Hyderabad was never like this. But times are changing. The charred body of a veterinary doctor in the city is proof.
On Wednesday night, the 27-year-old veterinary doctor went missing from near the Shamshabad toll plaza on the outskirts of Hyderabad. For those unaware of the city’s geography, this is the area where the airport is located. Her two-wheeler had got punctured and two strangers had offered to get it repaired. That is when she had called her sister and told her she felt scared and intimidated by the presence of the truck drivers at that place. The time then was 9:22 pm.
“She told me she was feeling scared. She asked me to keep talking to her for some time. She told me that the place she usually parked, the police had objected this time. So she parked near the toll gate and that is where the two-wheeler had got punctured,” said the sister.
Her phone was found switched off soon after. That night, the doctor did not return home. Even as the worried family asked the police to help, the next morning, her body that had been set ablaze was found near Shadnagar, 48 km from Hyderabad. The police will rely on quality (and difficult because of the 70 per cent burns) forensic examination to find out if she was sexually assaulted before being killed. Prima facie, her body was shifted from Shamshabad to Shadnagar and set on fire. Her body was identified by the Ganesha pendant she wore. Her vehicle was found abandoned a few km away from where her body was found.
To say Hyderabad and India is shocked by what happened would be an understatement. The incident reveals that both in terms of surveillance and policing, there are important lessons to be learnt and loopholes to be plugged.
1. It is extremely bad advertisement for Hyderabad if a woman is not safe at around 9 in the night. The police say the victim should have reached out to them for help. But the point is when those plush Innovas were bought for the Telangana police, they were meant to be patrolling and available every few km. It is not meant to be a stationery object for the constabulary to sit and watch movies in AC comfort, as many are usually found to be doing atleast in Hyderabad city. During the time that the vet was waiting at a public place, how is it that no patrol vehicle noticed that she was standing alone.
2. She found it unsafe to wait at the toll plaza, a place which would have been better lit. It is understandable that such places with an all-male presence can tend to intimidate. This is where the government needs to step in and create spaces to make women or senior citizens feel secure. Post at least a couple of women guards at toll plazas to reassure women commuters travelling alone.
3. The SHE teams of the Telangana police have been seen as a major success. But they need to introspect why is it that when a woman is feeling vulnerable, the SHE team is not her first port of call. A major advertisement campaign, exhorting every woman to feed the SHE team number as an emergency contact on speed dial, should be taken up.
After the incident, the Rachakonda commissionerate has asked people, especially women and senior citizens, to seek help from the police in case of vehicle breakdown during odd hours.
RIP. But Hyderabad cannot be at peace till the killers are brought to book.