It was a scene that most of us do not witness in police stations on a regular basis. A lady was in the police station persuading the police to follow up on a filed FIR of the robbery that took place at her house and along with her were 12 of her neighbours who had come to support her and pressurize the police into taking action. How often is it that in a metropolis, people actually step up to help their own neighbours? How often is it that people who live in the same apartment building get together as a community to solve the issues they are collectively facing? Why were these people interested in helping their neighbor?
These people are the Bandra Bravehearts in Mumbai. When Haiyya was initiated early this year, Haiyya fellows went around the neighbourhood forming teams of local citizens called Bandra Bravehearts, trying to find out the pressing public safety issues. After asking over a 150 residents, they found out about an increasing spate of robberies and chain snatching in Bandra and mainly in a localized area between Manual Gonsalves Rd and Chimbai . However, each citizen saw the robbery as their personal problem and was often apprehensive going to the police to file complaints. While the Bandra Bravehearts were doing their survey, another robbery happened. Ms. Delia D’souza, whose house got robbed, decided to approach the Bandra Braveheart team to help her – she had been robbed and the police was refusing to file her complaint. This time, the citizens decided to take matters into their hands. 12 team members decided to accompany Delia to the police station. Seeing the citizens get together for one robbery initiated police into action. The DCP, Chhering Dorje, agreed to meet them, where the team apprised him of the worsening safety situation in Bandra. From then on, police offered to give them support. Her FIR was filed, the robbers were caught within 15 days and she received all her robbed items back!
We often think that the police will never act, things will never change, I can never change the system, I can never change the situation. But this example from Bandra shows that sometimes all that is required is for people like us to get together. From that one little step of going with their neighbour to the police station changed the sense of community in the entire neighbourhood. The Bandra team has now formed themselves as Bandra West Citizens Initiative (BWCI). They have been recording all the incidents of robbery and chain snatching that happens in their area. They communicate the same to the police, pressurizing them to take action. Groups have got together to install better lighting on their streets, put up CCTVs to increase surveillance, started a ‘Blow the Whistle’ campaign to alert immediate neighbours in times of emergency, held awareness workshops on legal rights, RTI and Self Defence and initiated a signature campaign to make the police take more concrete steps.
Their actions have now got the attention of their local corporator, Karen D’Mello, who is now working with BWCI to ensure that public bodies, including the police, work on increasing safety in Bandra. People who were scared to step out on their own streets have now joined hands and made their safety issue an immediate and important one to be addressed by local authorities. This is how citizens can power change! You can power change in your community too. Write to us now if you are interested in building community leadership which is empowered to solve its own issues.