Accessibility August 25, 2019
Blind student in Delhi threatened & robbed, Delhi Police slammed for failure to respond
A blind student was robbed of his admission fees and threatened by a group of people at a prominent Delhi Metro station. Even worse was the apathy of the Delhi Police. He was made to run around between four police stations before a complaint was finally registered.
A late blind person, Rahul Singh was traveling by train last week from his home in Khurjapur, Uttar Pradesh to New Delhi to enrol at the School of Open Learning at the Delhi University (DU) campus. Midway through the journey came an announcement that the train route was being diverted as the Yamuna river was overflowing. Rahul had to get off at a railway station he was unfamiliar with and when he was offered help by a group of people, he was more than happy to accept it.
What unfolded next was scary and horrifying. While not surprising given Delhi’s reputation as an unsafe city, imagine how much worse it would be for someone who is visually impaired.
There were about five people who came up to me and offered to help get onto a bus to go to DU. They made me walk some distance and I could make out that it was a hilly area, full of rocks and trees. When I started to get suspicious and asked where I was being taken, they didn’t give a proper answer and I started getting suspicious. Fortunately, my friend was on the line with me and I quickly asked him to track my phone. When these people heard that, they got angry. – Rahul Singh, Robbery victim
The men started beating Rahul up and asked for all his money. When Rahul protested, a knife was held to his throat. “One of them, whose voice was that of a 14-15-year-old, said they would kill me and dump me there”, recalls Rahul, breaking down as he relives the shock and trauma. They took his money and abandoned him in the middle of nowhere.
“I was scared I would fall into some pit or get bitten by a snake”, says Rahul. After walking some considerable distance, he heard some voices and called out for help. “I was near the Army Public School and the school bus drivers there stepped in to help. Rahul had been taken by the thugs to the Ridge Road, a vast wooded area notorious for instances of crimes.
For Rahul, the nightmare was yet to end because he was made to run around between four police stations before the Delhi Police Cantonment Area finally agreed to lodge a FIR. “Imagine my plight. Instead of helping me, I had to listen to these police officials passing the buck for several hours because they didn’t want the hassle”.
Monu Mahajan, who is acquainted with Rahul says the police behaviour is shocking given how distraught he was. “He is 100% blind and this kind of crime in the national capital is shocking. Everyday people with disabilities face some kind of harassment on trains and buses so this must be investigated. We want the police to take this up seriously”. Monu says he also approached the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) for help in the matter. “The NFB President Santosh Kumar Rungta asked us for the FIR and said he would take it up only after that. He showed no empathy or compassion. This kind of behaviour is disappointing coming from organisations that claim to be working for disabled people’s rights”.
NewzHook made many attempts to reach Hari Kishan, the Station House Officer to find out the status of the case but he refused to answer on the grounds that he was busy with bandobast. Fortunately for Rahul, his enrolment at SOL did take place although he was late. All he now wants is justice.
“I don’t want this to happen to any other person, especially to someone who is visually impaired. I have told the police that I remember the voices clearly and I can identify them if they are lined up”. He is also upset with the apathy of the police. “Do they know how hard it is for people like us to step out of the security of our homes, to convince our parents that we can study or work? When something like happens, it is their duty to respond”.
Danish Mahajan, Founder, Radio Udaan, who is familiar with Rahul’s case, agrees and says the Delhi Police should have been empathetic and responsive. “To be made to run around after experiencing something like this is cruel and inhumane”.
At the same time, Danish says there are some precautions visually impaired people must observe while traveling alone. “One should stick to familiar routes, avoid unfamiliar places the first time”. In the event that, like Rahul, you land up in a situation, avoid taking help from a group. “When a group of people approach and offer help, it is best to avoid them. That is potentially a dangerous situation”.
Instances like these underline the need for help desks or kiosks to be set up at different railway stations, including smaller ones. “When we look at making transport accessible, these are elements that must be taken into consideration”, says Danish.
Monu says the incident underlines the need for greater security on trains and other public transport. “We have been asking for security guards in the disabled compartments repeatedly but this has been ignored. Even the disabled coaches have been taken out on many routes. What is the point of the Accessible India Campaign if you cannot guarantee basic security for disabled people?”
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