The chat room: We don't stop to think who's breaking law, man or woman, we act'

The last thing the ladies in uniform want to talk about is their colleagues pulling the hair of the women protestors.

Last week, Bengaluru was witness to the most violent protests it has seen in over a decade. Thousands of garment workers - mostly female - were protesting against the new provident fund rule. The mob set vehicles alight, brought traffic to a standstill in Electronics City, and found themselves up against the city police who wielded their lathis with impunity. The force came under a lot of flack for retaliating with gunfire and lathis to bring in some semblance of order. Video recordings of policemen beating women have done the rounds across the media and the fact that there were barely any women officers on the scene was another huge cause for criticism.

But talk to the women police officers at the Ashoknagar Police station to understand the role that gender plays on the force, and it's a bit like walking on eggshells. The women in khakhi cannot slam their colleagues or they risk censure for stoking the controversy which the police top brass want to move away from centre-stage. Even getting the interview took the combined efforts of three of my colleagues, while I hopped between police stations, hoping against hope for an assent.

The last thing the ladies in uniform want to talk about is their colleagues pulling the hair of the women protestors or giving them the 'lathi treatment.' It's what they would do, in a heartbeat, without batting an eye-lid. There's no gender discrimination: Break the law, man, woman or child and you will face the heat!
The S.I., Shobha, speaks with gravity. “When you're on the force, you don't stop to think about whether you're a man or a woman,” she said. “We all deal with different kinds of cases and perpetrators from both genders.” Violence is part of the deal - “Everyday is a risk,” said Manjula. “That's what the job is about, though.”

Shobha entered the force ten years ago. “It was the first job I applied for after my degree and I got it,” she said. She pauses to ask me what I would like to drink and seems affronted when I said she could choose - “You're our guest!” Three cups of coffee in small paper cups are laid out before us as Shobha describes her intense training period as a rookie. Today, she has handled a number of high-profile, sometimes tragic cases - I ask her for more details, but she laughs it off, saying, “There are too many to recall!'

Sitting in on the coffee with us is Manjula, who began her stint eight years ago. She travels by bus everyday from her home in Marathahalli, leaving behind two children she barely has the time to see. “You do what you must,” said Manjula, shrugging this off - this clinical approach permeates into every aspect of their lives.

What's it like, being on ground in a riot? “Our job is to provide security,” said Shobha. “People don't understand this, of course, they seem to think we're there to cause harm. The police force is viewed with suspicion overall. We're constantly dealing with allegations, many of them false.”

They don't think much of gender discrimination, especially on ground. “As a woman police officer, I deal with violent men, too,” she pointed out. “Yes, when there is a protest, we are there to protect. If there is violence and the law is broken, we will take retaliate accordingly against whoever is breaking it. There's no time to stop and think of whether they’re male or female. We’re only doing our duty.”

Our chat is filled with laughter and good deal of empathy - we’re all women with tough jobs. Still, I can’t help but think that our coffee-and-biscuits camaraderie will vanish in an instant should I ever (God forbid) find myself at the receiving end of their ire. Friend or not - break the law and you will see just what these women can do! And in retrospect, that’s a good thing!

Free-wheeling conversations about all that’s in the news (and beyond). Between those making it and those breaking it.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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