Step out of the mindset, reclaim the night
Samta Katkade, a third- year BSc IT student of Vidyalankar College in Wadala, Mumbai, looks over her shoulder constantly, almost as a habit, each time she steps out in the night. To her, nighttime is synonymous with fear. She has been conditioned to believe that if she ‘ wanders’ late into the night on the streets alone, she is inviting ‘ trouble’.
But Katkade has had enough of the prejudices. She is looking forward to being part of a campaign that around 20 women's organisations in Mumbai decided to launch in the wake of the brutal gang- rape of the 23- yearold paramedical student, who died on Saturday of a severe organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain, to highlight the need for adequate security on the streets in the night. The agitation, aptly dubbed ‘ Reclaim the Night’, seeks to let participants walk Mumbai’s streets in the dark without a hint of fear.
“Through this activity, we want to stress that it's important not just to let women feel safe out of their homes in the day but also in the night,” explains Nandita Shah, co- director, Akanksha Centre, an organisation that works for woman survivors of violence and discrimination.
Not willing to let the campaign die with the night, the activists plan to meet chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and director general of police Sanjiv Dayal with a charter of three demands — to launch an emergency helpline across Maharashtra, to fast- track cases of crimes against women in court and not push for capital punishment for rape, but instead ensure that proper police investigation leads to adequate conviction. At present, the emergency helpline number 103 is functional only in Mumbai and Thane.
The organisers, however, haven't been able to zero in on a date for the campaign because they are yet to get police permission for it. “We hope to get it soon so that we can take to the streets and build women’s confidence,” adds Shah.
Jyoti Mahapsekar, president of Stri Mukto Sangthana, which is also participating in the campaign, argues that the aim is to create a safe environment for women, be it in the day or the night.