Have you ever been threatened by a man, deterring you to lodge a police complaint? Have you clenched your fist in helplessness, rolled your eyes but decided to let it go? No more. Starting Thursday, five advertisements starring real cops are being aired on a television channel, urging women not to be afraid of approaching the police to lodge harassment complaints against men.
Kainaz Karmakar and Harshad Rajadhyaksha of ad agency O&M have launched this special ad campaign, which puts the focus on the Mumbai Police. Karmakar said, “After the Delhi gang-rape incident in December, Mumbai’s Joint CP Himanshu Roy published a statement in the newspaper saying that the force had undertaken initiatives to train them to deal with sensitive cases. He added that perhaps they needed to publicise them better. That's where we got this idea.” The duo approached Roy, who put them in touch with Joint CP Sadanand Date, Law and Order. “We deliberately chose ordinary officers with whom the public would interact at police stations,” said Date.
“Namaste, ladies. Do you know who my father is? You can't even imagine what I’m capable of. You don’t know how well connected I am. Don’t be afraid of anyone who uses such phrases and misbehaves with you. Come to the police. No matter how well connected they are. We’ll connect them to jail…” says a silver mustachioed police officer in one of the advertisements.
In another ad, PSI Vidya Kaldate addresses Mumbai’s women. “I know that you often tolerate harassment from men. You do not even complain against them, worrying how you will tell a male officer what someone said to you, or what a man did to you. That’s precisely why many women police officers like me are present at police stations, for your help and support. So don’t tolerate any harassment…”
Date also suggested shooting similar campaigns to create awareness within the force as well. These internal ad campaigns are played at over 150 city police stations every morning during roll call. They feature ordinary women, reminding cops that they depend on them for safety. “It will help our officers realise that merely registering an FIR is a great help,” said Date.
In another ad, Senior police inspector AR Shaikh of Malwani police station addresses the camera in four languages. “This is meant to counter the impression that police only pay heed to complainants who speak Marathi,” explains Karmakar. Shaikh was delighted to star in the ad. “It was a unique experience and I’m glad I did the advertisement. The message has gone out to women that we are here and ready to help them.”
In fact, it was Shaikh’s co-star senior police inspector (traffic), Rajendra Chauhan’s idea to feature traffic police as they end up being the first point of contact for victims of harassment. As you cross the shopping district of SV Road Bandra, Deputy Commissioner of Police Harvinder Kaur Waraich, armed with a baton is seen on a billboard. “Ladies should never hesitate to approach the police. The main purpose of the campaign is public awareness. Working women know about policewomen, but housewives may be unaware.”
The ads clear another myth that the police are reluctant to take complaints. “Complaints do get registered and we wanted to bring that out. Every piece is simple and tackles a real fear in the quiet victim’s mind,” concludes Karmakar.