Mumbai: Kurlekars hold protest against murder, rape of Hyderabad vet

Updated: Dec 04, 2019, 11:38 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Protest for the victim's is a scathing commentary on the crime and times

Residents paying their respects at the Shraddhanjali in Kurla
Residents paying their respects at the Shraddhanjali in Kurla

Orange flames from candles lit on the dais at the Kurla venue of the protests on Monday evening against the murder of the Hyderabad vet, burned defiantly refusing to go out in the slight evening breeze. "The flames are fierce like us," said activist Anita Shetty, at the programme held by an organisation called 'Me Kurlekar'. Kurlekars, which means the people of Kurla, were out in strength to express outrage, anger, analyse, introspect and call for an overhaul of the system. They were part of nationwide angst and rage calling for better safety for women, more teeth to police and laws and changes in mindset following the brutal crime.

"Hyderabad is many miles away, but our pain is sharp scything like a knife across the distance, our anger is a cauldron bubbling over and our voices are so loud they are one with the people," said Kurlekars. Shetty said, "The police attitude needs to change. In other cases, when a girl is reported missing, the common response by the police at first is: 'check with her friends, she may have run away herself, or the stock: 24 hours are not up yet. Out of 10 missing people, five may be found after 24 hours, they may very well have been with friends but what about the possibility of one being assaulted and killed within 24 hours?" she asked. Gabriel D'Mello, who was also at the protest, asked, "how many candles do we need to burn and how often?"

Advocate Vivian D'Souza, dressed in white, adhering to the Kurla Shraddhanjali for victim's dress code said, "If these perpetrators hang within one year, that will be a big deterrent. If they continue to languish in prison and one appeal after another follows, the layperson becomes distrustful and cynical."

Kurla local, Neelam Sogatra, rued, "Safe public spaces for women are shrinking every day, what is the use of impressive phrases like 'reclaiming roads' or whatever." Naseema I Shaikh said, "People who dare complain about injustice are mired in false cases for revenge. This is also the atmosphere of fear that we talk about. We need more support for the truth. When the mind is without fear, then people will raise a voice and fight until the last drop of blood in their body." Sakina Sayed asked sarcastically, "People say let women step out of the home to work? What do they go out for? To become the target for such crimes?" While advocate Alexander D'Souza of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) refuted that the government was solely to blame for the question marks on women's safety. "We need education and respect for women ingrained in kids while they are in kindergarten. Societal change is imperative," said the advocate, while yet another D'Souza, with the first name of Dolphy, added that, "We need a shift in focus, from asking women to keep themselves safe to telling boys and young men to treat all genders respectfully."

The Shraddhanjali was poignant with onlookers getting off their vehicles to stop in the traffic-choked area to pay respects. Activist Afroz Malik said, "when people see the accused roaming scot-free in other sexual assault cases because of connections and the complainant in jail, then their scepticism and disgust is justified."

For Maratha Khan, "the fact that I am here at this Shraddhanjali is shameful. How many such 'programmes' are we going to have to mourn our women?" he asked angrily, while Zareen Baig who runs a taxi service driven by women called Pink Cabs finished, "I have at least 100 women drivers. Only if the drivers are safe, are the women passengers they ply safe," she signed off.

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