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Nightmare on Route 544: Men use this DTC bus to ‘sexually harass’ DU college students

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A 19-year-old student of Kamala Nehru College tells ThePrint about the three times she was ‘molested’ on this bus. Women say it’s been happening since 1985.

New Delhi: For a 19-year-old first-year psychology student at Delhi University’s Kamala Nehru College, moving to the national capital from Dehradun is proving to be a nightmare. In the three months since, she has allegedly been molested seven times on the same bus.

In a letter to ThePrint, she recounted three such experiences that left her feeling “vulnerable and disgusted”.

“One short-statured man… seems to visit bus 544 for the sole purpose of touching girls,” she said.

“On the first day, when the bus was pretty crowded, I felt his hand on my back but I dismissed it due to the ‘crowded’ excuse,” she wrote.

The second time, she added, “the same man had the audacity to stand next to me and touch my leg and backside (the bus wasn’t crowded then)”.

“I hurled a few abuses and made him get off at the next bus stop. The conductor paid absolutely no mind to this,” she said.

Following the incident, she even bought herself pepper spray.

It was the third incident, however, that left her with sleepless nights for two weeks afterwards.

She caught bus 544 in the morning to make it for her 9 am class. The bus was crowded and there was no space to move.

A seemingly well-meaning older man told her to move her backpack to her front, saying someone might try to steal something without her knowledge.

“It seemed like a good idea to do so,” the student said, but “after the ‘barrier’ from my back had been shifted, he saw his chance and started to rub his privates on my back.”

Also read: Indian universities don’t acknowledge sex, forget sexual harassment

“I was astonished and scared… I didn’t know what to do, I tried to tell him to stop to which he replied, ‘I’ll do what I want’.”

“I don’t know why I didn’t scream, I was so afraid and my body had turned cold and I had turned mute. I just wanted it to be over,” she said.

When her stop arrived, she rushed to the exit of the bus, enduring more unwanted physical contact on the way.

“What scared me the most,” she said, “was when he asked, ‘Oh you’re getting off at Kamala Nehru?’”

“I didn’t reply… I wanted to die at that moment, I felt so vulnerable and disgusted (with myself, too). I ran for my life, straight across all the traffic despite knowing I might get hit,” she wrote.

On reaching the safety of her college walls, she burst into tears, she said.

“I’ve still not recovered from the emotional trauma… sometimes I’m not able to sleep. Why I didn’t report (sic)? I was scared to the bone,” she wrote, “What if he decides to take revenge on me or throw acid at me? I couldn’t risk something like that.”

Speaking up

Two days ago, her cousin sister Shivani Gairola, based in Mumbai, tweeted about the episode.

“If you think it doesn’t get worse, you don’t know Delhi,” she wrote. Her tweet has since been shared over 4,000 times, leading Delhi Police deputy commissioner (New Delhi) Madhur Verma, to take notice.

He responded to her tweet, saying that the incidents were “really unfortunate”, and that she should message him personally with her contact details so a complaint can be filed.

“I will speak to her (the cousin) and we will definitely take action and ensure her safety,” he wrote.

Shivani told ThePrint that she knew something was wrong at once when her cousin asked her about taking a cab to college.

“She (my cousin) is not your timid, shy kid who won’t talk about things,” she said, “But this time she was quiet about it till the time I probed her about why she wanted to take a cab — that’s when the third incident came to light.”

The only reason she took to Twitter, Shivani said, is because she couldn’t “stand by and do nothing”.

“I did not know how to tell this child, ‘Hey, tomorrow you’re going to have to get back on that bus… just to get an education, no matter what happens’. You can’t say that to someone,” she said.

‘Thorough checking’

Deputy commissioner of police (South Delhi) Vijay Kumar told ThePrint that other than the tweet, police had not received an official complaint from Shivani or her cousin.

In terms of police action, he said, “We have increased random checking on that route, for all private and DTC buses.

“The checking is more thorough outside girl’s colleges, specifically between 9 and 11 am, and in the evening, when classes get over,” said Kumar. “We even ask for photographs of the area, and sometimes send lady officers to cover the location.”

Route 544

Route 544 runs from R.K. Puram, navigating its way by AIIMS and the Siri Fort Road till its terminal point at Badarpur border. On its way, it stops at prominent all-girl colleges like Gargi and Kamala Nehru.

Also read: Experiencing sexual assault is the tax women have had to pay to live in India

For many students of the Delhi University South Campus, Route 544 is convenient and feasible — the stops include one right outside Gargi College, which is in the vicinity of other private and public universities as well.

“The route is a goldmine for molesters since it carries so many young female passengers trying to reach college,” the 19-year-old Kamala Nehru student said.

Responses to Shivani’s tweet revealed that her cousin’s experiences weren’t isolated incidents. Many different women, spanning generations, have been the victims of sexual harassment on DTC buses.

“544 is a molestation goldmine. Ten years that I am observing. And so many DU and private Colleges on route,” tweeted journalist Monica Verma in reply.

Samiksha Wadhwa, now a teacher at Delhi University, tweeted in response that similar incidents happened to her elder sister from 1985, when she travelled to college, and to herself from 1988.

“Till 2018 nothing has been done,” she added.

The Kamala Nehru College student hopes, however, that sharing her experience will help the authorities take action against molesters.

“I hope what I’m sharing helps the authorities take stringent action very quickly,” she said.

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  1. Ask govt to provide special bus for girls college route if it’s maximum no. Of girls

    Moreover that girls please take ur stand and please complain don’t get stressed

  2. Every time we need a separate vehicle for ladies……. Shame on all of us who r civilized in talks not in dos…

  3. ये शोषण अक्सर सभी बसो मे होता है करने वाले खाली बस में भी शोषण करते है

  4. What dirty senior citizens live in India’s civilized capital ????..Handle these nerve-problemed idiots with mass student support…Such acts at public places are fundamental right violations!!!

  5. There should be always at least 1 police officer deployed in every dtc bus this should be ensured by dtc dept.

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