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Sun, 25 Feb 2018

Northeast Today

Molesters Beware! The Veeranganas Are Here

Molesters Beware! The Veeranganas Are Here
December 12
13:14 2014

By Chandrani Sinha

An all-woman commando platoon has made women feel more secure on the streets of Guwahati. It has set a model that should be emulated across the country, says Chandrani Sinha

It’s early in the morning. Bismita stands in front of the bathroom mirror, brushing her teeth. Her roommates are giggling and talking among themselves, waiting for their turn to freshen up and get ready for the day ahead. Suddenly, a siren wails and everyone stands still. “Hurry up, you have three minutes,” shouts Dipa. In no time, 32 girls were ready in their smart black commando uniforms.

This is how a typical day starts for the unassuming girls, who are known as Veeranganas. They are members of an all-woman commando platoon of the Assam Police, which was raised a year ago to help make the streets of Guwahati safe for women. “We are proud to be called Veeranganas,” says Bismita, who is 24 years old. “We are warrior women and our duty is to protect the dignity of all the women in the city.”

Bismita hails from Narayanpur village in Lakhimpur district of Assam. She grew up in a family of seven like any other girl in the rural areas of the northeastern state, doing household chores such as washing clothes, sweeping the courtyard and helping her mother in the kitchen. The other girls in the platoon also come from similar humble backgrounds, mostly from remote villages.

Dipa Koiri, also 24, comes from Mashimpur village in Cachar district of southern Assam. Her family and other villagers were against her decision to join the Veeranganas, but she stood her ground. Today, she is one of the sharpshooters in the platoon and also a member of its Quick Response Team. When she goes to Mashimpur during holidays, she is happy to find that the entire village, including her family, is now proud of her.

The Veeranganas go through a rigorous training process, which is modelled along the lines of the best commando forces in the country. They are trained in a form of Chinese martial arts called Wushu and can perform dangerous stunts on motorbikes, just like the male commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG). They are also adept in horse riding and handling both lethal and non-lethal weapons. They are trained not only to take swift action against perpetrators of violence against women, but also to make a woman feel safe and confident of her sexuality. They are also deployed for mob control as part of the anti-riot force.
As India’s only all-woman commando platoon raised specially to tackle the safety issues of urban women, they have made quite a difference within one year of their deployment in Guwahati.

According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau, Assam earned the dubious distinction of being the state that registered the highest number of cases of crime against women in 2012. In July that year, the molestation of a 21-year-old girl by a gang of men outside a pub on GS Road in Guwahati shook the nation. The Assam Police took this as a wake-up call and the then DGP, Jayanto Narayan Choudhury, who now heads the NSG, proposed the setting up of a all-woman commando force to deal with violence against women. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi agreed to the proposal and, within a year, the Veeranganas were ready to be deployed on the streets of Guwahati.

“The Veeranganas have played a major role in bringing down the number of crimes against women on the streets,” says Anand Prakash Tiwari, senior superintendent of police, Guwahati. “Many women have come forward to say that they feel secure when the commandos are around.”

Pallabi Majumdar of the Assam Police, who is completing her probation with the Veerangana platoon, believes that it is the best-equipped force in the state. “The Veeranganas are ready to work round the clock and are never tired. Even elderly men feel secure in their presence,” she says.

As the day ends and night sets in, the Veeranganas become more alert to keep the women in Guwahati safe and secure.

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