Mumbai on the way to losing ‘safe’ reputation

Traditionally women in Mumbai have occupied public space with far greater ease than other cities and that has always reflected in Mumbai’s large working women population.

“It was with a certain sense of pride that I would call myself a Mumbai girl, my city didn’t rape its women, my city did not lech or ogle but with what’s happened it’s shaken my belief in my Mumbai” says Nitasha Hemrajani a noted photographer from the financial capital of India.

Traditionally women in Mumbai have occupied public space with far greater ease than other cities and that has always reflected in Mumbai’s large working women population.

“Today I think twice before boarding a local after 7 pm, the same city that gave me the confidence to venture out has robbed me off it today” Nitasha adds.

The gang rape of a fellow colleague has left Nitasha aggrieved.

“I as a woman feel violated, a tool to be politicised,” she says hinting at the sexist comments of the home minister R. R. Patil and politicians like Raj Thackeray.

The divide

As I walk down the Parel area with Nitasha wielding a camera, she points out to a string of jhuggi’s right outside her residential building. “Mumbai is a place where the first, the second and the third world coexist in the same geographical area.

Who knows how wide this divide might be getting. Maybe one life looks at the other with contempt,” she says as the gang rape has once again put in focus the divide between the haves and the have nots . A few pictures taken on the contrasting image of a city, Nitasha leaves me to join a protest against the gang rape. I decide to check out the other side of the great Mumbai divide all I have to do is cross a road.

Here I meet 28-year-old Chandani.

Like Nitasha she lives in Parel and was born and raised in Mumbai.

Like Nitasha, Chandani is also a Mumbai girl the only difference she doesn’t call herself one.

Chandani has no idea that a 22 year old was gangraped in Shakti Mills but she tells me that her 38 year old neighbour is beaten up and raped by her husband every day.

“I went to the police station with her several times, nobody registers her complain.” Conversation about politics and politicians is lost on her but surprisingly she votes in every election.

“I voted for the Shiv Sena, my husband tells me they will protect us from eviction,” she says.

She knows her shanty is illegal but hopes for a water connection promised by the local corporator to all 30 dwellings that voted for the Shiv Sena.

On being asked if she feels unsafe in Mumbai she says: “I used to sell flowers under the Elphinstone Railway station, I used to be harassed and abused by drug addicts and squatters but ever since I got pregnant my husband refused to let me go” she smiles and pats her belly.

“I don’t think I want a girl, this area is not safe anymore. Last week itself a 5- year- old was molested by a smack addict in our basti”. With that she gestured me to leave as she was expecting her husband back from his duty as a sweeper in Nitasha’s building right across the road.

Reproduced From Mail Today. Copyright 2013. MTNPL. All rights reserved.

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