A little past midnight, Deepak Kumar stood alone at the Munirka bus stop, keeping a watch. Trucks and occasional cars passing by broke the silence of the night as he strained his eyes through the fog. Metres away, his colleague slept inside the police chowki, its glass windows shut to keep the cold at bay. In the distance, a group of auto-rickshaw drivers huddled around a bonfire, wrapped in shawls.
Around 1 am, a PCR van crossed the place, the policeman inside waving to Kumar, on night duty for the third time in a week. The 27-year-old beat constable sometimes listens to FM radio on his cellphone or chats with the auto-rickshaw drivers to stay awake.
Posted in Vasant Vihar locality in South Delhi, Kumar often starts his rounds at the same bus stop where two years ago, a 23-year-old woman had boarded a bus in which she was raped by five persons, including a juvenile.
“We are constantly on vigil. I am on night duty three-four times a week and take several rounds of the area. Though I was not posted at this police station when the December 16 gangrape happened, we are aware about its impact and are extra careful. Though fewer women visit the main road at night, people haven’t stopped coming out altogether at night after the gangrape incident,” Kumar told Newsline.
Ramesh Jha (29) from Jharkhand, however, feels otherwise. Jha, who has been driving an auto-rickshaw in Delhi for seven years, feels the incident “changed a lot” for women in the city.
“We usually ply at night because it fetches more money. Earlier, fewer women would travel at night in North or West Delhi. But in South Delhi areas like Greater Kailash, South Extension, Hauz Khas, JNU, Vasant Kunj and Saket, girls would frequently take auto-rickshaws. The December 16 gangrape changed it all. Now, fewer girls in these areas step out at night. With winter picking up in the coming weeks, the number of women commuters travelling after 8 pm will significantly drop,” Jha said.
His friend, Ilyas Ahmed said the only passengers now would be those going to various railway stations. “Many students from JNU or youngsters living in Munirka will now be going home on leave. They will need rides till Nizamuddin, and Old and New Delhi railway stations. Even then, women students now travel either in groups or are accompanied by their male friends. Few choose to travel alone. On several occasions, we have to assure them that we too care about their safety,” he said.
From the Munirka bus stand, the bus used in the commission of the crime was taken towards Mahipalpur via the Cantonment area. It took a U-turn near the hotels in Mahipalpur and the victim was dumped near a bush where the roads coming from Gurgaon and Terminal 3 meet. All nine bus stops en route were empty when Newsline visited the spot. With absolutely no activity on the 8-km route and frequent dark stretches, the police post of Vasant Kunj (South) police station as well as military installations gave little reassurance at that hour of night.