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If this is what happens in Delhi, God forbid...

July 31, 2017 10:16 IST

'That one of Delhi's busiest crossings, within a stone's throw of Lutyens' habitat, should be hostage to the mercy of hoodlums, who think nothing of attacking and thieving in plain sight of thousands of commuters without dread of reprisal, is scary,' says Kishore Singh.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

Cities have an aura of safety about them, despite everything to the contrary the newspapers report daily.

Still, you don't expect to be attacked in the relative security of your own car, protected by the rush of evening peak hour traffic when it is still light.

The attack, all the more audacious for it, came, therefore, as a surprise -- and not a pleasant one.

We'd had an incident at precisely the same point of the now dismantled BRT just ahead of the Moolchand crossing a few years previously when some goons had smashed our car window while the vehicle idled at a red light, and made off with my wife's purse.

It had remained an unpleasant memory that was dredged up every time we took the road, but on this occasion, returning from the hospital following a laser surgery procedure that had been painful, I hardly knew where we were when the car started wobbling, forcing the driver to pull up by the kerb.

The occupants of a van behind us too stopped, cautioning the driver to remain in the car because they had seen someone slash our car's tyre at a traffic light.

Their attempt to help was challenged by a couple of thugs waiting on the pavement where we'd been forced to stop, who flung bricks and threatened them with physical harm for intervening.

They then hopped pillion style on to four or five unnumbered motorbikes, waiting ahead, and disappeared into the traffic.

The good, if shaken, samaritans -- occupants of an RBI van that had concluded a cash delivery -- persuaded me to call the police.

Twenty minutes later, the police arrived, a sizeable platoon of them, and though they were solicitous, provided little comfort beyond asking us to change the damaged tyre in their presence, convinced that if we were left alone, the gang would return with knives and rods to threaten and steal -- or worse.

The rest was the usual baloney.

There were cameras at the traffic light where the attack had taken place, but the other side of the crossing was the jurisdiction of the Greater Kailash police station to whom they were transferring the case.

The police thana in question never called.

Ironically, we were outside the Defence Colony police station, which should have been a deterrence for the hoods.

"See, Sir," said a friendly cop, "policing quality has deteriorated," blaming it on citizen reporters who video and protest against the patrolling habits of the men in uniform and their attempt to instill fear in criminal elements by roughing them up, "they have taken away all our powers."

While there might be some truth in it, the paradox that one of the city's busiest, best-lit crossings, in snooty south Delhi, within a stone's throw of Lutyens' habitat, should be hostage to the mercy of hoodlums, armed or otherwise, who think nothing of attacking and thieving in plain sight of thousands of commuters without dread of reprisal, is scary.

Though the helpful men from the RBI van who had stopped and come to our assistance were resolute, they were also scared.

As custodians of cash, they were travelling sans uniforms, without armaments, and at the mercy of gangsters who, they now feared, might by waiting at the next traffic signal to extract revenge.

"They don't want to harm you," a policeman tried to assuage their fears, "all they're after is any valuables you might be carrying."

Not quite the comforting thought one expects from the men who guard our cities.

Kishore Singh
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