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“Every woman has a Rani Lakshmibai in her”: Arunachal’s Chello Meme opens up on abuse episode

Chello Meme, a 19-year-old from Arunachal Pradesh’s Papum Pare, recently went viral on social media courtesy of a video in which she was seen confronting a man whom she accused of “touching her inappropriately” at the ISBT in Guwahati, Assam.

The accused, Shafikul Rehman, walked away from the spot after offering up a meek “sorry”. However, the incident stirred up a storm on social media, with netizens commending the Arunachali girl for showing immense courage in standing up for herself.

In an exclusive interview with Inside Northeast, the Political Science student revealed what happened to her on that day and opines how girls should tackle such situations. Here are some excerpts:

We recently came across the viral video wherein you were seen fearlessly standing up against the wrong. Tell us about the incident.

I was waiting for some colleagues at the ISBT’s waiting room in Guwahati. Around 6 am, I felt someone groping my private part from behind. I turned around and saw a guy in the chair behind me — I initially thought it must have been a mistake. Then, it happened a second time. When I turned around, the guy had fled. I ran after him. Eventually, I was able to catch up with him as he was unable to run away as he was carrying his luggage. People then surrounded us, and I gave him a good talking to, which was recorded on video. What is unfortunate is that no security personnel were present to maintain law and order at the ISBT, which is why such things are happening. In fact, the confrontation took place while I was waiting for someone to show up.

Sexual abuse or eve-teasing. We all know it isn’t good to be at the receiving end but it has been going on and probably happening as we talk. What is your opinion on this and what do you think is standing as the big block here?

To my knowledge, each and every girl has a story regarding molestation. In Arunachal, where I stay, our elders urge us not to go outside after dusk. This only happens in the case of girls.However, molestation doesn’t only happen out on the streets — it happens inside the house too. I have so many friends who have complained that they were molested in their very houses.

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Being a woman it takes a lot to speak up against it. How do you think one can tackle this?

I believe that no one should be scared of the consequences and speak up for themselves. To speak up is a good thing; no one should be mum. People should find support in their loved ones. I am mulling filing a complaint against the molester — if he is punished, it could become a great example. Many girls are afraid of filing complaints for if the abuser goes free, he might attack her. Fact is, girls still do not trust the Government enough to go and file complaints at the police station. Precedents have to be set for that trust to set in.

Whom are you going to blame for these incidents in society?

Girls are sometimes blamed for wearing ‘short clothes’. However, that is not why rapes and molestations are happening. It depends on the mindset of the individual — how he perceives it. Not all guys are the same, however. I have many male friends who are perfect gentlemen.

You got a great response on social media — a lot of outpouring of love & support in the aftermath of the incident. Thousands have messaged you and complimented you for your courage. Does it feel overwhelming?

Many people are commending me for my stand. People are writing to me with their stories. So many of them have said that they did not speak up against such abuse they were scared. They are now saying that they are going to stand up. Rapes are happening because people are not willing to stand up for themselves. Let me be very clear that no woman is weak — we have seen women across the world making so many sacrifices. Every girl has a Rani Lakshmi Bai within her. Right now, I am satisfied that this incident has brought sexual abuse and molestation back into the discussion.

By: Rana Pratap Saikia

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