Brave in thought and word, but not in deed?

About a week back, Ms. Mohini Giri was on her way to her son’s house in New Delhi when she saw a young girl being molested by a group of men. She stopped her car and approached the group who then began hitting her for trying to intervene.

She tried to stop a PCR (Police Control Room) van which was passing by but they refused to stop “as they were taking their boss for some urgent work”. Finally, a police constable stopped and intervened in the matter. Giri says that she was too shaken by the incident to approach the police and file a complaint. Later, she emailed the Delhi Police, which then ordered an inquiry into the case.

Ms. Mohini Giri’s description of the incident, described above, was reported by Firstpost, which also gave Delhi Police’s version, which is quite different. Indian Express reports that “police claimed the girl had injured a resident in the area with her two-wheeler and angry residents had assaulted her” and that Ms. Giri “claimed that a beat constable told her that she should not have intervened in the altercation.” Later, she said, “As it is people don’t intervene when a woman is being assaulted. Why will anyone stop to help if this is the attitude?”

Even if the police version is correct, it can be correctly stated that Ms. Mohini Giri saw a girl in distress and tried to help her. For that, Mr. Giri was beaten up herself.

Ms. Mohini Giri is not a ‘common person’. According to the Wikipedia page on her, she “is an Indian social worker and activist, who has been Chairperson of the Guild of Service, a New Delhi-based social service organization …. She founded War Widows Association, New Delhi in 1972. She has also remained Chairperson of the National Commission for Women (1995-1998). In 2007, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan….. is the daughter-in-law of V. V. Giri, former President of India.

What happened to Ms. Mohini Giri is not unusual. Very often, a person who tries to help a victim ends up in trouble herself/himself. Sometimes, it is not very serious trouble, but it can be very serious trouble especially if the culprits involved are criminals or are politically connected.

Just imagine if a ‘common person’ had seen the same girl in distress and had tried to help her. This ‘common person’ would have been beaten up and, if (s)he had tried to pursue the matter further with the police, would have been arrested for assaulting the persons who were assaulting the girl. Since people don’t want to invite trouble, they “ignore a girl in distress or an accident victim on the road”.

What has each one of us done whenever we’ve seen an unknown girl in distress or an unknown accident victim on the road? If you have never faced this situation, please read this NDTV report about Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez and ask yourself what you would have done if you were one of the onlookers when Keenan and Reuben were being killed.

The sad truth is most, maybe all of us will speak passionately about this subject, we’ll write impressive blog posts on this subject, we’ll make meaningful comments on other people’s blog posts on this subject, but when we see an unknown girl in distress or an unknown accident victim on the road, we’ll do nothing. In all fairness, I wouldn’t blame any person for staying away. As Ms. Mohini Giri said, “Why will anyone stop to help if this is the attitude (of the police)?”

Can this situation ever change? I believe it can if and when people stop feeling insecure about helping other people in distress. How can that happen? That will be covered in another blog post.

As far as candlelight vigils/marches are concerned, I personally think candles can be put to better use. But, since I’ve not paid for the candles, I’ll keep my opinion to myself!

This post is in response to Indispire Edition 28: “People conveniently ignore a girl in distress or an accident victim on the road, but would enthusiastically march with candles in hand for a cause. Why?”

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26 thoughts on “Brave in thought and word, but not in deed?

  1. You’ve raised pertinent issues here – as always – most especially on our own responses to such incidents. We decry the indifference of onlookers, but conveniently forget we could be one of them. Then post haste, AFTER the incident, raise our voices in protest, angst. Sad.
    One of the problems, here, I think is the lack of support by the guardians of law – or the lack of confidence in oneself, to face the consequences -esp of assault as a result of interference, as has happened in Ms. Giri’s case. However, it is heartening to note that more of such instances are coming out, and more responses are being made.

    • You have correctly stated that there is a general lack of confidence in the guardians of the law. I’ll state it bluntly: people believe that not only will the police not protect them, they assume, maybe rightly so in most cases, that the police will put them into trouble. Hence, they stay as far away as possible from any police matters. This has to change. The guardians of the law have to start conducting themselves in a manner that makes the general public feel secure about approaching them.

