CHENNAI: The nail mark is still fresh on Prema’s chest, but the man who groped her, that too in the CMBT bus terminus which thousands use every day, is free and in the government service as an MTC bus driver.
“He groped me so hard that he left a nail mark on my chest. I was shocked. I immediately hit him with my chappal. I believe any woman would do the same in the situation,” says Prema. But what Prema and her family were soon confronted with was the trade union muscle of the MTC staff, which tilted the scales of justice.
The family, along with four children (aged between 3 and 5) had to spend 12 hours in two police stations. And then four of the family, including two women, spent two days in the Puzhal Central jail on charges of grievous assault, criminal intimidation and uttering obscene words in a public place.
Prema’s spontaneous slippering was seen as a crime - committed not only by her, but the entire family, including her 45-year-old mother, who did nothing but hold four children with whom the family was returning home after watching a night show.
At least, this is what the Maduravoyal police decided to charge them with after the MTC trade unions went on a flash strike for hours and refused to ply buses until all the family members were arrested.
Prema could finally see her children on Friday morning when she, along with her mother, husband and brother, walked out of Puzhal Prison.
But it all began with the entire family having a happy night out, watching a movie in Perambur’s Brinda theatre and heading back home on two motorbikes on Tuesday night. Prema, her mother B Sivagami (45), her sister in-law R Indirani (25) and one child were riding in a bike (driven by Prema) and Prema’s husband S Vinod (30), her brother B Ramesh (29) and three other children were on another bike.
As Prema was crossing the Anna Nagar bus depot, a man in khaki, apparently drunk, was standing in the middle of the road. Prema swevered to avoid hitting him, but the man let out a volley of expletives, calling her a sex worker. While Prema moved on, her brother Ramesh and husband Vinod confronted the abusive MTC man. Soon a group of six men rushed out of the bus depot and started assaulting Vinod and Ramesh, who were holding the three children. “I phoned Prema (who had by then almost reached Koyambedu) to come back and take away the children at least. I didn’t want the children to see us being assaulted,” says Vinod. But before Prema arrived, the six men, all MTC staff, left in a night service bus (route 48 C). On seeing her husband and brother badly assaulted, with their shirts torn, spunky Prema decided to trace the persons and question them. On reaching the CMBT bus terminus (where the bus was headed), the family found the service bus which the MTC staff took.
On seeing the man, who was later identified as Narasimham, an MTC bus driver, and the one who landed most blows on Ramesh and Vinod, Prema got into the bus and questioned him. “I called him ‘anna’ and asked why he assaulted them for merely questioning a person who used derogatory words against a woman,” says Prema. “But he started abusing me with obscene words and when I asked him to come to the police station, he groped me,” recalls Prema, almost breaking down as she narrates her experience. That was when Prema hit the MTC driver with her slipper.
Soon, the MTC staff took the family to the CMBT police station, where they stayed till 5 am before they were taken to the Maduravoyal police station. Meanwhile, the MTC drivers and conductors went on a flash strike, which police sources said lasted nearly four hours. The police officers at the stations all along assured that they would broker a “compromise”. But on Wednesday evening, when they were produced before a magistrate court, and the judge said they would have to spend a day in the Puzhal prison. The bail was granted on Thursday evening and papers could reach prison only on Friday for their release.