Hyderabad: Just days after Tollywood actress Shalu Chaurasiya was robbed at the KBR Park, a similar incident was reported where a woman was molested at the park by a man who also extorted Rs. 2,500 from her.

"The incident actually took place on the evening of 2 November. The culprit has been arrested and identified as the same person who was involved in Shalu Chourasiya's case," said the SHO of Banjara Hills police station.

With untoward incidents increasing at the park, regular walkers share their experience and answer if they are happy with the safety measures in place.

"It's no longer the place that it used to be. I hesitate to go there after 8 p.m," says Alka Pandey, a resident of Secunderabad yet a regular walker at the KBR Park in Road No 12 Banjara Hills. "It's one of the few open spaces left in the city," she adds explaining why she still visits the park despite living so far away.


Alka usually goes for a walk at KBR Park every evening between 7 to 8 p.m. She takes the outer walkway that is lit up. But with the park on one side and thick trees on the other, the outer walkway is also not that well lit, explains Alka. "There are dark areas because of the thick trees on the outer walkway," she says.

Alka recalls an incident that happened in the park premises. "It has only been a year since the lights were installed. Until then, the park used to be dark. At about 6 p.m one evening, I was stalked by a person who later chased me on his motorbike," she recalls.

Another regular walker at KBR Park, Sriparna Das, says, "I have never encountered any problems at KBR Park because I ensure that I go there before it gets dark." She also adds that she walks near the main entrance area where there is light and police patrolling vans.


Space exclusion

Space exclusion is when a citizen feels threatened after hearing about an incident and further hesitates to visit that space, explains Dr. Kota Neelima of Hakku Initiative, a Hyderabad-based research group that tries to find solutions to the civic issues in the city. She says that lack of safety reduces the availability of that facility for people.

"Despite being situated right at the heart of the city, why is it not safe?" asks Dr. Neelima who is an advocate for pedestrian rights in the city. She emphasizes the importance of such green, open spaces in urban areas. "Development in urban areas already restricts the citizens from enjoying nature. In such a scenario, spaces like KBR Park are essential and it is the right of every citizen to connect with nature," she says. Also, as a person who loves walking, she says that such parks are necessary.

Most people prefer visiting the park in the evening after coming back from work. "Working women find time in the evening. I come to KBR in the evenings. When I find some parts of the park dark, I am forced to turn back and leave," says Dr. Neelima.


Not safe for animals too?

Meanwhile, the park is also becoming a centre of anti-social activities. On 21 November at around 4:30 p.m, three little motherless pups were stoned to death by a young boy at the park. "I reached the park around 4:30 in the evening to find the pups dead," says Sriparna.

Sriparna, a member of Love, Protect and Rescue, used to take care of the abandoned dogs in the KBR Park area along with her colleagues and vaccinate and feed them. Love, Protect, Rescue is a group of animal enthusiasts in the city who fight for animal rights, rescue and rehabilitate them, and help them find homes.

"My friend was already there at the park. We were planning to bathe the pups and take them for Sunday's adoption drive. Suddenly, my friend saw the boy hitting the pups with a plastic rod. She screamed but the boy ran away and the pups were dead," says Sriparna.

She adds that the patrolling police at the entrance of the park immediately set out in search of the culprit and filed an FIR. "At least we human beings can raise a voice but what about those poor animals?" she asks.

A traffic police patrol is stationed at the main entrance but people feel that it's not enough. "A little more foot patrolling and lighting the dark areas will make it a safer place," adds Alka.

Dr. Neelima says, "The government should relook at the existing rules and measures and take a more citizen-friendly approach."


Towards a safer KBR

In the wake of the two incidents, the Banjara Hills police have taken several steps to ensure better safety in the park. "We have installed CCTV cameras and have asked the technicians to immediately repair the existing, non-functioning ones. Foot patrolling teams have been deployed at dark places. Also, we have asked the GHMC to erect poles wherever they are found missing and install lights. That work is going on," explains G. Vasavi, SI of Banjara Hills police station.

Besides, the Banjara police are also educating people about such incidents and urging them to be more cautious. "These efforts should be an alert message to people. No such incident should happen hereafter," adds Vasavi.

Nimisha S Pradeep

Hailing from Palakkad, Kerala, Nimisha completed her MA in Communication (with a specialization in Print and New Media) from the University of Hyderabad. She has interned with The Hindu Metroplus, Chennai and The Sentinel, Assam. She was a fellow of the NFI Fellowship for Independent Journalists in 2021. In 2015, she attended the Jenesys Student Exchange Programme in Japan. She firmly believes in the power of words and the impact it can make on society. She looks forward to using her career in journalism to voice the issues of minorities. Her interest areas include gender, women and society. She pursues travel, photography, and music in her leisure time.

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