  2. I have so far experienced this once. When I was coming back from work, a car in front had hit a person. The road in which we are travelling is an expressway. Pretty deserted and supposedly unsafe specially for a woman.
    I did not see that somebody was hit. When our driver decided to speed up and other passengers started talking it is then that I realized there has been an accident.
    Even before I could think what to do our car sped off.. But then I started feeling guilty and dialed the emergency number. But it did not even connect.. Finally i reached home around good 20 mins later which is when I googled up the police station number which I thought would be of the area where the accident had taken place and dialed one by one..
    I dialed three police stations – of them the first two discarded my request telling the area did not fall under their jurisdiction..They however told to call another police station.
    In the third case the person from the other end told me that she would inform the control room to look up..
    I do not know what happened later and this was what I could do then..That day our driver had sped off telling that he would be in immense trouble..
    Since then, the measures that I have taken is to save numbers of nearby hospitals and police station in my phone…I think one possible solution is to have those numbers and dial up for help when required..But if they refuse to help then there’s no way I guess we could ever help out anyone in distress..

  3. Not sure if she used her ‘famous person’ card and still got beaten. But any common person should telephone the police in good faith and wait for them to arrive. I remember back in the 80’s in Bombay there was a cat stuck on a sunshade above the ground floor for a couple days. When I casually remarked to my brother that we should probably call the fire brigade he took it seriously and did call them and they did arrive promptly ! To our surprise they got it out the ‘easy’ way by just scaring it to jump off ! We were watching all this from our second floor balcony. The only thing the fire brigade was piqued about was that the person calling them was not present on site to greet them but did encourage us to call for such situations.

    • I don’t think Ms. Giri had a chance to use her ‘famous person’ status at the scene of the incident. But her status did ensure that she could have corrective action taken later. Unfortunately, very few people have this advantage.

      You and your brother did well to contact the fire brigade. However, calling the police involves a ‘fear factor’ that is not present while contacting the fire brigade.

  4. Hard hitting, Pro. You have raised valid questions. I really don’t know what I would do. Like you pointed out, it is often so difficult in this country to help others :(.

  5. You know, I have often thought about how I would respond if I saw something terrible happening on the street…I haven’t particularly thought about this situation of a girl being assaulted or anything specific as such, but in general wondered about my response. Will I be afraid to report to the police if I saw something terrible happening, what with all the police harassment stories we hear about? Will I ignore and simply go away fussing over my own business…or will I get involved? I am not sure I know the answer…perhaps because it is in that very moment I might know what is the right thing to do. But then again, will I have the courage to do the right thing? One thing that I have learned however is that it does help to reflect on such hypothetical scenarios, at least it makes you aware of your own dilemmas and inner fears….

  6. When the law and order officials themselves are the ones who threaten and assault people who try and help, how can we expect help from more people? It can still happen if more and more people awaken and help as a group or a community. Here I would like to state that a lot of proactive behavior is witnessed from the youth of today. Just this morning, we saw two boys beating up a boy who was misbehaving with a girl at a bus-stand on our way. The boys ensured that the guy couldn’t run away till the PCR reached the spot. What happened post this is not known to us. But I assume that an FIR wouldn’t have been filed as the police officials usually avoid filing an FIR for reasons known to them.

    • Rekha, I agree that people, at least a few, have become more proactive these days. I believe this is because it is possible to collect evidence by using cameras that are available in mobile phones. Contradicting a person’s evidence is easy. It’s not so easy to dismiss photographic/video evidence.

  7. Very valid points here. But, my point is, if a group of people go to rescue/help, then the goons will be outnumbered & won’t dare as there is power in “WE”…

    Now quoting your inspiring lines (from the ‘About Me’ section of your Blog):
    “Since I am partly responsible for these problems being kept alive, I share the responsibility to solve these problems.
    Others share the responsibility, maybe more so, for solving these problems.
    But, I will not wait for others to act.
    I will start contributing to solutions to these problems.
    Hopefully, others will do the same. If not, I’ll try to make them do so.
    If many persons start contributing to solutions to these problems, each in her/his own way, these problems will be resolved or reduced.
    This is not easy. It will take a lot of time and effort, and there will be many obstacles to overcome
    But, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
    So, I’ll start with a single step.
    I’ll be proactive.
    I’ll be a proactive Indian.”

    May we all be proactive Indians & STOP all the nuisance happening…

  8. PRO it reminds me when I was taken to a police station in india because I stopped my car and got out on seeing a Girl being slapped by a guy on a bike.

    later on a mob got together and police came .. Sadly in my case the girl in question changed her mind as the guy who was slapping her was her friend/husband..

    In uk If I see anyone I stop and help no second thoughts but after this little incident that happened back home I think I will be thinking twice..

    it is sad I know but we the people need to change our thinking and what we see .. If people get together and actually stand for the RIGHT then no official can deny anything .. Police will have to do the right thing

  9. Pingback: If you see a child crying on the road … | Proactive Indian

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