“Oye, akeli hai kya? Chalegi park me? 300 dunga. Arey bol na, jyada chahiye? (Hey, will you come with me to Park, I will pay you 300 bucks. If you want more, tell me,” said a man in his twenties to a woman near Mohor Kunja Park under Hastings police station area around four months ago. The offender had no clue that he was messing with the wrong person. Arpita Mallik, a constable with the Kolkata Police and a member of the team The Winners, made her first arrest that day.
The Winners, an all-women patrolling team by the Kolkata Police, was launched in July 2018, with an aim to check crimes against women and make public places safer for them. The team with personnel trained in self-defence has so far apprehended more than 200 “Road Romeos”.
“I was on duty in civil dress. When the man teased me, I asked him to wait and grabbed him by the collar. He put up stiff resistance but was soon surrounded by a group of policewomen and he started apologising. We arrested him and I felt good,” Arpita said with a wide smile. She stays alone and meets her husband in Malda on holidays.
Step towards better gender equation in Kolkata Police
The Kolkata Police has always been keen on increasing the presence of women in their force. The State Home Department has set up eight women-only police stations in Kolkata to investigate crimes against women. A rape or molestation survivor will be comfortable with a woman police officer, they feel. More women in the force means more women reaching out to report incidents that bother them. Several crimes, including eve-teasing, often go unreported. An all-women battalion is a step towards betterment of city police’s gender equation — 800 women in the 26,000-strong police force.
“He wasn’t very keen on me joining police but I managed,” she said. The Winners has 28 women personnel, including three senior officers. All the 25 constables are in their mid-twenties. In white uniform, they conduct patrol on scooty.
“They have been rigorously trained in self-defence and have revolver licence. Our objective is to make the city safe for women,” said Sampa Guha one of the senior officers of the team. “I am happy to see such young, smart women cops in our city. Once a man in lungi started following me on the street and retreated as soon as he spotted a group of policewomen. Cheers to these ladies,” said Anindita Ray Choudhuri, a management student.
However, the team has to fight odds while on duty. Once a constable in the team was bitten on her hand while another was heckled while on patrol inside the Millennium Park. Six persons, including two women were arrested for allegedly harassing personnel on duty.
“We face a lot of challenge and even get teased but when we are in uniform, people respect us also. There have been instances when during midnight patrolling, women came and thanked us for making them feel safe. It gives us immense satisfaction,” said Zinnatara Khatun, another member of the team.
Team Winner is headed by three sub-inspectors, including Sampa Guha, Mita Kansabanik and Zinnatara Khatun. Sampa has various accolades to her credit in power lifting in international, Asian and national events. Zinnatara Khatun is an athlete who has won the Indian Police Medal. Mita is also a power lifting champion.
When Kolkata Police decided to launch the all-woman team under the instruction of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, these three women were the first choice. “We were the only three women in the force who could ride a Bullet and had an edge over the others. All the team members are extremely hardworking, managing their personal and profession lives pretty well. We enjoy our job,” said Mita.
“We love catching Road Romeos,” laughs Zinnatara. Mita is married and has a 16-year-old daughter, while Zinnatara and Sampa are single.
“Earlier marriage used to give a woman financial security and an identity, but nowadays it has nothing exceptional to offer a woman,” said Zinnatara and Sampa.
Madhumita Mahapatra, another member of the team, says, “My husband is very proud to see me in uniform. I have a tight schedule but he is always there to pick me up when I finish work.” Another member, Debolina Das Rai, feels they stand for themselves to bring the change. “My husband mostly takes care of our son as I have a tight schedule. We manage well and he never complains,” she said.
Their message on Women’s Day
“People talk about women empowerment but hardly practice it. We are educated and present ourselves well but our mentality remains the same. Real change has to come from within. All women should be financially independent and should speak up. Once a woman starts sharing financial responsibility of her family and her parents, people will stop craving for male child. To bring a change, it is important for women to learn self-defence. Girls are mentally much stronger than men and we must celebrate womanhood.”