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GRP's burqa-clad squad nabs women thieves from Mumbai locals

The nine-woman GRP team has been travelling regularly in the ladies’ coach on local trains, following on-record criminals and catching them while they attempt to snatch a bag or a chain from an unsuspecting commuter

The Government Railway Police (GRP) has unleashed a special squad of women officers to tackle the problem of thefts and robberies in ladies’ bogies on the suburban local trains. The squad, disguised as regular commuters, follow on-record criminals to catch them in the act, and hand them over to the police.

(Clockwise from left) Five criminals Nisha Shigvan, Shabnam Shaikh, Sunita Masane, Yamuna Pawar and Yasmin Pasha Shaikh — all of whom have a past criminal record, were nabbed by the Nirbhaya Squad in the months of May and June
(Clockwise from left) Five criminals Nisha Shigvan, Shabnam Shaikh, Sunita Masane, Yamuna Pawar and Yasmin Pasha Shaikh — all of whom have a past criminal record, were nabbed by the Nirbhaya Squad in the months of May and June

This squad of nine women has been christened Nirbhaya Squad, in honour of the victim of the Delhi gang rape and murder of 2012. These nine women officials have been chosen from over hundreds of applicants, and specialise in nabbing women who regularly snatch bags, mobile phones, chains and other belongings from unsuspected women in the women’s compartments.

Disguised
While the squad was created in January, it only became active two months ago, when Rupali Ambure took over as the deputy commissioner of police, GRP (Central Railway). Ambure heads the squad, whose members disguise themselves in burkhas and scarves.

“There was a surge in crime rates in ladies’ compartments, especially snatching of bags and chains, pulling of earrings, opening hand bags and fleeing with valuables, mobile thefts, etc. After giving it a lot of thought, we thought of forming a women’s squad to tackle the menace,” said Ambure.

“We board trains during rush hours and also during afternoon and evening. We wear burkhas and scarves to hide our identity, and start following suspicious women and on-record criminals who are seen in ladies’ compartment. Once they pull at a gold chain or a bag, we immediately overpower them and take them to the nearest railway police station,” said Vidya Deshmukh, a constable who leads the squad under Ambure’s guidance.

The special unit has arrested 16 women since it began operating. In the months of May and June, it arrested five women who are notorious for their thieving ways in the ladies’ coach. The squad chooses its area of operation as per complaints received from passengers. “For example, if there have been bag snatchings in Chembur local trains, they will travel on Harbour line trains till they nab the culprits,” Ambure added.

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