'Why I dropped the case against the man who groped me'

Samya Gupta Image copyright Samya Gupta/Facebook

Samya Gupta, a 21-year-old law student from the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, was napping on a seat near the back of a bus when she felt something on her breasts.

It was the hands of a man sitting in the row behind her.

"The moment I realised (what was happening), I stood up from my seat, yelled and asked for his ID proof," Gupta wrote in a widely-shared Facebook post.

She went on to detail how she not only confronted her alleged molester, but got the bus to take a detour so he could be taken into police custody.

Gupta ended her account with a series of hashtags including #TooHorrifiedToLetItGo. But the social media users who have expressed admiration for Gupta's stand, may be disappointed by what has happened since.

In her post Gupta wrote that when she challenged the man, who she says was in his 40s, he apologised. There were around 30 other passengers on the bus and they reportedly vocalised their support for Gupta. But they also advised her to not pursue the matter, she said.

"My co-passengers asked me to accept it, and let it go," Gupta wrote, "But I decided otherwise. I decided to not let it go. I decided to not let an audacious eve-teaser to go free merely by apologising."

In her post she said that she chose to speak up because she didn't want the alleged aggressor to feel confident enough in the future to escalate his behaviour to a more violent assault - "to convert into a rapist".

Image copyright Samya Gupta/Facebook

"Eve teasing" is a common term used in some South Asian countries to refer to a wide variety of behaviour including molestation. According to Sameera Khan, the co-author of 'Why Loiter? Women & Risk on Mumbai Streets' it includes "flashing or any verbal/physical sexual street harassment that falls short of rape."

"It's an archaic term," says Khan, "The 'Eve' part comes from the Old Testament and describing harassment as 'teasing' makes it sound almost like a mild romantic overture that should be tolerated - which of course it should not."

Gupta told BBC Trending that she persuaded the bus driver to divert the bus to the nearest local police station. The passengers, who had surrounded the man who had allegedly been groping Gupta, then escorted them both into the building. There Gupta filed a harassment complaint against the man whose name has not emerged in the media and was not named in Gupta's post.

"The process of filing a complaint was lengthy and laborious," Gupta added.

She says that she was informed she would have to provide her statement in Hindi, a language she says she doesn't know to write well.

"This made me wonder what happens to illiterate women in India who muster up the courage to go to the police," she told Trending, "I'm a law student and even I found the process tedious and challenging."

Image copyright Samya Gupta/Facebook

Gupta wrote in her Facebook post that her problems didn't end when she left the police station. She claimed that when she took another bus several acquaintances of the alleged harasser approached her and told her to drop her complaint. She added that they questioned her character, accusing her of "goofing around with various guys every now and then, therefore my allegations have no sense of veracity".

A court date was set for a hearing for the harassment charge. But before it arrived Gupta withdrew her charge.

Speaking to Trending, she cited a couple of reasons for dropping the case.

One, she said, was due to "complacency with paperwork" which she claimed resulted in her mobile number becoming available to man's family. As a result, Gupta told Trending, she received calls pressuring her to drop the case because the accused man was a father of two.

Similarly, she said, her own family also advised her to drop the case.

"They felt Eve teasing wasn't serious enough an incident to merit going through with a court trial," Gupta told Trending.

She added: "I am a student and I don't earn my own money. I come a family with no background with the law. Going to the police station was a big deal for them. I dropped the charge because it seemed like too much pressure on my family."

Local police have defended the handling of the case. Inspector Shiv Mangal Singh told BBC Trending that officers had followed protocol.

"Then the girl, Samya Gupta and her father, came to the police station and told us to drop the case. In terms of the accuser's family getting her phone number, that didn't happen at our end, it may be an administration issue with the lawyers. Similarly, they were people available to translate and write the document in Hindi for her."

Inspector Singh said that even after the case had been dropped, the man still spent several more days in custody, because the statute under which he was arrested requires suspects to remain in custody for 14 days without the prospect of bail.

He added: "We take Eve-teasing seriously and have set up a Whatsapp number where women can send complaints about Eve-teasing."

Eve-teasing, is not specifically classified as an offence specific in Indian law. However sections of the Indian Penal code are said to cover offences comprising sexually intimidating behaviour. This includes Section 354 which is defined as "assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty" and Section 509 which allows for up to three years imprisonment for on "word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman."

Blog by Megha Mohan

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