Virangana: The woman force that makes the city a better place
When not on duty, they seem like ordinary women - sharing jokes, laughing with abandon and sometimes even passing a shy smile. However, they are nothing short of extraordinary when they are on their jobs.
These are the Viranganas, the women commando force of the Assam Police who are making Guwahati a safer place for women, one day at a time. Having been trained in martial arts, they take on eve-teasers and harassers almost on a regular basis.
It is 5 pm and these women are getting ready to begin their working hours dressed in black shirts, black trousers and violet caps. The commandos informed that they consider themselves lucky on days when they are able to return to their hostel by midnight. The unpredictable nature of the job means that they often come back by around 2 or 3 am.
They go around the city at night patrolling the main roads as well as the narrow alleys keeping a sharp eye for any wrongdoings. They are provided with a car and are assigned a different part of the city to monitor each day.
“At night during patrolling, people see our cars from a distance and immediately come to know that the Virangana women have arrived. It feels good to know that we are recognised by the city-folk and also feared by harassers,” said Poornima Devi who joined the force in 2012.
Viranganas have undergone a year-long training in 2011 and the force was officially launched in November 2012. Apart from being trained in martial arts, they have also received training in horse riding, bike riding and the theory of law.
Additionally, they have also been taught the silent drill and the use of weapons.
Additional commissioner of police (ACP) - Police Reserve, Rahul Amin informed G Plus that apart from their primary job of ensuring safety of women and acting against harassers, these women commandos are also deployed across the city during VIP functions and during major festivals such as Durga Puja and Bihu.
The commandos said that they are especially alert at places which are more vulnerable to crime such as areas outside bars, clubs and discos.
“Whenever we come across cases of eve-teasing at night, we nab the culprits and if the need arises, we also beat them up and then bring them to the police station in the car,” said Deepa Koiri.
Mostly in their twenties and early thirties, these women hail from different parts of Assam such as Golaghat, Silchar, Tezpur and Darrang. Currently, there are two platoons of the force - one at Pan Bazar police reserve and the other at Kahilipara.
Decrease in eve teasing cases
With the Viranganas monitoring every nook and corner on the streets of Guwahati for the past five years, the city has seen a drastic decline in the number of eve teasing cases.
They informed that while earlier harassment of women on the streets especially at night was a common sight, they hardly get to see them now.
“There has been a marked improvement in such cases and the city has indeed become relatively safer. Till a few years ago,we used to come across such incidents almost every day. It seems that there is a sense of fear among perpetrators,” said Deepika Roy.
She added that incidents of men and women drinking publicly on roads or footpaths have also declined due to the increased efforts by the police.
As per the data provided by the Crime Branch, no cases of eve teasing in Guwahati were registered with the police up to October 2017 during the year.
Police officials feel that this has been the result of extensive police patrolling and vigil. Commissioner of police, Hiren Chandra Nath said that one of the most important steps in this regard has been control over bars and wine shops.
A total of 13 eve teasing cases for Guwahati were registered in 2016.
Further, officials informed that this year, the all-women commando unit will be strengthened and at least 30 more women will be added to strengthen the force.
“We will be revamping the works of the Virangana force and will increase their numbers,” said officials.
Virnaganas face their own set of challenges
The job of these female commandos, however, comes with its own set of challenges. They said that they often do not get enough rest due to the inadequate manpower.
“Since currently there are not enough commandos, we are sometimes also called during the day and there are no fixed timings,” said Babuli Deka.
On the other hand, many complained that they do not get enough leaves to visit their families. Further,the women informed that they do not even get a single day off in a week.
“At least one day of leave is essential for rest and rejuvenation. Due to the erratic meal timings and nature of the job, our health also gets affected,” said one member.
Some of these women also have young children to take care of. Anima Das, who has a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, said that it sometimes becomes difficult to manage everything.
“We are always running on shortage since now police is required in every other function and occasion be it examinations, VIP functions or festivals. Therefore, we cannot give them too many leaves,” said Amin.