then handed the man over to the Mumbai Central railway police. “It is very sad that most women don’t come forward to fight such incidents. There are only a few like the recent gang rape survivor who fight against the culprits. The government should support us and punish such persons severely. Seeing them, others will think twice before committing such crimes,” said Gore.

She admitted that she is ill-at-ease about boarding the train on which she was attacked so brazenly. “I am not scared but somehow I don’t like to board the same 5.41 am train. My mother or father drop me till Matunga station. Also, now I can see some policemen in the compartments, but I know they will disappear in a few months,” added Gore, adding, “Why cant the policemen protect our coaches before such incidents take place. Why do they appear only after the incident takes place?”

The accused has been charged under section 354 (molestation), 323 (assault) and 307 (attempt to murder). Bansidhar Shirsat, deputy commissioner of police (GRP), said, “The accused is in Arthur Road jail. We have tightened security in female coaches.” 

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