Gul Panag helps women ‘ Stand Up’ for them­selves

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - Jay­oti Soor & Shahkar Abidi

Fol­low­ing the news of the Delhi gang- rape vic­tim’s death on Satur­day, so­cial me­dia net­works were abuzz with ac­tiv­ity. What stood out the most was users ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion in Stand Up, an ini­tia­tive that aims to work to­wards the safety of women. It was started by ac­tress Gul Panag and mem­bers of her fam­ily.

“My fa­ther, an army man, was feel­ing help­less as he was not able to do any­thing for the gan­grape vic­tim and oth­ers like her. So, he tweeted his num­ber for any­one want­ing his help. When oth­ers started fol­low­ing suit, my brother de­cided to make it a pan- In­dia ini­tia­tive. I am happy that this time around, men have come for­ward rather than let­ting women bat­tle it out alone”, Panag told DNA.

Sher­bir Panag, a lawyer and Gul’s brother, said that Stand Up is an ac­tion- as­sis­tance group of like- minded peo­ple, who will act as a pres­sure group to at­tain jus­tice within the sys­tem. “We are as­sem­bling a city- wise data­base and iden­ti­fy­ing core groups that will as­sist women in not only get­ting jus­tice, post any in­ci­dence of rape or mo- lesta­tion, but also act as a de­ter­rent,” Sher­bir said.

Elab­o­rat­ing fur­ther, he ex­plained, “Ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, at least one rape is recorded ev­ery 22 min­utes in In­dia. By form­ing a data­base of vol­un­teers across the coun­try, we can act as a sup­port sys­tem and help the vic­tim in fil­ing an FIR, push­ing for po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions, rush­ing her to the hospi­tal, help­ing with blood do­na­tions etc,” he said.

One of the sev­eral vol­un­teers in­cluded 47- yearold Thane res­i­dent, Prosen­jit Roy. An an IT pro­fes­sional and so­cial me­dia en­thu­si­ast, Roy on Satur­day posted his con­tact de­tails in­clud­ing his cell phone num­ber and lo­ca­tion.

“Even in a metro city like Mum­bai, women feel un­safe and at times, need help. If I get a dis­tress call from any women seek­ing help near my lo­ca­tion, I can im­me­di­ately rush to her help or seek some sup­port from the po­lice and other au­thor­i­ties,” he said.

Roy, who has a col­lege- go­ing daugh­ter added, “The protest and can­dle light march has its own value , but some­thing con­struc­tive needs to be done. This is my way of con­tribut­ing to women safety.”

Vidyut Gore, a Vi­rar based house- wife and an avid blog­ger also joined as a vol­un­teer. She ex­plained, “I will do what­ever I can to help. This is just a start. The ini­tia­tive will change In­dia as more and more peo­ple come for­ward to vol­un­teers for the cause.”

Stand Up will ini­tially be a city- cen­tric mea­sure and will slowly iden­tify net­work in far- flung ar­eas across the coun­try. Mem­bers will be added only when some­one has been vouched for and is clean of char­ac­ter. Gul added that it is still in its nascent stage but in the first two hours of launch­ing it on­line on Fri­day morn­ing, there were 1000 vol­un­teers. The ini­tia­tive has struck a chord with peo­ple who are now ready for some ac­tion against the per­pe­tra­tors of vi­o­lence against women.

This ini­tia­tive comes at a time when fig­ures re­leased by the Na­tional Crime Record Bureau ( NCRB) re­vealed 24,206 cases of rape reg­is­tered in In­dia in 2011, out of which 1,701 cases hap­pened in Ma­ha­rasthra.

“As a woman, I feel this is the sin­gle- most burn­ing topic as no one has a right to threaten my mod­esty and dig­nity. I am scared to raise my chil­dren in this coun­try,” added Gul.

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