Tired after a three-day-long training session in Thiruvananthapuram, 29-year-old Anne* dozed off soon after she boarded a bus to her hometown in Malappuram district.
When she boarded a private bus run by Galaxy Travels at 9 pm on Friday, she was told that her co-passenger, also a woman, would board from Kollam, a couple of hours later.
Thinking that no one would disturb her for the next eight hours, she went off to sleep. Little did she know that she would spend the entire journey recounting the horror of being groped.
"Someone groped me and I woke up all of a sudden. The staff had switched off the lights, so I couldn't see his face. When I shouted, a man who was sitting next to me quickly got up and ran to the driver's cabin. As I was sleeping, I hadn't realised that a man had sat next to me. A few seconds later, the bus stopped and he got off the bus. When I raised alarm, the staff told me that they were unaware of the identity of the man," Anne told The News Minute.
Anne says that the staff were indifferent to her complaint and even mocked her for deliberately "creating nuisance." This made Anne suspicious, and she dialed the police station in her hometown, Malappuram. The staff in the bus reiterated their earlier claim that they didn't know who the man was, and that they had given him a lift.
However, Anne believes that the staff was involved in the incident.
"Firstly, they assured me that my co-passenger would be a woman. Second, both the seats on the other side were vacant and I occupied the front seat. Nobody can come inside without the staff's knowledge," she alleges.
What shocked her even more were the allegations raised by other women passengers.
"One of the passengers, a student, told me that she used to regularly travel by this bus and that she has had similar experiences in the past. But she was too embarrassed to raise alarm. She also told me that she had complained to the staff about them allotting seats next to women passengers to men," Anne said.
On reaching Malappuram, Anne filed a complaint with the DGP (Thiruvananthapuram) and the Commissioner. On Monday, two days after the incident, the complaint was forwarded to the Chief Minister.
"I realized that women are even scared to raise their voice against this. Another passenger telling me that this was not an isolated incident points to glaring security concerns. There was no CCTV installed in the bus either," Anne said.
The Kondotty police recorded Anne's statement on Thursday.
*Name changed to protect privacy.