The Lockdown Saw a Spike in Domestic Abuse Cases. This Telangana Cop is Helping Women Who Can’t Complaint

Gender

The Lockdown Saw a Spike in Domestic Abuse Cases. This Telangana Cop is Helping Women Who Can’t Complaint

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

An Indian Police Services officer in Telangana is another individual to join the ranks of Covid heroes after her mission to safeguard domestic abuse survivors and stranded migrant labourers. Rema Rajeshwari, the Superintendent of Police in Mahabubnagar, Telangana, has been looking out for the needy during the lockdown, even setting up a mobile safety vehicle that would routinely check in on the welfare of domestic violence survivors. SP Rajeshwari’s selfless mission attracted much praise on the internet after her story was published on the social media handles of the blog Humans of Bombay.

 

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“A month into the lockdown, a lady called me from Kanpur. She was extremely distressed as her sister hadn’t called in 3 days. Her husband would hit her and she worried it had happened again. So we sent a dispatch team and found her in such a terrible condition, it shook me. She was badly bruised, hadn’t had a single drop of water in 3 days and was writhing in pain. We rushed her to the hospital and filed a case against the husband. 3 days later, she fully recovered, but her sister called again, ‘Can you please send her home to me?’ So I got all the passes for inter-state travel and made sure she was home safely. That incident was an eye opener– there were so many victims of domestic violence living with their abusers and they couldn’t even file a complaint! To help them, I set up ‘Mobile Safety’– a vehicle with my team members doing rounds across the district and in 2 weeks, we had 40 cases! Alongside, more members of my team stepped up to help the general populace. Like this one time, we dropped a pregnant lady to the hospital in the police ambulance. When my colleague returned, he was beaming! He was so excited to be there for her and her newborn son! But as the rules got stricter, my team was stretched thin – from naka bandhis to contact tracing. And pretty soon, the migrants began going back home. We set up shelters and tried convincing them to stay but it was futile. So we set up food banks along the highway– and once the railways finally opened, we helped 11,000 workers reach home in under 15 days. Over the past 3 months, my team has put their lives at stake and risked their families, so that we could help people. But last week, a majority of them tested positive and have been quarantined. Still, the only question they ask me is, ‘Madam! When can we get back in action?’ Such is the love for our duty!”

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In the post that catapulted her to internet fame, SP Rajeshwari said that it was a routine check carried out on a domestic abuse survivor that opened her eyes. When the survivor’s sister called the police expressing concern, SP Rajeshwari found the survivor in a badly bruised and beaten state at her home that she shared with her husband. “That incident was an eye opener – there were so many victims of domestic violence living with their abusers and they couldn’t even file a complaint!” said Rajeshwari.

Rajeshwari then set up a “Mobile Safety” vehicle, which did the rounds of two districts and checked in with survivors of domestic violence, regardless of whether they had approached the police or not.

During the lockdown, the number of domestic abuse cases have gone up. Between March 25 and May 31, 1,477 complaints of domestic violence were made by women but this is only the tip of the iceberg. However, 86 per cent women who experience domestic violence do not seek help in India.

And Rajeshwari comes to the rescue of these women who can’t always reach out for help.

In addition to looking out for their welfare, Rajeshwari also extended whatever aid she could to the migrant labourers from other states who were stranded in Telangana. Rajeshwari’s teams of officers set up food banks along the highways to cater to the needs of the migrants who were walking for hundreds if not thousands of kilometres to return to their home states.

The widespread negativity in the news cycle can become tedious to an observer, and stories full of humanity and positivity like SP Rajeshwari’s are a welcome break from the norm.

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